Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of Matthew’


Matthew 1:20-23 (New King James Version)

A rather innocuous passage in Matthew is often overlooked, similarly to the passages within Luke in regards to the visitation and questions of Mary. Here, we have Joseph, doing what any man of his era would be doing in finding out his recently betrothed bride to be (she of approximately 13-14 years old) pregnant. Pondering what to do? Shall he declare the crime? Have her taken by the Edlers outside the city gates and stoned to death? Simply cast outside quietly to turn into a beggar? A play thing of the Empire on the road side? Or quietly divorce her and let her family deal with her?

See, Joseph was struggling with pride and reputation. When Holy Love comes into his life, and this is the key moment for him. Do you hear it? That aha moment in the heart? That moment when he realized the power in his wife to be’s YES to the Holy. The “Yes” that shattered the bastardized topsy-turvy world the Empire and Religious oppression had stripped them of. The love, to feel the true awe of…becoming a Daddy (Abba).

See the source image
Saint Joseph and Toddler Jesus, according to Roman Catholicism, St. Joseph is the patron saint of Realtors, families, fathers, unborn children, expectant mothers, immigrants, travelers, explorers, pilgrims, house seekers, craftsmen, engineers, and workers. He is the patron saint of many villages, towns, cities, churches, and countries including- Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, Austria, Korea, Americas, China, Croatia, Indonesia and Phillipines.

Now this is where fundgelical praxis theology of the lovey-dovey thoughts hits the snag. See, Joseph became a Daddy with Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus grew up in a loving home, learned the faith from the Matriarchs, and the way of work from the Patriarchs in his family. Having grown up in a trades family, I can guess, he probably had a pretty cool experience with all the building things to play with. Unfortunately, instead of reading the gospel stories of Jesus’ family with the lens of love and belonging in family. Too many take the view of “step” or “adopted”, that is they impose an extra layer of distance the relationship with Joseph and Jesus. The default being, well, Jesus spoke of his Heavenly Father.

Except, the Holy Spirit that came upon Mary is usually in the feminine. Except, in the creation story in the Hebrew Bible, both male and female are created in God’s image. Yet, we do not speak of Mary, as the earthly mother, just as Mum.

So why the differentiation? To allow for a perpetuation of unhealthy dynamics, one that harkens back to the genealogy lists within the scriptures that prove ones “pedigree” (or worth) in society. Yet, what is missed, is that the pedigree of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is of Joseph.

So whose his Daddy?

Is it not time to move beyond this antiquated view of Empire imposed familism?

Do we not yet understand that the point of the birth narrative is to show that the bond of family and belonging is love- FULL STOP- and that Jesus was blessed with an amazing family with both human and divine parentage?

Next time you hear the bad exegesis about Joseph, not being or needing to be his Daddy as Jesus was not his son, simply reply with the theologically best answer I can come up with “bollocks”.

Which is point one of this ecclectica, the other was trying to be politics free on Christmas Day, and only doing spot checks of social media, The United Conservative Party proved my social media musing with the new Covid restrictions/exemptions that had been announced in Alberta a few days before Christmas:

And yes church it was shown once again, for a tweet storm emerged with the UCP sharing of a Christmas greeting:



Found in Revised Common Lectionary Cycle B (found at Vanderbilt University: Year B – Christmas : Revised Common Lectionary (vanderbilt.edu)

Now we can argue over which translation of the Holy Bible was used, and whether the term was government or authority, but it is found within the Revised Common Lectionary for the readings. A lectionary is the reading rhythms that within a two year cycles of Sundays the church will hear all the Bible (and/or major themes) read from the pulpit. This is the example of what the Christmas Day readings looked like this year:

For finding scriptures I suggest http://www.biblegateway.com

Now, there are some things of note.

  1. The meme actually got more air time via progressives attempting to shame, call out, or otherwise put down.
  2. There is some issue with the meme any believer should take, when the Gospel reading of the day is from Luke, the birth of Christ, the scripture should have come from there. Unfortunately, Luke is the gospel written to and for the disenfranchised in society to empower and give voice, it is a rallying cry which with the track record of the government currently would have come across as higher hypocrisy than normal.
  3. The image of the Holy Family used is uber Blonde European. The traditionalist church images used, and not very historic. Some may say minor, some may say major point, but on point for the message.
  4. The use of the government in the quote is to be seen as a nod that the ruling party is there by divine right, yet who is Isaiah? Will share a bit on that.

Isaiah is a major prophet in the Holy Bible, respectfully from the Hebrew Bible portion. His book is 66 chapters in length, which has led some protestants to equate it to the Protestant Bible as an allegory (note I said Protestant as there are many bibles with books in as apocryphal/deutero-canonical or canonical that are beyond the scope of these 66). There was more than likely more than one Isaiah as a writer within the book, through textual historicity, the first writer would be the one who wrote the passage in the meme. Many of the Hebrew Prophets have had moments when their words have been pointed to foretelling the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, or more mystically, the Messiah (for if you are Jewish, he has not yet come). Most of the work was probably written during the Babylonian captivity, around 8th century BCE. The prophets were not necessarily future oriented texts, as much as social justice texts.

The prophets were called out of Israel to literally call Israel out. To point out what they were doing contrary to the heart of the Holy. It was framed in contrary to the Law, yet what is at the core of the Law and the Prophets? Love of God/Self/Neighbour. The prophets laid out unabashedly the harm being done under the guise of the name of God, and then what the repercussions were to be (reaping what one sows), in two cases at least the exiles under Babylon and Assyria. Then the inter-testimental period of silence were Rome seized their world. The world that the angels came to both Mary and Joseph to let them know, much like Zechariah and Elizabeth, that they would become parents of blessed children. Blessed children, what Brother Jesus let his followers know was each and every child.

So yes, this is a simple Merry Christmas from a political party. Yes, it is a message of Christendom (the Christianity of Empire) that speaks to a minority seeking to hold power, but lose the gospel, and yes, it is from the actual scriptures.

What is also clearly shows, like the story of Joseph, is a tool that can be of division, scape goating, and used wrongly.

What it leaves us with, is will we take the deeper message of the birth of Christ? The context of the word’s of Isaiah and the prophets knowing that a governing party just did one of the greatest self owns in history by literally turning the finger back on themselves to say- hey guess who isn’t meeting the call of justice? Guess who is willing to enter the exile for power?

