Posts Tagged ‘Christian Testament’


There is a weird practice called proof texting, where for some in the Christianities, for it to be “true” there must be a literal connection almost verbatim to a text of scripture (in these movements termed Old & New Testament, in an attempt to avoid dualism and implied anti-Semitism, I continue to use terms Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament). Now with large topics, it can be downright ludicrous to move forward with this proof text practice, which brings us to some thoughts of a cruciform response to defund the police.

I am not going to enter into the extremes of the argument presented from the alt-right of essentially gestapo or to the anarchist of complete personal responsibility with no concrete laws or enforcement for societal norms and safeties, neither of these arguments aid us. Throughout the history of humanity there has been some form of law, in the Commonwealth nations we hold to Common Law, which grew out of laws presented and outlined in Exodus-Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Bible. More so, because the laws around such things as murder, provide a variance of understanding. Obviously, the political usage of police and armed services, the over specifying of laws can create loopholes that allow for ease of exploitation, corruption, and abuse. Properly funded judiciary (that includes the scope of the courtroom, Crown Prosecutors, Defense lawyers, appropriate training of understanding the application of the laws for jurists) and enforcement is necessary within society.

What is not necessary is overfunding because we have shifted the burden of response for every emergency response for every situation onto the constabulary (which is unethical as it has them working outside the scope of their practice). Why is this a religious look? Because it has become a religious issue in that the current governance in Alberta has put faith front and centre and has diminished the evidence based response of what is communal good and belonging especially with the current justice minister interjecting into civic budget discussions of a 4% rollback on police budget (which was at the request of police services) to fund more preventative programming and fiscally have a healthier overall impact. Though this is the response seen federally by the Harper government in wanting to disrupt healthy restorative justice-incarceration programs for youth as it was leading to lower recidivism and incarceration rates. Also, we have heard of a bill to so-call end carding from our current provincial governance, the practice is street checking citizens at supposed random, what statistics show is that the practice is highly a racial profiling tool, and systematic use of power to oppress. What is not ending with the bill in my scope of understanding, is not the practice of street checks, but rather tracking racial data (the idea if we can’t see it, it is not happening) to end an issue.

Which leads to some touchstones of thought on the topic.  From the Hebrew Bible prophetic writers there is much around care for others, belonging and justice. This can be a blind spot for many in the Christianities as we want to read the prophets as future oriented, when in fact they are continuing the tradition of Judges, that is pointing our where society has gone amiss, the harm being done by these actions of those in power, and the power differentials and the need to admit, correct, repent and reconcile to move forward in God’s shalom and love.

Some thoughts, from Amos:

You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed.
    You treat the righteous like dirt.

It is the Lord who created the stars,
    the Pleiades and Orion.
He turns darkness into morning
    and day into night.
He draws up water from the oceans
    and pours it down as rain on the land.
    The Lord is his name!
With blinding speed and power he destroys the strong,
    crushing all their defenses.

10 How you hate honest judges!
    How you despise people who tell the truth!
11 You trample the poor,
    stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.

-Amos 5:7-11 (New Living Translation)

Take time with this topic from your point of view, take time to enter a Lectio Divina from Amos. Hear the words in three readings, after each hearing take a few minutes to journal in your reflection whether that is through writing, drawing, doodling or all to come to an answer before moving into the next reading. If possible in your household cohort do this together to share thoughts and ideas between each reading and at the end, add in those on a speaker phone or video call to create a sound discussion in communal discernment.

First reading: What is the mind saying on the topic (the evidence)?

Second reading: What is your heart saying? Is this a bias that is acting counter to the honest judge?

Third Reading: What is the Holy Mystery saying to you in the silence? What does it mean to move into the light and forward?

From this reading, we move into action thought, as found in the prophet Micah’s words:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

-Micah 6:8 (New Living Translation)

Take time to rest in God’s love, and what is the humble calling? Action is simple, for those who still have Christian Testaments with the words of Brother Jesus in Red, the call is to Love neighbour as ourselves. Take time in this love to make your voice heard to those that represent us politically.

Find your Calgary Councillor here.

Find your Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta here.

Let the voice of imagination, creativity, belonging, love, shalom, and justice be heard.

Amen.


