Posts Tagged ‘Good Samaritan’


God is Dead

Maybe stealing a phrase from Nietzsche, but honestly reflecting on whether or not God is alive in our world? There was a trilogy of Christian movies playing on the title “God’s Not Dead”; which were decent run movies of apologetics though a bit after school special melodramatic with the panic of Christians “losing rights”.  It is not about losing rights, it truly is about other groups, philosophies and religions gaining equality and equity in our society. Secularism allows science to explain the nuts and bolts for us, while our personal religions relate the why.

This entered my head as I awaited the Accelerated Resolution Therapy to start I wanted to push my brain a little. A YouTube channel to dust off my preaching skills and putting out feelers for pulpit supply in the summer for a few Sundays, all part of discernment of what is next for me in my journey and our family life.

The Universe’s humour however was evident. Deciding so I did not end up on a hobby horse soap box circuit of my own design stated I would use the Sunday Lectionary. Those unfamiliar with a Lectionary, it basically is designed that on Sundays in a three year cycle you will hear the whole Bible in Church, for daily ones it is a two year cycle. The essence being the minister cannot avoid any texts. I chuckled when asked to take the pulpit for July14, 2019 at Centennial Presbyterian Church for the lectionary brought me to The Good Samaritan parable:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”[1]

How to love my neighbour, and who is my neighbour are the two bedrock questions of my ministerial journey, and returning to the pulpit of the church I did my Mum’s funeral service in what a topic to be handed. The challenge now is what does it mean?

It means quite a bit. But what hit me hard this time just reflecting on the synchronicity of the event is that at this time in history, God is dead. But the God that is dead is not the God of the Trinity. It is not the Holy Love that created everything. It is not the Holy divinity that made Jesus the Christ, and from whom the Holy Spirit flows through life today.

There is a God that is DEAD. It is a God that should be dead. The God of Christendom. The God that allows for exclusion, the God that empowers hatred and violence based on religion. The God that was crafted by terrorists and governments to perpetuate wars, misogyny, caste systems, and try to control people’s free will of choice. The God that is dead is the one that has sparked such murder in the nominal church that was more comfortable with status quo power and control, much like the living breathing Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day. The God that is dead is that God tied to Nationalism, and Empire.

The God that in Canada was used to mask the atrocities of Colonialism, Residential Schools, Labour, Sex trafficking, eugenics, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, forced institutionalizations and sterilizations, withholding of Human Rights, homophobia, and the list can go on and on. It is the God that said any Imageo Dei[2]was less than a full person.

It is the God that was used as a lens to look out and see through the eyes of fear and paranoia. That was used to pray and convert at the tip of a sword or barrel of a gun or forced compliance/attendance at church for socio-economic survival on a family.

That God is dead.

That was never the God that Jesus pointed people towards in the Christian Testament. It was never the God that the prophets of the Hebrew Bible pointed folks towards either. That was the God of Love and Justice. The God of Peace, Hope, Joy and Faith and…. B-E-L-O-N-G-I-N-G as ALL is the IMAGEO DEI.

That is the core of the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus reminding us it is about love. Love of self, neighbour and God, a perpetuating cycle that all parts must fire for the divine to be alive…that is the Holy Spirit within, without, and through all. When that happens, all labels burn away and what is left is love and belonging, the story was scandalous because one of the excluded was the one that showed mercy. It was not scandalous; it was how creation is meant to be. That is the God that is alive.

Take a walk through a mall, or your community and look around. What a beautiful world. What a beautiful sight as each and every person is made in God’s image. Drop the labels and embrace. For the anti-abortionist, I challenge you to take the walk with the person through the process of abortion, and just be there holding the space in love and silence with them. If you are in a church struggling with the “question”[3] as the Anglican Communion phrases it…go to Pride…Give out Dad and Mum hugs to those that have been excluded.

Find that which you think is “stealing your rights” or others try to create fear of for you. Find that, and experience the Imageo Dei.