Take time, and yes, it is a time when anyone of religious stripes who wants to speak up clearly and honestly. Share your faith, share how it has been used to harm, share how it has helped, and when politicians or religious leaders or fellow congregants attempt to use it to harm, call them out.

For we are all blessed children, loved, with family that embraces and loves us at this time of year, as today we enter the journey of the Magi following the once in hundreds years astronomical event to warn of the impending genocide.

Be the clarion call to end injustice.

Stand in love.

Amen.


It could be a rant, but truly at this point it is an earnest question. Born, raised and continue living in Alberta seen and read about many social conservatives (out of Christendom and other religions) politicians and governments within my province, and the base rock for Federal. Yet at this time of C-tine, the question is in my mind, how is it possible (even with some rust on the buckle), that Canada’s bible belt equivalent province struggles so much with love thy neigbour?

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.”

-Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40 (New King James Version)

To love our neighbour as we love ourselves and love God. I have written many times unpacking this passage in different ways, so I am not going to deep on that now. Yet, here we are as a province with pandering to anti-mask/anti-vax/anti-science bases, over-dramatized to downright untrue stories from our governance around issues, and basically a sentiment began from our Premier and shared by many that those who are dying (now 500+) are past their best before date or had co-morbidities so it is all good (those of low human capital, a favourite term of our current provincial government).

Which raises many questions on the humanity of the religious who claim freedoms in our province? For it was not the call to the individual, but to the communal freedom, love and belonging.

Let’s re-humanize our statistics, have the releases signed not to share age, region, gender and they had co-morbidities, but rather, age, region and name. I mean, how many even know what co-morbidity is? They believe it is a death sentence to begin with, no these are two or more occurring chronic (ongoing) conditions? Do you know someone with two conditions? Mental, physical or neurological health? High blood pressure? Depression? Anxiety? Cystic Fibrosis? MS (that we lead Canada in)? Cancer? How about those covid 20 that you can’t shake? Epilepsy? PTSD? OCD? Substance Abuse/use disorder? Carpal Tunnel? The list goes on an on…

The term coupled with age, is used to de-humanize the disease and reduce severity so the base is appeased. It is like the 1991 Star Trek The Next Generation episode, “Half-Life” (S.4,Ep.22) that created an ethical discussion at the time in my school, but also with parents. The crux is Timicin (played wonderfully by David Ogden Stiers), whose species at age 65 end their own lives as “their time is up” or “they are past their best before date”. In the episode this becomes a debate as he develops an intimate relationship with Betazed Ambassador, Lwaxana Troi (mother of Ship Counsellor Deanna Troi), and it ensues about quality of life, purpose and belonging. I encourage you to have a virtual watch party with friends outside your household, and watch within your household to discuss the key points of this with our current situation. As this can create a different lens to look at how we view life and death, and what matters. But this is not the only challenge facing us, in those hard conversations we need to have around the dinner (or communion) table.

The other, with current restrictions announced due to lack of concern for anyone outside your own skin (Alberta’s public health emergency restrictions can be found here) in an attempt to bend the curve back down, find out trackable data (as we have 85%+ cases on traceable) over the next three weeks. Has led to much llama dramas on line. Some throwing shade about religious organizations allowed to stay open at 1/3 capacity, and why on businesses, most being about big box vs small businesses closing open (conflating restrictions of other provinces with our own). Are these restrictions perfect? No, but even though I do not support that the UCP has the moral or ethical right to governance (ongoing criminal investigations), I will follow through for care for my family and neighbour.

What is saddening and maddening is the many religious sharing posts about Alberta being 70 years rat free so don’t become one on your neighbours now, or don’t snitch. Like the stereotypical “snitches get stitches” . Seriously, when did we as grown ass adults begin acting like pre-adolescents enamoured with faux hip hop culture?

Or as I shared on Facebook today:

“It’s not about not “snitching” on your neighbours at the holidays for the social gathering, that is being gaslit like in an abusive relationship. Seriously, it is about our neighbours having enough care and respect to follow the rules so we do not have to call 311 to have a healthy AHS that can respond to our current pandemic, epidemic, emerging epidemic, and outbreak. But hey, let’s continue giving those that can’t follow rules a pass.”

And as one friend pointed out, how easily we compartmentalize and pick and choose what we will call in our neighbour on. Noise complaints? Speeding? Parking? Loud or at large animals? Not shovelling snow? Think about what happens to our society, if we do not hold one another accountable?

This doesn’t even go deep into the neighbourhood watch to prevent crime, which if my neighbours do not have discernment and care with these how can I trust them if my car is being stolen or house being prowled? Starting to see how the “not my problem” begins to flow?

This is not even with jumping on the not mandatory vaccine discussion the Premier opened up to pander to his slipping away base. Which, I am sure my stance on that will lose even more “Facebook friends” but for those able to take the vaccine (any vaccine) it is a care of neighbour, why my kids both got the HPV one.

As I sit, having wrestled with the new restrictions, and lowering our house into more of a shut down (my one kids cohort with her best friend has come to an end, I miss their giggles and joy and it has only been one day), we are here because of a provincial quorums of adults that refused to adult. As I watch the video feed of the 200 person “freedom march” -anti-mask rally in Calgary this morning, I do hope that they are all levied the $1000 fines to send a strong message. Reading in the paper that due to lack of corporate care at CF Chinook yesterday in limiting to 25% capacity city police had to be used to evacuate people and I know these restrictions are supposed to be re-looked at on Dec. 15.

Where I am at now?

Christmas is different this year. Looking like my household, as we find new joys, way to share love, and know we are doing this, because many may not see us as “believers” or “Christian enough”, but I can honestly tell you it is about following through on love of neighbour.

The question for our “Bible Belt” is do you get it?

Because I am tired of your Pharisee ways.


As we move through the Ancient Teaching, Modern Learning series it is quite easy to just look at the teachings and action items as an out there. An attempt to change our broader society and community. This is true, but it is only one part of the learning that must always be kept at the forefront. There is also the interior change. These teachings were challenging societal norms that did harm, and left communities and individuals in intergenerational trauma, only put value on a person for what they could amass as wealth, and anything seen as less than “perfect” as something to be expunged. It was these norms that fed the eugenics movement that would emerge out of what was meant as good with the Social Gospel movement, for it still created category of other.

This is not right. In the global world we must surrender the concept of other.