Rev. Matthew Fox’s life has been a prophetic journey for any that have been called or deemed “odd” in structured religious life. Regardless of religious affiliation. His journey is one of standing in prophetic/mystic voice- creativity, imagination, justice, creation and scriptures synthesized with reason and the drive for belonging. Freely admitting and illustrating the Biblical calling within his 37 books the need to shatter the patriarchy and religious binary of command and control.

Yes, take time with those thoughts. The most powerful image in the early days with this dialogue partner for me (during my more structured spiritual formation as a Franciscan), was the one of shattering Jacob’s Ladder, to dance Sarah’s circle. The resounding connection to inclusion, belonging for all, affirmation and alignment with the other sacred text of our spiritual life so easily ignored in the drive for dominion over, not care taking of– creation (nature) that is part of the dialogue with scriptures’ and our lived experience to shape our individual, interdependent life. The second sacred text revealed through mystics/monastics like Aquinas, Francis, Clare, Eckhart, to name but a few (and continually throughout history being re-aligned with). This shift from the holistic and communal journey with the Holy Mystery, has created the world we exist in now. With the binary-dualistic chasms that separate and feed algorithms that continue the separation. The blind loyalty and living the black and white found in doctrines, political planforms, doctrinal stamens. Not in contemplation, living into the silence to hear, but rather constantly reacting, trying to prove holiness and affirming “truth”iness instead of understanding and living out of the values that truly exist under the rhetoric. It is in the inability to realize that life with the Spirit exists in varying degrees of gray as an intimate love relationship is.

This is the state of our world, a creation in sins of the spirit (a term from Aquinas and Fox), those things that take us away from God.

Want to reflect on a moment what those are?

These are snaps hots and my reflections of some of the dialogues in Fox’s works within my walk. Which brings us to his newest work, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times (2020). A work that can either be a prologue to Fox’s thought process for a new reader, or an epilogue for those that have been on the journey with Fox. The foundation work is his soon to be re-released Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.

It can be read in one or two sittings as a fill up. But for practice I would recommend a daily reading over 31 days (if you wish to use the introductions and afterword’s as separate readings, then closer to 35 and I do encourage not skipping these, as Delio and Maynard have packed quite a bit of reflective-pragmatism into their words).

See the source image

Each short chapter provides new insights and reflection from Fox’s works, coupled with exploration of some key scriptures from John, Matthew, Corinthians, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, as well as other ecumenical thought leaders within Creation Spirituality. Regardless, of where you fall on the religious spectrum this can be a beneficial daily read, as one shifts outside the box of ticking the box of institutional existence for being “right and holy” to living and experiencing with the Holy Mystery.

As a sojourner, are we ready to enter into the circle dance?


Ah 2020, what a way to show us the meaning of hindsight being as clear as 20/20 vision. The journey and trajectory or society into entrenched ideologies where we cannot have discussions-debates of discovery to move forward in healthy ways as a community. How do we know this? The rise of populism in the last 10 years that has not been matched since the 1930’s, whether you fall on the right or the left. I still remember the political spectrum exercise of public school social studies, that illustrated so clearly populism on the right becomes fascism, on the left, goes through communism to Stalinist dictatorship which connects clearly with Fascism as the same point—that is extremists are extremists—anger, hatred, dehumanization, inability to see the other–the continuing discussion on dualism, for one’s side to be correct the other has to be completely evil (looking for a villain or an enemy every under every bushel).

As I continue exploring ending the false myth of the protestant work ethic evolved into neo-liberalism and by continued evolution, capitalism of 2020, and getting back together the writings of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks have been informative. His latest, being 2020’s Morality: Restoring the common Good in Divided Times. Where in five parts he takes the reader through an exploration of the philosophical-sociological-historical-political and religious paradigms that have brought us to this point in history.

As Sacks works through his theory and thoughts, it builds to a pertinent epilogue on our divided times and hyper-individualism had negatively impacted the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures. As an Albertan, I would say the myth of hyper-individualism continues to impact our effectiveness in stemming the covid tied, but also in our ability to destroy public institutions that aid the common good such as public education and health care.

