Posts Tagged ‘Imageo Dei’


Soul Archaeology

Some would say a healing journey is a kin to a cozy mystery. Sifting clues, and finding the solution. This may be true on the way to diagnosis in regards to the conditions, but when it comes to the healing one feels more like a paleontologist or an archaeologist. Like Dr. Grant in Jurassic Park or the intrepid Indiana Jones you need to sift the crap and the debris away to get to the core.

This has never been more evident in my own journey than with the lag between Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) sessions, where I am left with the debilitating flashbacks that in some ways and some days lead me to succumb to the feeling of less than, failure, depression, anxiousness and anger. Yet as the tides recede what is left is the soul work-dream work-mindfulness of what lies in the flashback. See for me my flashbacks sometimes come as day or night mares (and I dream in 1930’s Technicolor animation so yes it is a trip), hallucination of sound and-or image, but mostly it comes in flashes like a comic book double splash page. It is in this work I am the archaeologist  beginning with shoveling the big pains/traumas that are surface level raw. These are the items the hot thoughts, CBT, mindfulness, narrative-talk therapy and prayer work well with. These are also the beginning of my mind maps (spider-webs) as these memories trickle out more and more to the core trauma that ART will heal. See, our bodies only release that which we are able to deal with, and as we heal, it hurts more as we go deeper and deeper until the final release. I currently have sifted quite a bit of the clunky debris and sand away, and have moved down the levels into the pyramid corridor towards the burial chamber of pain.

But, as I journey through this, I look at the societal allegory this creates as well. As I have written of before, my province is in a grieving cycle. We do not have leadership equipped to name it. To act as the societal and communal archaeologists to create the space to clear away the debris, and move into the corridors, and the burial chamber. To be able to leverage that which we know, the truth of society and economics, coupled with the acknowledgement and action on the human impact, to make our world better. It would go a ways to create a healthier now, staunch the flow of lies if I may be so bold and blunt from those that only want to hear from their own ideology, and close off hatreds that have been allowed to grow like weeds in the bright light of day once more.

It also allows for open, pragmatic conversation on the state of community. As I reflect on my own political journey as a religious man. It has been weird within the “progressive” circles how unwelcoming one can be made if they admit their beliefs start with a Higher Power/creator. Unwelcome is the nice term, there has been derogatory attacks, name calling, and hatchet jobs. Talking with others that would be seen as religiously liberal-progressive-pragmatic that have chosen to exist within the Conservative political ideology as I have not, I asked why. Simply because these movements allow for the extremist-fundamentalist form of religion to be given a clarion bullhorn of media so that it becomes the only view of a belief system. The answer? Space is allowed where these core beliefs are not belittled, and it creates superficial belonging. So, if they are allowed to be themselves EVEN though other parties are 70-99% more in line with their social justice and faith understandings of what we are to do on this earth.

So let that settle, as we clear debris at the macro societal level. Anger and hatred exists in all ideological camps. A whipping post has become religion, yet within religious circles, the same political spectrum that exists in your neighbourhood exists within your local spiritual centre. Yet, at political active levels that is not usually seen, because either, like many, there is disengagement, OR false belonging because you cannot check a core belief or are weary of taking the slings and arrows for a million things you never did or believe.

Just like being an archaeologist of your own soul. Communities and groups need to do the same on their own soul. They need to authentically understand diversity, accessibility, inclusion and what belonging is. Key point- it does not mean a collection of automatons behind a leader that is the Galactic Empire. It actually is more like the United Federation of Planets…which gives me a good allegory for the archaeology work on the healing journey whether at the macro, micro or personal level, take two hours, and watch Star Trek V: The Final Frontier…

What are you going to do with your pain?

What are you going to do with your path?

Rotting Roots of Webs

With the Accelerated Resolution therapy, I reflect upon the words of Captain Kirk from Star Trek V, about we need our pain. This is true, we learn through trials and tribulations, as much as our joy and jubilation. It is the events that have shaped us, but our memories should not hold us back. This is where the pre-work I had undertaken in preparation for the ART treatments worked. Why pre-work? Simple, there was such lag between sessions, and such pain being experienced in the flashbacks.

At this point preparing for the third treatment I said I wanted to begin exploring and treating the deaths[1] so I began the mapping as the flashbacks continued. Much how a mindful monastic or mystic would unpack visions or dreams, I set about unpacking the comic book splash pages of death and decay.

What happened as I mapped, was that the deaths, and my pain in response (grieving if you will) had been dealt with and put to rest as my addled brain and soul began to reset. Yet the digging continued downward now that the debris had been cleared.