In our own interior castle though we must surrender other. That is the other rooms we refuse to enter: the dark basement, the attic, perhaps the wing that has been sealed off. Where must the light shine through? Where must we honour the blessings that challenge the norm? Where we hold in tension in change, and see what is true and right to move forward?

These were the unknowns when Jesus started travelling and teaching. He was nothing more than a general labourer from a small village, rumoured at the least to be  a bastard son, at worst half-Roman (due to the concept women were nothing more than receptacles and all non-Empire citizens were property, meant Mary could’ve been with child due to rape). Someone that was not meant to be seen as a messiah, or be as learned as a wisdom teacher.

Yet here was one in communion with the Holy Mystery. Open like many who do not fit the typical mold we state for “humanity”, that was able to speak and live outwards. One who was able (as many are) to recognize, neighbour, in not just those who were the same, but those who were blessedly different in the rainbow. It was this Hodge podge rabble that had begun to collect. Where men, women and children were called as persons. Many meals were shared, money and goods were shared from whomever made it, and whatever role needed to be filled was not fully defined by the gender (note the many times the women take the lead throughout Gospel stories? Including in going to the tomb?). It was here that they had traveled, and come to a Mount.

A mount where the Decalogue (10 Commandments) had been brought down by Moses to those escaping another unjust society, seeking a just society, but had interior work to do as well. Now Jesus, sat, ate, talked, laughed, I would say with kids around probably played. Let’s be honest his followers had families or not, there is a high probability Jesus had a wife and kids to at some point. This was a family picnic and a chance to begin to unpack what it meant to live in the Love Covenant. And Jesus opens up with what are seen as blessings (Beatitudes):

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

-Matthew 5:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

Who are the poor in spirit? And why is the Kingdom theirs? The Kingdom is not the next life, it is the world created here and now where everyone belongs. Who were the poor in spirit? The ones the religious stated were not holy—the disabled, the sick, the poor, the single parents, the widows, the orphans (any oppressed group)—basically the victims of a world that wanted the non “pure” wiped away. Sounding familiar? What soundtrack is playing in the poor in spirit’s mind if everyone around them is telling them hate? What happens when the action is turned, a community welcomes? We ponder how to extremism, gangs, addictions (the list can go on)…and it comes from a place of being welcomed, loved and accepted. Something society has always resisted as we resonate on the “other”. Living in fear not hope. Living in hate, not love. For to accept the other as a whole person, then in our own mind means we have to accept that there is diversity in creation and it is okay. Belonging is not about being homogenous, it is a heterogeneous mixture of all peoples, where belonging happens due to the complexity that brings into community.

Who are those who mourn? The ones that society says do not deserve comfort. It may be the citizens caught in a bombing run. A Doctor’s without Borders targeted hospital. It may be a criminal. Or it may be a child with disabilities that the education system says their staff and friends do not deserve the mourning journey because “that’s life”. It can be rationalized on so many levels, but being able to rationalize does not make it right. Those who mourn will be comforted…because all who have suffered loss, change, transition, death…deserve the embrace of compassion and equity of care. Your tears, as the tears of others, have value and should be honoured in your personhood.

Who are the meek? They are not the zealots, or the activists or the wealthy or those who are seen as the powers that be. They are the ones that keep plugging along, in survival mode, or just making ends meet. Those that we have stripped voice from because they have not “earned” the “right” to speak. These are the meek. They are not weak, or without intellect or without skill. They are the ones that are the untouchable, the poverty class, the working class… the ones the world ignores for it is not flashy what they do. Yet when their voice is heard change happens. Just look at any human rights movement—those are the meek.

WTF with Righteousness? We live in a world of the self-righteous build the wealth using religion as the opiates of the masses. Who twist religion and ideology in such a ways to create their own fiefdoms at the cost of the other (neighbour) and sometimes destroying their own interior castle if they succumb. The hunger and thirst, is the base desire of knowing something better is possible and needs to happen. That is the drive that allows the others. Remember there is many ways to build poetry and rhythms. Could the Beatitudes be that in seeing as those actions of loving self as you love neighbour, tying into this literary concept of righteousness that takes us into the next blessings.

The merciful? The reciprocity of actions being returned upon you. Not necessarily from the one you showed mercy too, but being able to ease the burden of your own guilt for not helping (the bystander effect) but also in a time of need there is always that synchronicity when help comes. Whether we are aware of it or not. This is a moment of discovery to become aware of gratitude. To know when there is good that comes into your life, no matter how inconsequential some may say it is. This part of the laws of creation.

Pure in heart? This is not some nursery rhyme or fairy tale concept. It is the idea of pureness of one’s own heart. What is still allegorically believed today to be the source of mercy, compassion, kindness, empathy and love (to name but a few). The pureness and ability to see God is simple. If we live our lives with our highest good and those of others (one simple act of kindness at a time) even in the darkest most stumbling moments you will know the cosmic dust that formed you. The energy that binds you to creation and creation into you. You will know the depth of L-O-V-E (the greatest gift) in your darkest time, and that light will shine through and confound the darkness.

Who wants to be a peacemaker? As then, so today, the mediator, the peacemaker, is the one in the midst of the conflict. Whether it is armed, domestic, civil/tort, or within self. You are in the middle holding the factions at bay. Using whatever means necessary from restraint to powerful questions to get to the core of what resonates for all sides to move forward. This is how healthy change happens. In the moment of conflict when one (or many) assesses what of the old needs to pass away, what of the new needs to be accepted, and how to bring the pieces together within the new reality. In “U theory” it is the prototyping phase of change. Trying out new concepts to see what works, but also have the prototypes implode/explode. This is in the outward world, but also inwardly when you journey.

It wraps up speaking about rejoicing in being persecuted. WTH? Jesus is reminding those gathered that a new path is being chosen. A path where the formally “non-person” was going to assert their “personhood”. In this assertion much was to come down upon them, but to know that this is the time to stand proud in who you are, and that this is what was supposed to exist.

The beatitudes like the concept of the Greatest Commandments, have been the basis of many “theology of the margins”, and this includes many monastic movements and the Social Gospel. Sadly, there is much darkness within those movements that also needs to be expunged for it took these pieces to create another concept of “worthy poor” and eugenics that too must be dismantled.

Within that dismantling though is the interior calling of these words for each of us. Where we are here to get the external home in order. What are we to do with our interior sanctuary?

Write out who you and others see you as today…then…

What affirmations are you going to take up to re-writer you internal dialogue from commodity to worthy person?

