Posts Tagged ‘Contrast’


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, ‚ÄúJoseph, descendant of David, don‚Äôt 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.‚ÄĚ

22¬†All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet:¬†23¬†‚ÄúThe virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,‚ÄĚ[c]¬†which means ‚ÄúGod is with us.‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôsname¬†was¬†Mary.¬†28¬†The¬†angel¬†came¬†to¬†her¬†and¬†said, ‚ÄúGreetings,¬†favored one,¬†the¬†Lord¬†is¬†with¬†you!‚Ä̬†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, ‚ÄúDo¬†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.‚Ä̬†34¬†Mary¬†said¬†to¬†the¬†angel, ‚ÄúHow¬†will¬†this¬†be,¬†since¬†I have¬†not¬†been intimate with¬†a¬†man?‚Ä̬†35¬†The¬†angel¬†replied,¬†‚ÄúThe¬†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¬†‚ÄúAnd¬†look,¬†your¬†relative¬†Elizabeth¬†has¬†also¬†become¬†pregnant¬†with¬†a¬†son¬†in¬†her¬†old age¬†‚Äď although¬†she¬†was¬†called¬†barren, she¬†is¬†now¬†in¬†her sixth¬†month!¬†37¬†For¬†nothing¬†will be¬†impossible¬†with¬†God.‚Ä̬†38¬†So¬†Mary said, ‚ÄúYes,¬†I am a¬†servant¬†of the¬†Lord; let this¬†happen¬†to¬†me¬†according to your¬†word.‚Ä̬†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.


We began questing, and have set up a regular rhythm. So expect a few reflective posts to come out of thoughts around and out of the Qur’an. Just like when the Rainbow Chapel was meeting, I continue to encourage folks to read spiritual works in groups together aloud. It is not only because most were crafted for this, but also allows for different life journeys to be brought to the text, and wisdom bases. Also, to have the generations involved is a whole other blessing, for how can the young learn to discuss what they believe if it is not modeled by their elders, and community happens when play happens and food is shared. As well, I encourage exploring other spiritual texts than those you are familiar with or from your tradition for it opens a new world of insight. As always I encourage use of the spiritual discovery tools discussed in other writings of mine to dive deeper into what the Holy Mystery is speaking to your soul.

Sura 1: The Opening:

  1. In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

  2. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.

  3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

  4. Master of the Day of Judgment.

  5. It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.

  6. Guide us to the straight path.

  7. The path of those You have blessed, not of those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.

Remember as you journey through the words, it is not a literal understanding (as with Conservative Christian scholarship of the last 120ish years or allegory but rather the rhythm of contrast) it is the rhythm of contrast that reveals the unity that binds all through, with and within the Holy Mystery that is love.

The journey after opening brought us to the longest Sura 2, The Cow. It is actually quite a recitation that a student of the Hebrew Bible would recognize. Each time the Nation of Israel got a mulligan, they spent time‚ÄĒwhether it was a leader, prophet, judge or king, reciting the story of the people and the law up to that moment in time. A device to remind the people of what the Holy had brought them through, and who they were as a tribe. As we began to explore the second Sura, this familiar journey was reminded. In the historic moment, Islam being officially the third religious sect sprung from the Abrahamic and Sarai Covenant with the Holy (first two: Judaism and Christianity, anthropologically this can be broken down to multitude more, but I will not digress). Reaching half-way through it showed a great discussion around monotheists, and polytheists as the contrast presented for those who have found the path and those that haven‚Äôt. Yet within the contrast what can be seen is not the challenge of how many spiritual beings exist, for all are within the one. What is seen to be judged is found in 2:14:

  1. And when they come across those who believe, they say, ‚ÄúWe believe‚ÄĚ; but when they are alone with their devils, they say, ‚ÄúWe are with you; we were only ridiculing.‚ÄĚ

That is, is what we say what we do…or do we only profess kindness while plotting only for our own glory?

How many recognize this challenge from other wells that they use to drink from the Holy River?

  1. Their likeness is that of a person who kindled a fire; when it illuminated all around him, God took away their light, and left them in darkness, unable to see.

-Sura 2:17

A reminder as the teaching the Holy light would shine into the darkness and confuse it had been around since the ancient myths of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods for humanity. What this verse does, is starkly remind us when we choose to live only for ourselves, to forget love of neighbour and self that flows out of the Holy River, the light never existed and all that is left is darkness.

Are you living the light or lying in the darkness?

 


First off, I am thankful to be able to put these thoughts together. Scheduler allowed thoughts throughout the 12 days of Christmas season (in traditional liturgical churches the only time Christmas carols are sung), which was rather chaotic with neuro-events and flashbacks. So today even though we did not make it out to celebrate Epiphany Sunday in the west or Christmas in the East, I did want to pass on a few thoughts.

As you read the main Gospel reading (the other 3 readings are after the post ends, so you can bring all four together to tease out themes if you want). Take time to bring different lens than the normal western church. As noted our house will begin hosting an exploration of the Qur’an.  While doing some reading (another blessing after about 4 days of not being able to focus to read) I was reminded of how that sacred text can be misunderstood because we do not read it in the light of the contrast style of writing.

Perhaps this is one way to approach the Epiphany for new discovery for your own journey. Read the text through the lens of contrast what new insights come through.

Matthew 2:1-12
2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 

2:2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”¬†

2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 

2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

2:5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:¬†

2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”¬†

2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 

2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”¬†

2:9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 

2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 

2:11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The other, is the way of Eastern Orthodox theological dialogue I discovered when serving in Anglicanism. It is the trinity dialogue, where you enter discussion on a topic with a party, but it is written to that party about the dialogue held with another. Taking this lens, with the understanding that the term Gospel in the time of the Roman Empire was a political statement. Read into the text the dialogue of the Magi and Herod about those in poverty, and realize it is with the believer decades removed, or the Empire overseeing. What message is being sent to both parties. Reflect on these messages.

As you spend time reflecting on this Epiphany discourse, what epiphany has come into your journey?

What is your epiphany for your life journey in 2018?

 

-Make your own little corner of the world a better place-

Dream no little dreams.

-Pastor Tommy Douglas

Rest of Lectionary for today:

Isaiah 60:1-6
60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Ephesians 3:1-12
3:1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

3:2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,

3:3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,

3:4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.

3:5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

3:6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

3:7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.

3:8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

3:9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

3:10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

3:12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him

From: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=106