How does Sacks get us to these ponderances? He takes us through the history as noted. He lays out the philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists. As well he explores the role religion plays in morality, but also what it means and how religions’ has been used to shape societal understanding. At the example level out of the Hebrew Bible he touches on the story of Korach in the book of Numbers, more broadley, he also looks at the Reformation and the shift away from works in Christendom to a Pauline individual grace. This begins the slide slowly, which has accelerated in recent years with the addition of social media and the internet to not only connect us 24-7-365, but let’s be honest, to make it easier to share false information more rapidly before fact checking can disprove, and as such, the falsity takes root in some as the truth.

That is even before we explore (as I have written about many times) the algorithms that aid in keeping us in a an echo chamber of our own belief systems. This is the piece that explored what it means to have an ethical market. But to combine those thought processes, as the trust level of politicians continues to devolve, what is our role of citizens in accountability with this? Do we demand and expect a higher level of character within those seeking office? Are we working to end it as the drive of personal ambition, power and money? It has been a steady shift from 2005 forward in Canada within our political landscape, as the hyper-vigilance towards individualism and privatization of crown corporations and government responsibilities continues to march forward. The concept of collective or common good, public service (regardless of whether we trusted the policies) to serve citizens being the goal and calling.

This is but one snap shot for reflection.

As we look at a moment in time when we can continue into the fallacy of “I” (how independent are we? Building our own cars? Pouring our own roads? Growing our own food? Refining our own oil? And no, this is literally asking about in your own home are you able to do all this?). How did you get where you are today? What pieces were at play in the interdependence of community? How is your purpose cultivated? What is belonging and identity? How does it happen in the vacuum of “I”?

What it doesn’t? It happens in the labyrinth of “WE” and yes you are correct.

So how, do we, move forward in creating a new reality as we emerge from c-tine…

How do we as a household live into we? As a collection of households known as a community live into we? As a collection of communities that make up a city or county live into we? As a collection of cities or counties that make up a country live into we?*

And as we live into we—how does that change the character, passions and skills we look for in our elected representatives? Those that are servant leaders of our communities?

Are you ready to answer the call out of I to We?

*The narrative on household to country came from my friend John, rewriting community narrative, he shared it over coffee and had to adapt it to this post.


Are we always a pinkie toe may seem like a ludicrous spiritual question, yet in the world of allegory of the body one knows how relevant a pinkie toe can be in the dark and finding the coffee table?  A moment of instant discernment via pain, which is a unique contemplation as I sit reflecting on my journey over the last 2 ½ years that due to health saw me lose my helping vocation, or did it?

See, my discernment was about making my own corner of the world a little bit better as I attempted to live the Great Commandments:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version)

It was the discovery of these red letters in a broken open red Gideon’s New Testament that brought me back into formal church, and unpacking the understanding, inspiration and living of it that led me for over 20 years into various fields of helping whether it was persons with disabilities, youth, young adults, seniors, patients with dementia, the homeless sector, politics, writing to name but a few…

Then it all came crashing down through unknown illness. There was no nice neat package bow of change…like a pinkie toe breaking against the coffee table one dark night the body was going to be changed for a time. And there was no telling what would be after healing. For St. Paul writes to the church in Corinth this about the body:

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,[e] some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[f]

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

-1 Corinthians 12:12-21 (New Living Translation)

We can tend to use the concept of being in the body and our gifts to create parts of the body. We may declare we are heart, liver, pancreas, toes, fingers, etc… but it can easily be that once discernment has happened that we limit God. Yes you read that right, we so become in tune with our purpose, what we will dub “our calling” (or vocation) that we do not know how to respond when that purpose ends—either positively or negatively. What happens to us? Our identity in Christ? Our holy belonging in the Body of Christ? For if we were this important piece of the body, and now no longer fill that function—someone else will. So what of us?

This is the quandary on emerging from a dark night of the soul, and looking into the new dawn; an apt metaphor this Lenten Season leading into Easter tide of the Empty Tomb, and the new Sonrise of Easter Sunday. Is our heart open to the new journey? To understanding that even though our function (body part) may have changed, that we are still blessed? We are still an Imageo Dei as was laid out for us in the Hebrew Creation Poem in Genesis 1, specifically day 6 (v. 26-27):

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind[a] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,[b] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind[c] in his image,
in the image of God he created them;[d]
male and female he created them.

