Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Bible’


Standing firm in what one believes can be hard. There needs to be an internal discernment, are you simply standing firm because you fear change? Dislike the change agent? Or does it cross a non-negotiable ethical line of yours?  Stories like this crop up many times in the Hebrew Bible, especially during the two times of exile: Babylon and Assyria. This is one of the bonus features if you will from the time of Daniel, under King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as King of Babylon (and yes, it is also a good Veggie Tales movie, it’s the Children’s Pastor in me). As the King attempts to remove the ability of freedom of thought and belief by becoming the top of the pantheistic pyramid.

Will you bow to the golden statue?

Will you worship and do, what is a non-negotiable in your ethical compass?

23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”[e]

-Daniel 3:23-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

For the three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego it appears quite a simple thing to stand firm in their belief and be rescued. Unfortunately, sanitized tales such as this can remove the struggle of faith. The internal questioning, the mulling, the contemplation, the praying.

What would you do? In today’s world it comes down to not necessarily being burned alive, but if it meant losing your career? Being black listed within a sector? If you are a politician being voted out of office or booted from a party caucus?

Would you blow the whistle on that which is wrong?

Between these scant three verses emerges the bonus feature within the Apocrypha of the Prayer of Azariah and Song of three Jews.

Verse 1 they enter the furnace, from 2 through 22 what you are reading is a whistle blowing memo to a media outlet in today’s world. They are admitting the FUBAR of the nation’s situation (insert any organization you know that you are trapped in a similar ethical quandary).  He lays out his heart, knowing what is wrong and why it is wrong, it is basically what a prayer of confession is. Then he points out the character of the Creator he serves, and that patience and mercy is needed to reignite what is right.

To blaze a new path, by stepping off the one that is being blazed (and in the furnace, quite literally).

Verse 23-27 literally brings us into the fire. For those reading the link provided, 49 cubits of flames is 29.40 Meters (let that sink in, for our American friends that is 96.5 feet), and naphtha is believed to be a type of petroleum product so it was a burning blue flame.

The Empire attempted to silence the whistle blowers, but the Angel (messenger) came in and essentially provided sanctuary from the blue flame, as a moist wind. There can be many storms created when we take a stand for belonging, love and what is morally and ethically true… but in the eye of the storm where you come to rest it is peaceful, that is the message here as you carry through the hard parts of the journey know where your sanctuary is and live into it.

Verses 28-68 is a Psalm, praising God, and calling for all of creation to praise God. Within the words it is seen that there is a balance within creation that exists in the heart of the Holy Mystery. It is the song that they were singing with the king looked into the furnace and did not see 4 burning, but dancing and singing.

It is a tale on those moments where we are confronted with a choose path a or lose it all, we have wisdom to rest in and contemplate with.

If we are willing.

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Story of Jonah

Jonah is the story of a minor prophet in the Hebrew Bible. He is minor because the story is short, not because it is inconsequential. It is the story of a man given a mission that does not want to do it. Many will take the tact of the journey of coming into your own within your chosen vocation. As Jonah is called to take a message of salvation to the non-Israelite city of Nineveh.

But there is another tract of the story, that is rarely mentioned in spiritual circles. Michael A. Martin in his 2011 Star Trek Enterprise Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings touched on it. The Jonah curse he would write about, it was what Captain Archer was feeling after a previous encounter that the freighter, Kobayashi Maru and all hands were lost, the Enterprise needing to save themselves turning away and fleeing. It was due to a Romulan control weapon that took over allies ships to do the deed. It was a logical decision, and a hard one. The flood of transfer requests after left the Captain reflecting on Jonah, and the curse that many spacefarers and nautalists too, would focus on. It is in the first chapter, when Jonah first flees the call:

 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Image result for jonah and the whale13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

-Jonah 1:1-16 (New International Version)

A ship in danger. The only way to end it, is to get rid of the cursed one. Fairly clear cut, but why is this so necessary a story in the spiritual journey?

It is an effect we see on dry land many times. The shunning, the avoidance. It can happen when one leaves your spiritual community. It is more prevalent however when one receives a diagnosis in mental health or physical health that can be chronic, long, enduring, or stigmatized this is an effect that takes hold of some. The length of time as family or friends does not matter, for it becomes a subconscious response of distancing.