Love you Neighbour.

Love yourself by releasing the hatred burning your soul.

And it is the greatest act of love worship of God ever.

 

 

[1] Luke 10:25-37, New International Version

[2] Latin for Image of God

[3] The Question is about full inclusion of the LGBTTQ2+ community in the life and ministry of the Communion.


I have been on a journey…quite a lifetime of a journey…on creating space for persons to belong. It is why some have read previous posts and have blatantly stated that I do not believe in inclusion, accessibility and/or affirming ministries.

WRONG!!!

I am a 21st century Canadian. I believe this is where we should be resonating and existing at as community already. Accessibility is a need, but is a physical transformation of space, that can be forgiven if there is a plan to move forward, or allowances and aids to help. Inclusion means that the circle has been drawn wide enough so that regardless of label there is a space for you, and affirming is the simple act that you deserve to exist with the same dignity, rights and privileges as everyone else, because, well you are a human being. The fact we allow ourselves to backslide back into these old debates is astoundingly annoying, hurtful and a waste of time.

Where the conversation, and behaviour needs to happen in community, but especially within the Christianities is within belonging. Belonging is messy, because the first three are the starting point so it is no longer the person’s label at play. We seek to understand how they experience the world, and what is needed for their full vocational fulfillment within our world.  It is the calling Brother Jesus laid on our hearts/souls/beings with his teachings out of the Shema (the great love commandments of God, Neighbour and Self) that he then reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the legalist (read we will keep arguing inclusion, accessibility and affirming just because we are scared of change and sharing power) who asked him “who is my neighbour?”.

The risk of knowing neighbour, and of belonging as written of earlier is that we risk missing the person or being missed. BUT…there is more.

When one truly belongs. One takes ownership of the 5 W’s and H of the belonging. You will hear phrases of “This is my home” or “This is my community” or “My crew/group/residents/patients/clients/customers/students” or “my team” or “my church”. Why? Because they are resonating in belonging to something they were meant to be a part of. It is not about prestige, titles, or money (or anything else to feed ego). It is truly doing what one is meant to do. Being where one is meant to be.

Notice the words: being, be… B-E-L-O-N-G.

Take time in your life, what do you take ownership of authentically?

Why do you take that ownership?

What does this say about what your values are?

If the legalist came to you and asked, “who is my neighbour?” what is your story of ownership? Of Being? Of belonging?

 


Regular followers of my writing will know the last free e-book I tossed up centered on reflections around the Good Samaritan parable from the Christian Gospels. The ethos of the story is simple, a question given to reflect on: Who is My Neighbour?

In the early 1900’s it led J.S. Woodsworth who was superintendent of the Winnipeg Shelter to reflect on this, as his shelter aided immigrant and refugee resettlement into the Canadian prairies. It was the question that led to decisions to march in the General Strike and go to jail.

Now it is time to raise this question as a nation again. For one drowned Syrian boy has sparked outrage in the world about the refugee crisis in Syria. In contemporary/modern western world fashion it is not about vision and answering the call of our shared humanity, it is about managing the spin, the “economic and political cost”; what is the numbers game we should play. In some circles it is creating the divisive debate of whose taxes will pay? It is about choosing between refugees and our current Canadians living in poverty and without homes of their own.

But what if this ancient story held a deeper truth for us in building our national and local communities. Who is my neighbour? Go and do likewise… Provide aid, provide shelter, provide H-O-M-E. Cross international borders, drop stereotypes, and see that at our core we are a shared humanity. Quit stating the issue as helping our own first, and then possibly the other later. It is not that type of issue, or that type of answer.

Help both, nay, help all in need to have a home, and an ability to grow into a new hope, a new community, because of a simple principle of love in this global family.