 

For that is our creation, interdependent in the Holy “our”. The Trinity if you will, and this is how we interweave into the Body of Christ, our Community, with our calling-vocation-purpose, and when we are left with seismic shift it can leave one feeling a what if, or distraught. Yet, in the essence we are drawn closer into the Mystery of Faith. In this mystery we can begin to discern our new calling or redefinition of existing calling. Not in a vacuum but through looking at skills, encouragements from trusted friends, family and mentors. This also allows for us to change the way we belong in the Body of Christ as our gifts may shift, change and evolve with our new vocational calling.

 

As my pinkie toe healed, but I had perhaps, moved up the foot or toe spectrum. For I may not be in the field, but there was a shift for a time. It was a shift to equipping and teaching the next wave of servants for this season of life. This rests well…is it a permanent shift? Long-Term? Who knows, what is known is for this time and place this is where I am and meant to be.

For the learning on recovery it is about being open to the possibility of the new. As I phrased it to friends, I felt like I was in the seventh season of a television show and one opportunity before me felt like a spin off was going to begin, and then a teaching opportunity felt like a season 8 renewal to reframe a closure or something else, as we know once a show reaches that longevity there is usually a status quo shake up to keep viewers coming back. It was the renewal I received.

Or as noted in my journey of learning to live the Great Commandments, shifting from one body part to another in creating radical belonging for the diverse and blessed Imageo Dei’s of our world.

Today, contemplate in your vocational life…

Are you always a pinkie toe?


There is the official history of the world, and the land. There is religious history. There is political history. There is geo-political history. Some would even class colonialism, and other epochs of history (Reformation, Enlightenment, and Romanticism). Each human prairie-memoirsmovement and people cling to an official history of what they distill down to be the most important aspects for their legacy. The meta-narratives of history can be boiled down to the local communities’ yore, and then the tales of the people. This is the jurisdiction of family journals, scrap books, photo albums, and if one family is lucky, publishing of a memoir. This is the journey that Margaretha Wilms …and the Meadowlark Sang –Prairie Memoirs- (2011) takes the reader through. It starts with Mennonite Migration to North America, after laying out who Mennonites are, then comes down to her local family unit on the Prairies (when it was still the Northwest Territories).

A tale familiar to many of a family structure to accomplish shared goals, this being farm life, communal meals, shared religious upbringing, tight community with kith and kin. It also shares some of the struggles, what it was like to be in a world shaped by certain points of view. The fun of Crokinole (and yes it is fun, if you make it to Countess ask for a game). The importance of family, chosen and by blood, for that is what a healthy supportive community becomes, a family chosen. Sharing stories of roles that seem antiquated through today’s lens and child rearing that would not be considered but it was her reality that shaped her life.

The joy of Christmas and the arrival of the Eaton’s and Simpsons catalog for ordering  gifts from, and as we have learned through the exploration of the Countess Bible School, a time when the winter Sabbath from the farm would bring different opportunities.

Through it all, she ties to scripture of her heritage, Hebrew Bible prophets and wisdom. The familiar (to the Birds fans) refrain of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 of a time for everything, and the prophet Joel, to a reminder of why sharing our stories matter:

Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation. (New International Version)

Willms (p.116) shares of the personal renaissance, as she grew in life and moved from shame to embracing of her heritage and who she was as a person. She writes of being a Saskatchewan farm child in the grasshopper infested-dust bowl of farm life of the Dirty Thirties, how her parents modeled values she still holds dear of the intangibles, or as Willms phrased it eternal over material.

Her journey takes her through Prairie Bible Institute and Caronport, as she discerns whom she is. The narrative shifts into the Russian Mennonites who came later to Canada. For Mennonites had enjoyed very good autonomy, and a strong control of the flourmill industry under Tsarist Russia, but between 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution) and 1925 (when the last would try to flee) the tide would turn as they were seen as enemies of the state (p.234-35). These immigrant’s to Canada became known as Russlanders, as only their country of origin was Russia (p.236).