What acts of kindness will you share with your neighbour, but also show yourself?

Will you pick up the habit of simple time of gratitude no matter how mundane others may see what you are grateful for, it still is the good in your life?

Try for 30 days (time to build up new habits)…what is the new writing of who you are say?

Are you blessed?


Ancient tradition stipulates the Gospel of Matthew was written by the repentant tax collector called by Jesus, who was renamed from Levi to Matthew (Matthew means gift from God). Depending on theology you read for this synoptic gospel, either Matthew or Mark is the earliest. Material lines up with 3 of the Canonical (those Imperialist chose under Constantine to be in the Christian Testament)-Matthew, Mark & Luke. Some suggest another mystery source, Q, which has never been found, or could be snippets from other pseudepigraphal texts.

What happens though is that Matthew is written for a Judaic audience. Though an audience that was in synagogue, and still willing to hear the political statement of change. A change that can be seen in how the text was structured, yet still clinging to historic means that may no longer fit. To mark placement of importance there is a genealogy enclosed. It is a genealogy that includes victims, and voiceless, but traces to the line of David (many messianic complexes of the day would provide proof. The way Jesus did through Bathsheba, #metoo, shows the need for equity, equality and believing the victims) …to Mary of Nazareth, the bride sold by her family to Joseph. It still holds to the outdated archaicness of the patriarchy, in which Joseph was the one the messenger came to. Yet in this, much like the rape of Bathsheba, it was to show how twisted the creation of equality had become. That this man would hold the fate of another in his hands for following her faith. Joseph could cast her out to be stoned to death, or cast outside the gates to be a survival sex worker with child to pass away into nothingness. Joseph, unlike the David story (David killed the offspring, and Bathsheba’s husband) chose to live as family.

It was not shepherds that came in Matthew’s account, but astrologers, other faiths who saw love enter the world and barriers break down. Much like within Solomon’s temple, a peaceful co-existance of the many wells within the birth narrative (again redeeming the story of the temple collapse). To Jesus going to his cousin, one calling out the institutional structures of segregation, an Essenes most likely, one who chose to remove themselves from the corrupt society. It was here Jesus showed more interconnectedness by partaking in their ritual of connectedness and washing away the dirt of Empire existence.

To a battle in the desert. A battle with Satan. Who is this metaphoric angel? (A great example is the show Lucifer, though I do prefer the original comic representation in Sandman and Lucifer). A tempter, tester, and trickster (seeing other resonances of ancient wisdom). Though also metaphoric as the one that gets those seeking justice to sell out for personal glory (resonate with any personalities of today? Wealth and power to give up principles?)… a metaphor for Herodians, and those in the Sanhedrin? For Roman Empire, tax collectors’ (perhaps a private metaphor on the internal battle within the author Matthew? Or the struggle to come later with Judas?).

From this struggle, the first followers come. Those out of the desert, those that saw something different from what was being put forward. Those that saw someone unwilling to be swayed by the powers that corrupt causes every day.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan

-Gospel of (St.) Matthew 4:23-25 (English Standard Version)

To the healing texts so abused today. Yes there was healing, the first universal public health care around illnesses. Yes there was probably exorcisms and energy healings, we had seen the ground work laid for these.

BUT

For those with disabilities, the only way to understand for the people of the time authentic belonging was to “heal”. So they would become part of the community, truly belong for it began to shatter there understanding of segregation, and causality.

There is a reason why this essentially becomes the prologue to the Christian-Judaic version of the Law—the Sermon on the Mount—for it began to show that those cast aside by society and doomed to death was societies’ wrongs, not the individuals’. It was to show that belonging, began with those pointing the finger of blame saying it was the person’s fault.

But no one was ready in this early movement for what blessing meant. Keep in mind at the time, Blessing (beatitude) was assuming good health, wealth and prosperity due to being a good law follower and believer only in one God.

Brother Jesus’ prologue actions shattered ancient ableism, and the words to follow were ready to start the reflective pondering of societal change…a change that would culminate in a lynching.


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?

 


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.


The Christmas season liturgically is 12 days that bring us to what is colloquially known as “Ukrainian Christmas” in January. It is one of the calendar discerning points between Orthodox and Roman Christianities (and the Protestant Christianities that spun out of the Roman Church). Liturgically this is the journey of what is commonly called the wise men, or like the old hymn, “We three kings”. Better translated the Magi, or magicians. The astrologers, the elder wisdom of the East brought to a creche in a manger in Jerusalem.

It is the story as brought to life in the writings of St. Matthew. Who is believed in tradition to be the tax collector Levi re-named Matthew (which means gift from God) by brother Jesus in his 3-year ministry before lynching by the powers that be. Written for an audience of Judea to understand the different Messiah. Not zealots but those open to the Kingdom idea of the way shown by Jesus. For even the traditions it is wrapped in, lay out a new path. Shattering of patriarchy control by listing women in the genealogy.

And showing the seditionist nature of the Herod family is seeking power even it means inflicting harm upon their own people. The Herod family maintained power as the puppet royals of Israel, much the way munitions manufacturers have made their billions and trillions in commerce—selling/working on both sides. That way guess what happens with whomever wins? You are in favour.

This is Herod that the Magi come to:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5”In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’.”

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

-Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

 

 

Think about it. Herod would lead a scourge and genocide of the masses. Their first born to silence an idea being born into the world that we are each others’ brothers and sisters. We are in this together. Together a new world can be birthed. Together society can be just. Together we can dream no little dream, but one where love rules.

This is where the Magi showed wisdom in not succumbing to the money, the power and/or the prestige that was Herod. They stood in their beliefs. They did not sell out what they held to be true to appease the money.

How often in our world have we created situations where money/power run roughshod over our beliefs? In employment? Church (me thinks annual general meetings and tithing?)…but even more, as we must remember the Gospel story is a declaration of political intent. Caesar used gospels to proclaim his program for the Empire. So the apostles/disciples were doing the same in proclaiming their gospel of Brother Jesus.

What more needs to be looked at? A story where governance exercises its power not to the benefit of the citizen but the detriment. In Canada we have worked hard to build a just society, yet ideological entrenchment over the past few decades has shook this for we cannot look for what is best for citizens, but are lost in the loop of attack/defend our ideologies. What happens in the interim?

As a nation of just about 34 million we cannot move into our constitution to discuss a new division of power that would allow for a stronger public health and public education system than the one now that has these resting in smaller provinces that moving them up to the federal level for a use of the buying clout of the federation as a whole.