It is the Jonah Effect as I have decided to dub it. That is a fear that if you continue the relationship with the person afflicted, or whose life is changing, that you will somehow become susceptible to what they have. That you will become associated with the diagnosis. The very act of shunning/distancing/relationship breaking you are employing due to stigma is the fear of it happening to you is what drives it.

The Jonah Effect…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is our story?


Want to know why faith matters?

Because life and death aren’t fair.

Is it really that bold of a statement? No. We as a species have tried many caste systems under many different names to hide this fact. The cultural norms of us and them, or this and that or whataboutism, what is all comes down to though is not willing to accept that life is life, death is death, and there is no reason or logic behind.

What matters is what we do with the time we have. We can either be jerks or saints. That is focus on accumulating the meaningless, or living into the meaningful (Hebrews 11:1-4).

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

-Epistle of Hebrews 11:5-6 (New International Version)

Enoch’s deutero-canonical-apocryphal texts have created a basis for belief in Ancient Alien Theology. The concept of his ascension into the space ship to the Elohim. Enoch was a Jesus like figure who presided over 300 years of peace (Haze, 2018, p.143). Think of that? 300 years of peace in the history of humanity? How is that even possible? The writer of Hebrews points to faith, and that is understandable, for in faith you may not worry about retribution, but simply justice. You may look to only right and wrong, and be open to guidance from sources that are looking out for the best of us. Faith, also leads one as a ruler to understand that you cannot worry about fairness in life, or death, what matters is what you do with it.

The rest of the faithful written of in Hebrews 11:7-40 is a journey through the patriarchs and matriarchs of the old Covenant. The agreement of blessing, protection and growth and survival that brought the people into Egypt, then out of Egypt to the Promised Land that saw even more alien technology used to bring walls down, to protect the household of Rahab who hid the spies. It is an ancient style of writing seen in the Torah and other points of the Hebrew Bible to commemorate a new beginning whether it was in the Wilderness, The Promised Land, return from Exile in Babylon or Assyria (Ezra-Nehemiah, Deuteronomy) the story and covenant are retold to remind the people of the Elohim with them.

This is the practice the writer is reminding those in Jerusalem of. The new Covenant is a new beginning, it replaces the old. Let us honour the old, acknowledge what has been, what has been good, what has been hard, what will be lost.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version)

The new Covenant is scary. It changes everything. It shatters the earthly patriarchal order and rebuilds it on the Covenant of Love. It is a scary time, but do not lose faith in the journey. Remember Jesus who went for broke, and risked it all as he believed in the new Covenant. Will you do the same?

Are you willing to be like Enoch and reign in peace (Hebrews 12:4-17)?  Faith is like Enoch, who accepted guidance, discipleship and discipline from the Elohim . What happened? Flourishment of peace. Reflect on that, what needs to be stripped from your life in positive or negative ways so that you can rest in contented peace? Do not be like Esau, who was the first born and was to be the path through which the kingdom was built. He surrendered to bitterness, materialism, and short term gratification:

16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:16 (New International Version)

Warning against succumbing to the old ways or for those in recovery, turning back to the addiction that is the symptom that masked the cause of the illness. Esau blamed his hunger on surrendering his birth right, but really what was at play was the thought of only the now. The moment of gratification, of pain to end and not to think longer term from that split second. For it comes down to deciding to embrace fear or joy?

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:18-28 (New International Version)

Change is scary. One can succumb to the fear of the unknown. The writer knew this, and was pointing out that even Moses was lost with fear in the presence of the Elohim. Yet, the Elohim, with the life of Jesus have shown that fear is a barrier we create for ourselves. We let fear lead us into destruction as we succumb to interior gremlins-saboteurs and demons. Unable to silence them then fear wins.

Joy can become the intoxicant of life, realizing that if the change is good, like the new Covenant laid out, it takes us out of the comfortable but into a new blessing.

Joy abounds when rooted in…

Love

(Hebrews 13)

Live Love in 2019

And

Joy will reign.

 

 

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is life?

 


Captain Jonathan Archer These people you’re fighting – what makes them heretics?

Yarrick We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.

Captain Jonathan Archer [scoffs]  For that you’ve been at war for over a century?