meadowlark-memoir-image-1.jpgCP Rail loved the work ethic of Mennonites that were coming in this later wave, and brought them to the prairies to work (Countess, Gem, Rosemary and Duchess) with each family being given ¼ sections of land originally managed by French Settlers (p.236). Willms’ husband, John was part of this wave of immigration. They were a hearty bunch that built a church in Gem fairly readily, with many choosing to gather in the Clemenceau School in Countess because it was closer in the cluster (p. 237). The influx of Russlander Mennonites doubled the size of Mennonites in Canada and brought 176 new congregations, this is important as the church was the hub of communal life (p.237). In 1924, 8,000 Mennonites came to Canada, and CP Rail negotiated to sponsor another 3, 772 in 1925 (p. 239). Some newcomers found Canada to worldly and wanted to go to Mexico or Paraguay to avoid what they viewed as a “sinful” nation; while others wanted to dive in to Canadian life taking further education, rising in leadership and building a new world (p.238-9).

John’s parents were part of the 1925 wave of immigrants from Russia. By 1926 Stalin had stopped the flow out of the Motherland (p.239). John was born to his parents in Ontario, they went on to settle a farm in Manitoba before finally coming to Countess, AB in an irrigation arrangement with a few other Mennonite settlers (p.240).

John Willms met his wife Margaretha, in Alberta, in the Irrigation District of Countess, part of what is known as the Palliser Triangle the driest patch of land in Canada (p. 241-242). John had remained in the area when his parents had returned to Manitoba.

The irrigation district from Calgary to Medicine Hat was the property of CP Rail, and built to facilitate the railway (p.242). It was tax exempt from 1921 and was to be irrigated but this idea was quashed instead to use a Dam system of the Bow River by Bassano (p.242).  The French settlements were mostly in tact when the Russlander settlers came and moved in. They had originally been settled by Quebecois and Francophones from Eastern USA between 1917-1919 but after years of almost freezing to death, and few crops they left to head east back to Quebec (p.242). This is why CP Rail sought out the Russlanders to make the hamlets viable for their endeavour.

John attended Clemenceau School for his education, it was originally a Francophone school named after a VIP French General (p. 242-3). It was a one-room school house, with a rectory-style house on the same land for the teacher (who was also expected to function as janitor) (p.243).

As we move into the betrothment, wedding, and settlement back into Saskatchewan with Margaretha and John. Teaching around the province, children, staying connected with the family diaspora, the CCF, oh and a nice wrap up as an appendix with the recipes mentioned throughout the book.

It makes one reflect if they were to pause, and write the story of their family, what would it look like?

What is our story?


 

Another great Christmas gift filled one of my geek passions. The Paleo-Seti theory or known as Ancient Astronaut Theory or ala History Channel Ancient Aliens. It is an intriguing anthropological exploration of religious and human development. How do Homo Sapiens simply appear within the fossil record (yes I realize there is holes in our data). How are the legends and stories of the ancients understood through a lens today? Is it language used to explain the extra-terrestrial, not just the supernatural or godly? If you are one that finds things by Spong or Fox challenging or sacrilegious; were not open to the idea of Jesus of Nazareth being married or Freke’s Laughing Jesus illuminating the overlay of the Osiris legends (and many other messiah-deities) over the Jesus narrative, then move on to another post.

C.S. Lewis believed we would be ignorant to think that humanity was all there was in the galaxy. Thomas Paine believed that the revelation of extra-terrestrials would cause the collapse of religion. What do you believe?

The wife and kids got me Xaviant Haze’s (2018) Ancient Aliens in the Bible: Evidence of UFO’s, Nephilim and the True face of Angels in the Ancient Scriptures. Now I do admit I cut my teeth on Von Daaniken, but really resonated with Sitchen’s works. They dove deep into the geek side of lore, anthropology, theology, philosophy and the other social sciences. But with the new rise of popularity, new thinkers are coming out. Haze is highly readable. He makes the material approachable for the laity (i.e. those who may not have taken a master’s in social sciences). He enters into the stories and histories.

bookcoverFor those who are armchair academics on the subject some things are familiar. The concept of Noah’s ark being a spaceship taking DNA samples. Or Enoch being a central Prophet to the underlying theology of alien encounters. Elijah’s ascension/alien abduction. The Nephilim being alien-human hybrids. That angels were aliens coming to visit. It basically builds upon what has come before and goes beyond the concept of Jacob’s ladder being a UFO to what else is going on (ala has happened with other religions, myths and spirituality in the study)- discern, critically assess, and take what you will from it that grows your own understanding.