It means smoke and mirrors so each ideology has used Employment Insurance as a surplus way to find monies, instead of being available to those who need it with ease. Y’know the unemployed and those who are on medical leave from work in an expeditated fashion before debt creates an untenable situation.

It is in the province of Alberta bureaucracies designed for AISH (Assured Income for the Severally Handicapped) and PDD that are designed to cull the lists, and protect expenditures on what is available by not using transparency so the least of these live within poverty or not even being able to qualify because the bureaucracy has a “prove you deserve this” mentality that goes beyond confirmation by doctors and specialists.

The same can be said Federally to the CPP-Disability plan.

And lets not forget fighting against the Protestant myth of the deserving poor used by Neo-Cons to strip Alberta Works (Social Services) from being proactive, to being in a state where it is hard to grow out of the poverty cycle you are in once on it.

Yet ideologies argue between the left and the right instead of the constitutional guarantee of Peace, Order and Good Governance. We argue over issues that can be summed up by sound bytes of 140 characters, not understanding that for every bill, for every tax there is a ripple effect in the pond we exist within.  Ideological wars that weary the citizen to a point of apathy that nothing can change so why fight the system, let dark money take root, don’t show up to vote, because no party will be better than any other.

Disengagement due to disgruntlement due to government putting corporate profits over citizen well-being.

Hmmm…or Herod putting his gold coffers over those of his people.

Rome putting absolute power, and taking care of the wealthy class over the masses.

And the Magi know where the baby is, that brings the message of transformative love, and they must make a choice. Will they give in to apathy as nothing will change and tell Herod? Or will they believe the pablum because the last bill took care of their class because they are not the “label” currently being ignored or not Twitter sexy?

No.

They chose to go accomplish what they must, and not serve up their neighbour to death at the hands of ideological madness. For their wisdom was simple and shown in the gifts they brought.

            We are one in humanity. We are in this together from birth to death.

  As you journey with the Magi this season, how will you answer the question Herod in caring for your neighbour?

            Will you let apathy reign?

            Wealth control?

            Or love and care of neighbour win?


Remorse. Making the best decision one can in the instant whether it was the best of the worst or best of the best. A comic writer once said, the Joker and Lex Luthor are such great villains not because they are villains, but in their own story they are the heroes.

Tonight, was the second last book discussion group on Levi’s Aquarian Gospel. It is a great reinterpretation of the story of Brother Jesus, as many who have worked through previous reflections/spiritual practices that it has brought up. Tonight, it was noted how possible Gnostic texts and/or deutero-canonical Hebrew Bible texts may have fleshed out some teachings and scenes.

Yet we come down to a character that is either completely played as an ubiquitous devil of the disciples, the kind of lecherous thief: Judas Iscariot. Pre-destination belief may lay out that he was meant to betray Jesus known as the Christ for the full glory to unfold. Others could argue free will making a choice based on a bad moral base and this jealousy/feeling of emasculation that led to betrayal?

Or was it the story of a man who was trying to make the messiah-teacher he followed, fit the messiah he was raised to be to over throw the oppressors that treated the peasants as at best play things, as at worst possessions of disbarment.

This was a passage that made us go Hmmm:

Aquarian Gospel:

Chapter 169

Judas is filled with remorse. Hurries to the temple and throws the thirty pieces of silver at the feet of the priests who take it and buy a potter’s field. Judas hangs himself. His body is buried in the potter’s field.

1. Now, Judas who betrayed his Lord, was with the mob; but all the time he thought that Jesus would assert his power and demonstrate the strength of God that he possessed, and strike to earth the fiendish multitudes and free himself;
2. But when he saw his master on the ground and bleeding from a score of wounds, he said,
3. O God, what have I done? I have betrayed the son of God; the curse of God will rest upon my soul.
4. And then he turned and ran with haste until he reached the temple door; he found the priests, who gave to him the thirty silver pieces to betray the Lord, and said,
5. Take back your bribe; it is the cost price of my soul; I have betrayed the son of God.
6. The priests replied, That matters not to us.
7. Then Judas threw the silver on the floor, and, bowed with grief, he went away, and on a ledge beyond the city’s walls he hanged himself and died.
8. In time the fastenings gave way, his body fell into the Hinnon vale and after many days they found it there a shapeless mass.
9. The rulers could not put the price of blood into the treasury, and so they took the thirty silver pieces with which they bought a potter’s field,
10. Where they might bury those who had no rights to lie within their sacred grounds.
11. And there they put the body of the man who sold his Lord.

In the journey of understanding our own depths, take time to pause, and reflect on this passage of Judas, and these from the Canonical Gospels (those within the Christian Testament as set by Constantine, and affirmed again by the Principalities at Reformation): Matthew 26:14-16; 27:1-10; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13.

The Spiritual Practice:

Begin to understand yourself. Write the story of Judas Iscariot from a first-person narrative. Complete free-fall (this was a style of W.O. Mitchell, it means keep the pen moving on paper, do not let it stop for at least 15 minutes).

Reflect on the story of Judas that emerged through your own reflective heart.

Who is Judas in your gospel?

What new resonates in understanding the journey with Brother Jesus?

 


Mendicant. It is Latin, and as such appears to hold airs of awe-ness. Yet when the word is translated it means open hand or to be more abrupt how it was used back in the 13th century for Francis of Assisi and his circle of friends—pan handler, beggar. That which we attempt to continually criminalize today. Those that seek a share of blessings of others, and then continue to spread out from there.

For Franciscans Mendicant is a call to remember where the blessings and possessions flow from. The Source of the Holy Mystery that will continue to provide, given that the flow is continued within the blessings to continually move out and not store up.

The teaching of the Exodus Story as the people wandered, Quail and Manna was sent each day to be gathered, on the 6th day, there was more so an extra portion could be gathered. When there was attempt to horde, it rotted.

In Acts 5:1-10 the physician Luke recounts this tale of the early church:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

A desire to remind the community the source of blessings, the choice to openly share, the need not to lie or horde. The choice to live out of the love of the Holy Mystery within. If you would like a bonus spiritual practice, take this story and write it from the perspective of Ananias or Sapphira, what is revealed about your own journey?

These thoughts bring us into meditating upon the Aquarian gospel 111:

Jesus teaches. A man requests him to compel his brother to deal justly. Jesus reveals the divine law, the power of truth and the universality of possessions. Relates the parable of the rich man and his abundant harvest.