The question for us as politicians avoid our door steps, a try to duck questions at debates, are we willing to hold the candidates to account to a higher level of dialogue, a higher level of vision…how are they going to build a New Canada where we do not FEAR but WELCOME the strangers at our shores? Where the neighbour in our community is helped before they lose hope and home?

What is the Liberal? Green? NDP? Conservative? Add your own political colour of the rainbow true vision for building a nation that will leave the world in awe for its wonder, inclusion, kindness, empathy, love and beauty? As Tommy Douglas once said, “dream no little dreams” Let us raise the level of debate in our great nation from one of management to one of vision and accountability as citizens of our city, province, country and world.


A new spiritual work…this is a draft of a chapter thought I would share:

For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 1:8

Ah the first step in understanding the Cosmic Christ you are, that’s right the star stuff we are created from, that is the Cosmic Christ within, the divine you in unity with the human you in the here and now. The first step in this reality is living a life of compassion. These are simple lessons of life shown not told. It is in the way that you observed your family behaving, how others were treated. Perhaps it was stories told after the fact, or those that became family legend.

For those without a happy family life, perhaps it was the mentors and family you chose to have in your life that laid out the new reality. This is the reality that exists, and that by beginning this new journey you may see again.

One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living

entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free

from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who

is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with

determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement

 with Me-he is very dear to Me.

                                                –Bhagavad Gita 12: 13-14

The fruits of the Divine within whether you term it Spirit, God, G(o)od, Vishnu, Krishna, Dharma, Karma—the list can go on, but what is evident is we know the star stuff exists as science says, and from that we live out the compassion that burns brightly. By acknowledging it and listening to it, we move beyond the “Old Laws” like Moses character was used to lay out in the 10 Commandments (and the 617 in Leviticus) that in our infancy story guided us towards a selfless self-love life that drew us closest to the divine.

My family was raised with many living examples of the simplicity that is compassion, as Paul wrote to the church in Philippi there is a compassion within each of us as was witnessed in the life of the Master Teacher Jesus of Nazareth. This is the compassion that if you take time to be present in your own story, and the great story around you will see.

In my own life it was being 16 years old and being at my Granddad’s funeral, having many of the now adults that grew up in the town with my grandparents and them sharing the open door they had in their home for the neighbourhood kids, always having the open listening ear to help them work through life issues to come to a solution.

It was hearing about my Grandma Ragan working in a diner in Canada around the Air Force bases, and refusing to bend to American soldier’s whims not to serve African Canadian Soldiers and welcoming them all in. Her following the life of a friend of my Uncle’s of Japanese descent and celebrating his milestones, even though she should have been of a generation that saw him as “enemy”.

It was the open welcoming door in my own home growing up, where whichever person entered became part of the family. My Mum and Dad always having a helping hand for friend, family, neighbour or stranger whether it was help with child care, food, rides or just a listening ear, and a strong shoulder for tears.

These were not people that trumpeted their simple acts of compassion as anything more than simply what one did in life to help another member of the family that is humanity. It is stepping away from mourning what “we don’t have” or “what we can’t do” to looking at the blessing we are, the purpose we have been given and are doing, to something deeper.

N-A-M-A-S-T-E-

The divine in me sees and recognizes the divine in you.

To one step more…even when you don’t I will see it and respond to it, and interact with you as such to help bring you begin to see you as the truth of divinity you are.

An ancient story was used by Jesus of Nazareth, Brother Jesus in Franciscan teachings, from the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician and a historian who tradition of the church states in his works Luke and Acts of the Apostles set out to write an orderly historical account of the early church. What is also noted as you read these works as one, these are not high faluting theological texts like John (Greek) or Matthew (Jewish) or a Roman Action Flick like Mark, no Luke is like the investigative reports of the ancient world.

It starts with the story of a girl without voice, nothing more than property, that God breaks that culturally established walls of propriety and asks Mary of Nazareth, if she wants to take on the shame, the outcast, the challenge of a lifetime in becoming a living example of compassion to the world. Would she become a mother out of wedlock? Essentially if her betrothed did not choose to follow would lead to her execution by stoning or being cast out the city to become a beggar/child sex trade worker for survivial.