New things emerge though that cause some pause and thought. Were Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed by some ancient nuclear device. Perhaps. What about Ezekiel, Isaiah and Zechariah and other Hebrew Bible’s Prophetic writings? The imagery does lend itself to an acid trip, or perhaps attempting to explain the extra-terrestrial. Anyone who has spent time in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Prophets can see some of the correlations Haze raises (I encourage you to buy the book, read the Prophets along with his thoughts and mull it over).

But backing up, an intriguing theory Haze postulates is the Elohim, and they being a species that created the Adams through genetic engineering. Which brings the thought of the Eve extraction making more sense, and then as life progressed the genetically engineered and the makers mating which created the giants (Nephilim). What do you think?

Then touching upon the Jesus narrative, and asking is it possible that Mary was impregnated by an alien? Blasphemous? Heresy? Thoughts?

For as Haze postulates the journey is not antithetic to Christianity or Abrahamic faiths. It is about the how things happened by exploring the extra-terrestrial source of life and story. Not the why. It does not disqualify the transcendent love that is God- The Holy Mystery.

What it does do is deepen and perhaps perplex the answer to the question, as Haze states:

What is life?

 


It is weird what launches into a rebooting mind. That is where these words come from, and possibly a few more posts in the series. It is from my favourite Epistle (letter) in the Christian Testament. That tradition tells us is from the teachings of James; brother of Jesus of Nazareth. That statement in itself creates some shock waves, not as many as when things like the Jesus Seminar first started, but still some.

It is hard for some to wrap their head around Mary and Joseph having children after Jesus. Part of it even for liberals/progressives or Protestants is our undiagnosed hold onto Roman Catholic doctrine around Mary of Nazareth. That being Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity. Which has relegated the gospel mention of siblings, to be that Joseph had a family before Mary, hence half-siblings, or that these were cousins being raised in Joseph’s house due to extended family having passed away. The rationale being that Mary could not be “sullied” by sexual intimacy (perpetual virginity) and extended further was conceived and birthed without sexual intercourse (immaculate conception).

Which makes James’ claim to being the brother of Jesus problematic. Some would state it is nothing more than Christian euphemism of us all being brothers and sisters. As well, by claiming to be Jesus’ brother, he shows to be a later convert (as in the gospel narrative they try to bring Jesus home) and has risen to such a high station as the leader (bishop) of the early gatherings in Jerusalem. This is problematic for a patriarchy structure because it shows strongly the leadership role given to women in the early church, and that Mary of Nazareth’s opinion held quite a bit of sway (even in Acts her presence during the choosing of the replacement of Judas).

Which is part of the reason James’ letter has been problematic. Another is that Martin Luther termed it an epistle of straw, because in the Reformation as they battled against corrupt indulgences the Reformers did not like the concept of faith/works being intertwined. It rung to them of a salvation earned, not freely given. Which as you study the history of the Reformation, rise of Nationalist church, Ana-baptist and Free Church responses creates a quagmire outside of the text.

But this is a dialogue on the text.

What is shown is a close relative of Jesus’ growing up, has risen to leadership and presents a very succinct Gospel message. One that mystics and monastics have discovered and attempted to get the church universal back on track with. Or as Brother Francis phrased it:

Preach the Gospel everywhere you go, when all else fails, use words.

Our life of compassion and kindness is what shows our faith. It is our gospel story that we right. For the term gospel is about a political life proclamation. For good or ill.

That is what James’ words are trying to get the community then and now to understand. What story do your actions tell?

What proclamation is your life lived writing?

What is your gospel?

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

-James (English Standard Version) 2:14-17


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Gospel of John 13:34, New Living Translation

The great mystery teaching of all time.

L-O-V-E.

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

Will you live LOVE today?

 


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

-Sura 3:46

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

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

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

Why?

To pray together.

To talk.

To share bread.

To be community.

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

-Sura 3:68

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

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

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

-Sura 3: 49

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

To know  we are still united in our diversity.

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

For, what are we in humanity,

if not neighbours….

francis

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


The later 1990’s early 2000’s through the United Church Observer is when I became aware of a Matriarchal Wisdom movement, that sadly has fallen off the radar. Women from some U.C. congregations, local mosque and synagogues in Ontario were meeting on a project to bring the three major Abrahamic faith texts together (Hebrew Bible, Christian Testament and the Qur’an). The idea being to provide the cross-reference texts through all three to show how the faiths are more similar and connected than adversarial.