1. And Jesus taught the multitudes; and while he spoke a man stood forth and said,
2. Rabboni, hear my plea: My father died and left a large estate; my brother seized it all, and now refuses me my share.
3. I pray that you will bid him do the right, and give what is mine.
4. And Jesus said, I am not come to be a judge in such affairs; I am no henchman of the court.
5. God sent me not to force a man to do the right.
6. In every man there is a sense of right; but many men regard it not.
7. The fumes that rise from selfishness have formed a crust about their sense of right that veils their inner light, so that they cannot comprehend nor recognise the rights of other men.
8. This veil you cannot tear away by force of arms, and there is naught that can dissolve this crust but knowledge and love of God.
9. While men are in the mire, the skies seem far away; when men are on the mountain top, the skies are near, and they can almost touch the stars.
10. Then Jesus turned and to the twelve he said, Behold the many in the mire of carnal life!
11. The leaven of truth will change the miry clay to solid rock, and men can walk and find the path that leads up to the mountain top.
12. You cannot haste; but you can scatter forth this leaven with a generous hand.
13. When men have learned the truth that bears upon its face the law of right, then they will haste to every man his dues.
14. Then to the people Jesus said, Take heed, and covet not. The wealth of men does not consist in what they seem to have–in lands, in silver and in gold.
15. These things are only borrowed wealth. No man can corner up the gifts of God.
16. The things of nature are the things of God, and what is God’s belongs to every man alike.
17. The wealth of soul lies in the purity of life, and in the wisdom that descends from heaven.
18. Behold, a rich man’s ground brought forth abundantly; his barns were far too small to hold his grain, and to himself he said,
19. What shall I do? I must not give my grain away; I must not let it go to waste; and then he said,
20. This will I do; I will tear down these little barns and built up larger ones; there I will store away my grain and I will say,
21. My soul take now your ease; you have enough for many years; eat, drink and fill yourself and be content.
22. But God looked down and saw the man; he saw his selfish heart and said,
23. You foolish man, this night your soul will quit its house of flesh; then who will have your garnered wealth?
24. You men of Galilee, lay not up treasures in the vaults of earth; accumulated wealth will blight your soul.
25. God does not give men wealth to hoard away in secret vaults. Men are but stewards of God’s wealth, and they must use it for the common good.
26. To every steward who is true to self, to other men, to every thing that is, the Lord will say, Well done.

Get comfortable, and prepare to enter the story. Slow your breathing down. Feel the chair you are in melt away. Feel the room fall away. Move back into the time of the ancestors. In the gathered market place, you have travelled from a small centre to hear the travelling labourer turned teacher. The words you have heard of this man speaking have shaken up the wealthy in your town, and scare the religious leaders.

 

  1. As you hear Brother Jesus for the first time, let the words truly sink in. When were you lost in the mire? When were you like the farmer trying to horde away all the crops and letting them rot instead of trusting provision. What emotions does it bring up? What memory really sticks out? Sit with the memory and what happened within it? What is revealed of your heart in these moments in your journey?
  2. As you hear Brother Jesus for the second time, let the words truly sink in. When has the clay slipped away to allow you to ascend the mountain top? What memories come up in the moment when you know you were in sync with the Holy Mystery, a true mendicant? Stay with the feelings. What opens within your soul?
  3. As the words tumble from Brother Jesus’ lips a third time Let the heart of the Holy Mystery become one with yours. Where are you being called to wealth and wisdom within your vocational life? Sit with this call and let it resonate within you. Are you ready to take the first step?

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal. Feel the dust vanish. The noises of the market place vanish. You travel forward in time, feel the room reshape around you. Your chair again. When you are ready open your eyes.

The call is as simple as when Jesus offered Peter the keys to the kingdom. He stands in your heart, all is connected. The Cosmic Christ offering you the keys to the kingdom. Are you ready:

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e]loosed in heaven.”

-Matthew 16:17-19

To answer are you ready for your call, re-read the passage above from Matthew, only replace Simon, Son of Jonah, with your first name and who your parents are, replace Peter with your name. Now re-read it 3 times, pausing each time to let the words and sentiment truly set in.

Our Brother Jesus has laid out a path of unity and oneness for the family of humanity, it is simply bound together in L-O-V-E. The Cosmic Christ holds the key to unlock Universal love for you.

Are you open to stepping out of materialism, and into the Holy Mystery?


Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. ...

Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. In Islam, they are called Maryam and Isa. NOTE: See discussion page before using (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preface

(From Personal Reflections of Annunciation Sunday)

            Another Advent season has begun. The time when we are to prepare for the birth of Jesus, and yet another Sunday where the point of the Annunciation to Mary of Nazareth by the angel Gabriel was missed.  Within the Protestant tradition we have a tendency to short shift Mary and her role, we reduce her to nothing more than the test tube or incubator for Jesus, but her role was far more active than that.

Just think about this young girl barely into her menstruation, barely a teenager. Having sat there while her father cut a business deal with Joseph to purchase her (where the idea of Bride Price comes from). Having witnessed the brutality of the Roman Empire, the occupiers of her people. Where girls her age (or any age) were nothing more than property to the soldiers. Not full citizens, they could take and rape them with immunity. If pregnancy happened, even just the losing of their hymen, made them unclean and a shame for their families.

Families that then had choices to either redeem fully their honour through stoning (honour killing) or to put the issue away quietly just outside the city gates where the lepers, beggars, and sex trade workers existed… a fate that would rapidly end in death by violence, exposure, or sexually transmitted disease. The problem was more compounded once the bride price or the deal had been made, because now it dishonoured two families. This was the struggle Joseph worked through in the Gospel of Matthew before the Angel Gabriel visited him in a vision.

But we come back to Mary as the Angel Gabriel comes to her (with no back story on how many girls heard this same offer before Mary and said no because they understood the horror of the stigma they were taking upon themselves). Mary stands there, knowing she was no longer her father’s property, but not completely Joseph’s yet (the contract made, but not yet consummated). Mary a young girl who probably bore witness to the execution of other girls dishonoured by the Romans (neigh raped) or disfigured or cast out… the struggles of the widow, the divorcee, the adulteress in this patriarchal culture that reduced the usefulness of a woman to nothing more than her ability to produce male heirs to her male masters.