 -(Star Trek Enterprise “Broken Realm” Episode, 2004)

It is funny, not ha ha, but sad irony that the Christianities have spent so many centuries rooting out heretics and executing them. I state this from the obvious, even with what was kept in “canon” is the story of a movement that included many who did not belong, and had different views expressed within (tax collectors; cortezans; labourers; zealots; persons with disabilities; Samaritans—in the ancient world quite a motley crew). The crew brought their own understanding, language and beliefs into the movement of transfigurement.

Even that moment had Jesus inner circle upon seeing Moses and Elijah respond with making shrines, not seeing what should have been seen in the moment. Falling back upon the familiar. From Jesus’ execution, to the grand nu-uh to the Imperial-religious powers, to the breathe that shattered false barriers to bring belonging…a new wave had begun. One that for its first almost 300 years was quite diverse in understandings, in what was brought into, and in standing its ground when religious authorities made the call to cast them out of the Synagogues. That is when two monotheist religions stared at each other, and one was told to conform to what was “traditionally acceptable” and what was not. How did the early adopters respond? Some thought of giving in, but truly they realized what was at stake, the ability to grow, change and adapt to what they experienced.

Thomas Cranmer almost 1200 years after Constantine brought the same idea forward during the Reformation, and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was the Reformation that brought the stories of God and her people to the language of the people, but also brought creation where both the cleric and people’s words of worship could now be known by all. His intent was not for a static unmoving, unchanging liturgy (Latin for work of the people) but a dynamic creation that would shift and change with the communities and people, and how they came to understand the Holy Mystery that had created. The teachings of Brother Jesus, and the cosmic love that bound it all together.

Now some may say this sounds highly Catholic or Anglican. Yet, I challenge you, does your spiritual gathering have a rhythm for prayer or service? That is a liturgy. Plain and simple. From the Reformation until the early 21st century struggles around this happened through many movements, as the traditionalist/fundamentalist wanted to keep it static because of tradition and that God did not change; while the progressive/fundamentalist (a fundamentalist can understand things both ways depending where they place the emphasis) pushed boundaries, let movement in, different music, open up of prayers, social movements, challenging powers and principalities, and language- how beautiful and transformative was the language changes as structures were broken down and we began to understand what our genesis was from.

It was a reminder of the Indigenous groups under the Roman Empire that had converted either by force, or shrewdness (the Norse Chieftains understanding the control that could be given to them under monotheism) …also a reconciliation work for the damage done of further exploration and passive/active genocides.

What also was celebrated was a full encompassing of the stories of God. Understanding the Gospels were not only the four in the canonical bible, but were more, and each person was crafting their own through the life lived out of their beliefs. Also, though a deeper understanding of the words used for understanding the Holy Mystery. Yes, Trinitarian language (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) existed within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testaments, but it was a belief structure pulled from an allusion to this plausibility. What also existed within the texts was poetic, metaphorical, anthropological, historical, animist, psychological, sociological and many other forms of understanding the Holy.

Language was changing. Liturgies were experimenting. There was a revival happening.

The powers to be were not happy and attempted to clamp down. Sadly, some took the “threats” seriously, and like those in the Christian Testament stories when challenged folded under the pressure. Some took their lumps and spun out continuing growth, and some continue to exist under the guise of language and linguistic gymnastics.

Yet here we are celebrating a Sunday. A liturgical moment. Created by the people, as part of the work of the people. Part of community building. For some, it holds significance, for others being there and saying the words is a hypocrisy. Yet both claim the spirituality of Brother Jesus, and live a life for the better out of their heart held beliefs. The challenge before us is one of true authenticity. Moving beyond the entrapment of language as the beating stick, or as the opening quote reminds us—how much blood has been shed over 9 or 10 days?

In the Christianities how much blood has been shed over who holds the power to speak the right words/proof texts of the Creator?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

-Matthew 25:31-40 (English Standard Bible)

When actions transcend words, and are what shapes our lives, then what does the Liturgy become? Does 9 or 10 matter? Or the words used to express our relationships of love with Creator, teacher and neighbour?

When love reigns… how are you and your community transfigured?

 

 


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

-Sura 3:46

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

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

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

Why?

To pray together.

To talk.

To share bread.

To be community.

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

-Sura 3:68

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

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

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

-Sura 3: 49

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

To know  we are still united in our diversity.

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

For, what are we in humanity,

if not neighbours….

francis

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