In previous sessions this had been the fear of disclosure of who I was, and the session I announced this at I had rebooted the healthy dealing with shootings (7 I had been a victim of, or near victim of including one by Calgary Police Service); bed bug infestations and hoarders[2]. These were traumatic memories, flashbacks and hallucinations my body, mind and Spirit were using to protect me until I was ready. We are amazing organisms upon the healing journey.

Once cleared away I mapped out the death vault, and then spiraled into the intergenerational trauma of my family that was anchored in one man’s ripples of violence my grandpa, Joe Ragan[3] had inflicted upon the family and whose memory continued this warped manipulation of control.

Like a nine square puzzle in a large square box, where you would slide the images to create a picture, the image fell together of a Father’s Day BBQ he attempted to molest me. My Grandma, Mum and other matriarchs saved me, and would work for the remainder of the 4 years he would live to ensure we were never alone, knowing the monster that lurked beneath.

This was the core memory I thought.

But there was more from the summer of being 8 years old.

Part of being a part of evangelical Christianity for higher education is the concept of testimony, that idea that there is a big moment when you accept Jesus Christ into your heart. It is a hard concept to wrap one’s head around when you were baptized at 2 months old Anglican in a Roman Catholic School gymnasium, attended a Christian & Missionary Alliance Pre-School, a regular public school, and “church” up until age 10 years old was the local ecumenical Vacation Bible School (VBS).

It was great part of a week of fun in the summer of Bible stories, songs, plays, games, and crafts. My godmother was a lead at her church, and we went with her kids. It was a church I would return to several times in my journey, Centennial Presbyterian Church but I believe in the cul-de-sac there was a Lutheran and Evangelical Church a part of the fun as well.

The summer when I was 8 years old though in that one week, two things happened to me that my Grandpa Joe had not been able to accomplish. A participant forced kisses upon me until I flipped him, and it was I that got into trouble for tossing him. The rationale was that it was just a kiss.

The second was an adult volunteer groped me in the bathroom. It left me shocked, and yes I suppressed much with the memory of what happened with my Grandpa, until the soul archaeology dug it out.

The challenge though, is exposure therapy.

See, it was a church that my daughter had been attending their VBS at, and was currently volunteering with. It was where my family was members, attendees and in ministry. I just had finished being a resource for the national church on a resource for welcoming newcomers so they would come back.

No, I did not see the abuser anymore.

Yet, we had gone through our own trial over a year, as propriety Christendom beset my family[4]. This was about pew seating. Whether by accident or design there is but a few spaces in a church designed to be used for wheelchairs. My son uses one, and we had encountered snark, verbal abuse, physical in the pews, one such parishners had ground into me and I had not yet unpacked enough to understand the flashback it created. It took quite a bit to be heard for the Board to take action and get seating highlighted for those with mobility devices, and their families/caregivers.

A rather progressive-pragmatic answer finally arrived at, or in my own life, a Brother Jesus result. Unfortunately when it was finally settled, they followed the idea of messaging by putting a member face on it so folks who were disrupted by losing their “pews” would understand. Instead, the result as you know dealing with bullying, is that it painted a bulls eye on my son’s back and family for those that had not felt a need to stand up, now could vocalize what they saw as entitlement and disruption.

The first Sunday they were around, my son was sick and not in attendance. The question was not where my wife and son were, but “Oh guess you really don’t need that designated seating.”

What they failed to realize, is that persons with brain injuries and epilepsy are rather fragile. That is, that any jostle of the brain can cause unexplained death. My son had been jostled enough that his un-diagnosable vacant times had increased, he cried that his God buddy’s didn’t love him (my son, was a greeter at the church)…and he was scared that he may not come back to us.

All because adults, a minority, could not think outside themselves to the value of another made in the Image of God.

I left that Sunday, before my daughter’s week of volunteering at VBS began melancholic. Two days in the image of the almost molestation, broke through as a flashback of what happened at VBS when I was 8 years old. Now it was time to decide what and where this meant for me in ministry and my family.

 

[1] As the readers of my site: tyragan.wordpress.com and my book Soul Ripples (Bookstand, 2019) are aware that number was at 613 and growing…

[2] I refer you once more to my foundational memoir, Soul Ripples

[3] Ibid

[4] For other stories of Christendom targeting the last “acceptable” group to be prejudiced against, persons with disabilities, I direct you dear reader to Soul Ripples.


Sound Bites & Twitter Ideologues

 

In human services we have seen many types of ebb and flows of concept for community and personal care. There is always a “silver bullet” that if you just plug this system into your institutions (church, non-profit, government agency) it will solve all ills. This has created a drift where many times the person before you is not seen as a person, or the institution does not want you to see them as a person but rather as a label.