A young girl who had never been treated as an equal. A young girl who had never had her opinion asked for, or even if it mattered. Yet here was God sending his messenger directly to her, not to Joseph or her Father, but directly to the non-citizen in both nations she existed in (Rome and Israel). And it was in this shocking, counter culture movement of empowerment, where Mary said the yes that began the shaking of the normative oppression. The yes that began the transformation of 51% of humanity from the shadows to equals (and still is continuing). The yes that a young woman for the first time firmly took her life and her life’s call as her own. Blessed among women, Mary was blessed among humanity. A simple step of faith to prove what humanity views as impossible is simply how it is to be.

But we do what her culture did; we tend to relegate Mary to nothing more than a voiceless incubator.

Yet, the story of God and Mary is one of voice and empowerment of the complete image of God.

Introduction

            Mary of Nazareth, Virgin Mary, and Our Lady are some of the simpler titles given to young Mary, at first look she can be almost a throw away character within the story of Christ. Yet she is the most venerated saint (at least 23 feast/celebration days within the church calendar[1], when Vatican II was convened many wanted a stronger Marian doctrine that would see her ascend to co-redeemer with Christ[2]. She is not just an incubator for the saviour of the world; she is an ongoing voice for those without voice within the world.

Background

Many claimed to have been visited by Our Lady, in such broad visitations as Fatima, Lourdes, & Rwanda. These are but a few, each time she would come to share the mystery of Christ’s love opened within their context. The church would investigate to validate, yet there are many more visitations that the church will not acknowledge as true. Mary is also the subject of a novel that is used within spiritual formation circles of seminary in Canada. Dianne Schomperlane’s Our Lady of the Lost and Found (2003) opens up the story of a Mary in need of a vacation, and takes time to visit with someone out of the blue to take a rest from the constant petitioning, and need to act as a voice[3].

This is where the gap exists within Marian theology, for the Protestant (including Evangelical, Mainline, and Pentecostal with their derivatives) tend to not spend much time on the character of the mother of Christ Jesus, the one that said yes to God as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38. While within the Roman Catholic tradition one can get caught up more in the debate over the condition of Mary’s hymen pre & post birth of Christ, and whether or not Mary herself was conceived without sin, than what the story of Mary matters. This leaves our brothers and sisters in the Easter Rites (Orthodox, Coptic, etc.) that tend towards the more mystical where Mary is revered as Christakos[4] or even more clearly, Theokotos[5]. Each of these is simply a piece of the puzzle.

Method:

Why does Mary matter? 2,000 years of story, mythology, veneration, and being cast aside, yet still she is there. The underlying question for the disciple today needs to be built upon some foundations:

  1. What is the Biblical background of Mary? (Both canonical and extra-canonical).
  2. What is the Marian doctrine emerging within church silos and ecumenically?
  3. What are the rampant theories of Mary existing today and yesterday?
  4. What are apparitions and its purpose?

The source to answer these questions will be a critical analysis of the theory, doctrine, theology and source material available in regards to Mary of Nazareth.

Building upon these foundational questions the emergent source for this work is to simply answer the question is Marian theology a theology of liberation?

Literature Review

            By exploring the diversity of materials available upon Mary of Nazareth, what emerges is that the story of this peasant girl may be an allegory for every believer. McBrien’s Report on the Church: Catholicism after Vatican II (1992) opens up the idea that the Second Vatican Council 1962-65[6] and the major drive of this was a proposed theological thrust for everything being a serving church[7] which grows into other beliefs about the Vatican II that while modernizing the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit was not only blowing through this church but Christendom as a whole.

O’Malley What happened at Vatican II (2008) was the 21st ecumenical council[8] produced 16 documents[9] that affirmed the congregation and the priest were co-workers in the liturgy (Lumen Gentium – the people of God)[10], affirmation of visions of Mary[11], the Immaculate Conception from the Protoevangelion of James that told of Mary being born without sin and one of only two times that a statement was made by the Holy Father ex-Cathedra[12] in 1854[13]. Yet the council stopped short of ascending Mary to a co-redeemer status[14]. Yet this proved just how valued this child who became the Mother of God is valued not only within the Mass, Liturgy or church year but also within the service work of the church.

John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark who moves within the Progressive Christian circles presents his own thoughts on how the Marian story needs to adapt to maintain relevance today. In his 2001 work A New Christianity for a New World: why traditional faith is dying and how a new faith is being born he points out that the divine nature of Christ is tied to the miraculous and literal means of the Mary conception and nativity stories[15] Spong traces the story of Mary from what is believed the earliest Gospel source in Mark 3:20-35 & 6:1-6 where Mary leads the family to confront Jesus who has become an embarrassment to them, which with the more recent gospel stories changes to a more inclusive and celebratory relationship[16]. This text also goes on to explore some fundamental challenges Spong saw with the Mary story. The ideal of a post partum virgin because the hymen had to be preserved[17] which became more important with the dawning of the Enlightenment and the realization that women’s wombs were not just incubators for male sperm, hence women could be a source for original sin as well[18]. This sin challenge meant that not only did Mary need to remain a perpetual virgin[19], but she herself could not be soiled with sin and hence the Immaculate Conception[20] that almost 100 years after this statement was made, then another ex-Cathedra proclamation in 1950 where Mary was now assumed bodily into Heaven[21].

Spong’s exploration of Mary did not stop with his 2001 text, it continued in 2011 with Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World where he postulates on the outside of years Jesus lived 6 BCE to 32 CE, most probably 4 BCE to 30 CE[22] which lends credence to the value that Mary was between 13-15 years at time of conception, and 37-39 at time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The reality of the crucifixion with the style of teaching Jesus’ chose was a daily reality for a Jew raised Roman occupation[23] and within a small community where he was known as an illegitimate child. This was not the messiah many could cling to, yet the Annunciation text in Gospel of Matthew 1:18-21 to Joseph allows Jesus to be affixed to an earthly father[24] within the line of David that Paul puts forward in Romans 1:3 that gives rise to these later Nativity stories[25].

Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar supports Spong’s postulating that the Nativity story are not literal, nor historical, or even central to the earliest Christian Movement[26]. What is known for truth is that Jesus was a devout, and socialized and born Jewish[27] with four known brothers and an unknown number of sisters[28]. This culminates for Borg that the birth narratives are symbolic stories created by early Christians to add importance to the story of Christ[29].