Yet she chose the power of love, hope and compassion. Mary chose her yes.

The rest of Luke’s works are filled with stories that poke the bear if you will of cultural norms and challenges them. I do believe if Luke was writing in the Twenty-First Century about the church he would tear open the idiocy of the debate around full inclusion by sharing power stories of the divine within the lives of Trans folk, LGBTTQ, the single parents, the addicts, the abused, the fallen from grace and those with disabilities in such a way that they would be as fully included as Mary of Nazareth and lives as celebrated.

But I digress. For this is the backdrop of the writer as Brother Jesus is answering questions. And then a powerful story emerges over a question of “who is my neighbour?”

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must

I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What

do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all

your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your

mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given

the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell

into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving

him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when

he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came

to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while

traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He

went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then

he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The

next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care

of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which

 of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of

the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go

and do likewise.”

-Luke 10: 25-37

At this point it is time to pause and let the story speak to you. This is a mix of breath prayer and Lectio Divina. The Divine Reading as taught by Ignatius of Loyola as a method of study to allow the inner divinity to speak to you through the ancient stories. Read the story three times, if you can find an audio link online then listen to it. With each reading/listening there will be a question to reflect upon.

Sit comfortably, slow your breathing, focusing on it. Feel the environment you are in fade away. Feel the gritty sand get between your toes, the arid desert air, the sounds of the market place, bleating of live stock, haggling. Take in the aromas of the sacrifices, the fresh food, cooking, children singing and dancing, soldiers moving in and out taking what they want. You find the small group surrounding the labourer who has become a rabbi. How not many know, but they have all heard the legends of this man, the whispers that he is the bastard child of a Roman soldier, yet there is something in his manner, the way he looks upon everyone with tenderness, and compassion regardless of who they are or where they are from, he draws you into the conversation. The lawyer asks the question…who is my neighbour? The priest and the levite are so heavenly minded they will not stray from the rules of holiness to help someone in need, which makes them no earthly good. The Samaritan is part of a race from an exile of ancient Israel that saw them remain in exile and inter-marry with the conquerors, they worship God differently, they are seen as traitor’s to the chosen people, the stereotypical villain of every story.

Hear the story for the first time, during this reading as you walk through as the priest. What times in your life flash back to when you responded as the Priest and Levite? What truth emerges in these memories as you sit with them? Now as you sit write them out, colour them out to cleanse your Chakra energy of this negativity.

Sit looking at the old, are you ready to release this way of being? If so walk it out the garbage bin outside your home, rip it up and throw it in, walk away from this old way of being. If not note why, and come back to it later.

Hear the story for a second time this time as the Samaritan left hurting and bloodied by   bandits on the road side. What comes to you, with those that at first walked past  that you expected aid from and none came as with the Priest and Levite? Write and colour this out in your breathing again to get it out of you. In these moments where did aid come from surprising sources, take this thought and enter it into your journal as a reminder of times when someone else’s divinity came to you.

Are you ready to dispose of the hurt and pain of being left by the roadside by those you believed to be friend or helper? If you are take the walk as before and dispose of, if not place in your journal and note why you are not ready yet?

Hear the story for a third time, this time hear it as the Samaritan. What makes you stop? What times in your life have you lived out this compassion regardless of labels? Not these in your journal to remind yourself of living compassionately, invest these in your heart and sit with them.

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal, the aromas of the market place vanish, the sounds dissipate, the sand and breeze are gone, feel the chair reform around you, hear the sounds of your world, and the new aromas of your world. You are back and have a question to answer? As you interact with your world, others in your community, your workplace, your place of worship, your home and within yourself.

One simple question to answer: 

Who is my neighbour?

 

One simple question to answer:

Who is my neighbour?