Part of why I am enjoying being the host family for UCM Alberta’s questing through the Qur’an is the real-life reproduction of this project. The past gets together we had a local mosque’s missionary via skype for roughly half the time being able to answer questions, share in readings and discussions. It was also good as I have written about before as common ground allows good things to grow, and that can change our world better than anything.

This post points to an horribly overlooked point in western religious world, and that is the idea of equality and equity for all God’s children and creation. Our continued readings through Sura 2 highlighted the equality and protection of men and women afforded equally through contrasting divorce laws instead of discussing marriage vows. Yet it also shone a light on the ending of scape goatism, and standing firm in yourself accepting the consequences one’s own actions creates regardless of their socio-economic status.

O ye who believe! Equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you: the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one is granted any remission by one’s brother then pursuing the matter for realization of the blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handsome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. And whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment.

-Sura 2:179

At first reading, this appears to be a retelling of the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth teaching from Exodus 21:24. This short treatise was a counter-culture teaching that stopped the children of Israel from restraining ancient justice and wiping out whole townships due to a small infraction, the response was now commanded to be measured response. This can appear as an expansion, as it points out that you could not buy your way out of offense, or use a wife, or a slave or a societal lesser to pay for your crime as was a normative practice as well. You were responsible for your actions, no one else.

Yet it was more. For it truly echoes back to the nativity story. Think of it, a movement of one of the holiest prophets/messiahs/spiritual teachers, Brother Jesus, came from a working-poverty class village, where life expectancy was on average forty years old. Chances are carpenter was a political choice of translation, when in fact he was part of the unskilled labouring classes. Joseph arranged and purchased Mary, she had no voice (regardless of what you believe about the conception of Jesus, she was a teen girl who was sold by her family as was the practice of the time) in whom she would wed.

Yet this is what the Christian testament tells us of the voice in the decision to birth Jesus:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged[a] to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly.

20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus,[b] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,”[c] which means “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, 25 but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

-Matthew 1:18-25 (New Century Version)

Part two was Joseph choosing to be apart of this. He had many options before him, as Matthew’s text was written for the Jewish members of the Jesus movement. Culturally they knew that Joseph could have Mary killed for adultery, or simply cast her and the baby outside the village to work in the sex trade and begging until her and the child died, these were the quietly put away moments. What this contrasting showed, was the Joseph heard the same choice to be made by the angel, and had to make a choice. In this small of a centre he knew the whispers, the scandal, the gossip, the possible loss of income and what the world his son would be entering into in this microcosm, and even the scorn that could come to Mary. Yet he needed to choose. One of 2 that had to choose.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’sname was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. 30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will neverend.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. There fore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. 36 “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 -Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 (bible.org)

Before coming to Joseph, the one with no voice, was spoken to and asked directly. One can say the question was asked of one so young due to naivety, yet be honest in such a small village she knew what the consequences would be. How could one find the strength to say yes to such a weird event for the time?

Simple, Mary got what the old men’s club did not of her era (and sadly many eras since), everyone’s voice matters, and everyone is created in equality, equity and justice. The gifts of peace, faith, joy and hope reign in our beings, but the cosmic dust at our core is shaped in L-)’V-E. That is right, Mary had the same choice as Joseph tradition tells us, unencumbered by society, simply one question asked, yes or no. She mattered.

How did she know?

Simple beginnings in the Hebrew Bible:

27 God created humankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them,

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them 

Genesis 1:27-28 (bible.org)

A simple ancient poem of the creation of everything. An ancient poem stating the why to the people. Humanity was created in the Creator’s image. Both genders (and all sexualities, all races, all cultures, all religions, etc)…one river many wells to drink from.

Each person in autonomous, but their decisions have consequences, good, neutral or bad within their communities. Like the pebble hitting the pond and the ripples going outwards. The first step is understanding though that we are autonomous in an interdependent community. This is why it matters to discover what and how our neighbours believe. So we can see where the common ground is for moving forward, and creating a world that was dreamed of in that first moment when -BANG- it all appeared.