John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar supports this theory in his work The Birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus (1998) where he notes that historians are mute on the annunciation of Mary text because it is not a historical story, but a transcendental story.[30]

A side note on the Marian history would not be full without a trip to former Anglican Priest, ex-Reporter, current author, Tom Harpur’s twin works The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light (2004) and its sequel, Water into Wine: the Empowering Vision of the Gospels (2007) that removes all history and essentially relegates the Gospel to nothing more than plagiarized Sumerian[31]/Egyptian[32] mythology with Hebrew names instead of the deities.[33] Even though this may seem a harsh reflection there is some useful things to explore. Harpur equates the Magnificat in Luke as an expansion and reminder upon Hannah’s song within 1 Samuel 2.[34] Yet he follows this up in his sequel by pointing out that the Temple account in Mark when Jesus was 12 years old contradicts the annunciation narratives of Matthew and Luke.[35] These works may seem out of place, but it shows even those attempting to leave the faith still have to wrestle through the reality of not only the Christ, but also His mother.

Bart D. Ehrman, a leading New Testament scholar whose studies have led him from Disciple of Christ to Agnostic puts forward thoughts on Mary in his Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths we never knew (2003) for it is within this work that we are walked through the story of Anna and Joachim, Mary’s parents within the Proto-Gospel of James from the Middle Ages that creates the Immaculate Conception of Mary in a parallel to Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1-2[36]. It is within this proto-gospel that Mary manages to conceive and birth with never breaking her hymen[37] ensuring not only a virgin mother, but a perpetual virgin.

This is only a beginning as there are many other resources about Mary to explore. This includes narratives around her apparitions, the writings of the most devoted Marian Pope, John Paul II, and more writings from progressive Christians. The Literary Review will also explore other texts around her devotion, prayers, rosary, biblical, extra-biblical to name but a few during this journey of research.

Timeline

January 2013 will be used to complete the Literature review.

February 2013 is when there will be times of sharing findings within various groups to get feedback; it will also be a time to begin to shape the book to come out of these works centred on the five questions.

March 2013 is to take the research notes and structure of the book to merge the two in to a highly readable and informative guide to answer the core question of what is the liberation theology of Mary?

Glossary

Christakos – Christ-bearer.

Ex-Cathedra – A Papal statement supported by the doctrine of infallibility.

Liberation Theology – A 20th century theology that focuses on the freedom from                                                 oppression.

Lumen Gentium – People of God

Pope – the Bishop of Rome, leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rosary – The form of meditative prayer used by Roman Catholics. A combination of                               Hail Mary’s, Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostle Creed is used as a mantra to                           clear the mind so the prayer can focus upon the Mysteries of the Life of                                 Christ.

Theokotos – God-bearer

 

 

 

 

References

Borg, M.J. (1994). Meeting Jesus again for the First Time: Historical Jesus and the            Heart of Contemporary Faith, Waterville, Maine: Thorndike Press.

Crossan, J.D. (1998). The Birth of Christianity: discovering what happened in the years    immediately after the execution of Jesus, San Francisco: Harper Collins.

Ehrman, B.D. (2003). Lost Christianities: The Battles for the scriptures and the faiths we never knew. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Harpur, T. (2004). The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light, Toronto, ON: Thomas     Allen.

Harpur, T. (2007). Water into Wine: the Empowering Vision of the Gospels, Toronto,         ON: Thomas Allen.

McBrien, R.P. (1992). Report on the church: Catholicism after Vatican II. San Francisco,             CA: Harper Collins.

O’Malley, J.W. (2008). What happen at Vatican II. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of        Harvard University.

 

Schoemperlane, D. (2003). Our Lady of the Lost and Found. Toronto, ON: Harper             Collins Canada.

 

Spong, J.S. (2001). A New Christianity for a new World: why traditional faith is dying         and how a new faith is being born, San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.

Spong, J.S. (2011). Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, San Francisco, CA:            Harper One.

Sweeney, J.M. (2006). Strange Heaven: the Virgin Mary as woman, mother, disciple,       advocate. Brewster, MA: Paraclete.

 


[1] Sweeney, J.M. (2006). Strange Heaven: the Virgin Mary as woman, mother, disciple, advocate. Brewster, MA: Paraclete, p.137-38.

[2] O’Malley, J.W. (2008). What happen at Vatican II. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, p. 188.

[3] Schoemperlane, D. (2003). Our Lady of the Lost and Found. Toronto, ON: Harper Collins Canada.

[4] Christ-bearer

[5] God-bearer

[6] McBrien, R.P. (1992). Report on the church: Catholicism after Vatican II. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, p. Xiii.

[7] Ibid p. 139.

[8] O’Malley p. 4

[9] Ibid p. 23

[10]Ibid p. 52

[11] Ibid p. 188

[12] Ex-Cathedra is when a Pope uses there infallibility upon a doctrine.

[13] Ibid p.188

[14] Ibid p. 188

[15] Spong, J.S. (2001). A New Christianity for a new World: why traditional faith is dying and how a new faith is being born, San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, p.2.

[16] Ibid p. 91

[17] Ibid p. 112

[18] Ibid p. 119

[19] Ibid p.111

 

[21] Ibid p.112

[22] Spong, J.S. (2011). Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, San Francisco, CA: Harper One p.212.

[23] Ibid p. 213

[24] Ibid p. 324

[25] Ibid p. 211

[26] Borg, M.J. (1994). Meeting Jesus again for the First Time: Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, Waterville, Maine: Thorndike Press p. 54-55.

[27] Ibid p. 52

[28] Ibid p. 59

[29] Ibid p. 56

[30] Crossan, J.D. (1998). The Birth of Christianity: discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus, San Francisco: Harper Collins p. 28.

[31] Harpur, T. (2004). The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light, Toronto, ON: Thomas Allen p.5

[32] Ibid p. 5. Harpur leans on Timothy Freke’s writings that Horus was the Egyptian Christ, and Isis was the Egyptian Mary, 1000 years before the Gospel story.

[33] Harpur, T. (2004). The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light, Toronto, ON: Thomas Allen.

Harpur, T. (2007). Water into Wine: the Empowering Vision of the Gospels, Toronto, ON: Thomas Allen.

[34] Harpur (2004) p.125.

[35] Harpur (2007) p. 40.

[36] Ehrman, B.D. (2003). Lost Christianities: The Battles for the scriptures and the faiths we never knew. New York, NY: Oxford University Press p. 207-209

[37] Ibid p. 209