The label can be their diagnosis, or in church-member, adherent, new attendee, visitor, unchurched or seeker. Within constructs of housing it comes down to a coding system of “acuity”. What is missed in many instances is that not one type of healing or place fits all. Rather we have a tool kit, and that is what we use with the person before us, while building relationship, to journey with them to the next steps of life.

In certain Evangelical and/or fundamentalist sects of Christianity at this juncture they would proof text the above. I am not going to do that. I am going to lay my own journey out as a sign post of what happens when a system finally sees you as a person.

Proof Text

 

The practice of pulling out a sentence or two, or story of sacred text outside of historical, anthropological and textual context. It is used to win arguments by appealing to the ideal of Sola Scriptura, but it also allows for the weaponization of scripture as we have seen with the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ2+, and anti-Feminist movements to name but a few.

 

Once I had finally achieved the referral into the neurology clinic at the Peter Lougheed Centre of the Calgary General Hospital (PLC), my case was looked at in its complexity. It took the risk of a nurse seeing me beyond symptoms that said one thing, and the Emergency Room Doctor to do the same. It then took the setting aside of ego by my neurologists at PLC to refer me to the Epilepsy Centre knowing what was happening with my mental health, trauma, neurology, and physiology were beyond what they could explore within their context and tool kit.

In some ways, this fits a sound bite out there currently. Trauma Informed Care and Harm Reduction. Why do these pop up? They are terms and practices that can be highly beneficial for those who serve, and those we serve, or highly detrimental to each.

Unfortunately, even though there are many places that implement these concepts well, to often they have become the “silver bullet” to cure all, and the terms we toss out to show how great we are. Yet in practice (praxis to the Latin lovers) we fall flat. For we do not understand the complexity of the person before us, and more importantly, how that person interacts with the community they broke down in, and the community they seek to be a part of again.

Trauma Informed Care

 

Creating the courageous safe space for someone who has gone through Adverse Childhood Events, or other traumatic events to come to the point of desiring healing.

It allows us to understand that these past/current traumas shape behaviours, and attitudes. What is also needed to point out however is that it is not to excuse negative behaviours, rather allows in a safe way to create a space with low tolerances for negative behaviours, and high expectations. Changing the outward, while the interior person decides whether or not to seek out the long winding journey of healing.

Unfortunately Trauma Informed Care, becomes an excuse for negative behaviours. It also becomes on the employer side an excuse for vicarious trauma. See, the thing many don’t understand is that trauma can be like a contagious cancer. The original individual who is hurting, then intentional or not can injure others and that ripple does not always start within the institutional construct for it ripples outwards into the staff’s life and connections as well.

This is the other challenge. For many years the abstinence model was used for everything from sex to addiction. It was a growth from the Protestant Puritanism, and Roman Catholic Catechism. The concept that one can just white knuckle through what are essentially moral lapses in character and by doing this well be healthy.

The challenge is that addiction is a symptom. It is a symptom of a broken social network, and a broken soul. There is usually underlying traumas and abuses that the person is seeking to numb. Simply abstaining does not cure. Having said that however, for those that have found success and healing in 12 step groups and other abstinence based programs, it is usually due to the community of support, and a broader network of connecting to a new healthier social supports. I do not hold abstinence based anything is wrong. It is part of the spectrum hence when I was an active youth pastor we would talk about human sexuality and sex on a spectrum. I would talk about the value you have for your own Imageo Dei.

Imageo Dei

 

Latin means Image Bearer or Image of God. It is the teaching from the ancient creation poem in the Hebrew Bible’s first chapter of the book of Genesis. It states humanity is made in the image of God. So look around wherever you are reading this book, pretty awesome and diverse image eh?

Why then would I state that there was a silver bullet for addiction? What about those that abstinence did not work? Perhaps whatever the cause for the addiction symptom was needed more that simple healthy community.

This is where harm reduction comes into play. It is a simple concept really, and it is centered on the pacing of the person with professional supports.

Harm Reduction

 

Actively working to reduce usage of addictive substance for holistic health. The goal being eventual sobriety, and dealing with what causes the addiction.

There are many psychological and physiological concepts within Harm Reduction. It is working with things of the many styles of mindfulness, shifting and re-wiring thought patterns, addiction replacement, changing habits.

Sadly, where abstinence done wrong is nothing more than shaming an individual back into relapse or leaving Harm Reduction done wrong becomes Harm Acceptance where we simply create cycles of high usage. Yes, in Harm Reduction there needs to be work when one is not ready yet to change in simply keeping them healthy and alive, but one needs to ask where this should happen and how to work with them in those moments to create courageous space for steps into contemplation and action of reducing harm to themselves.

As the healing progresses though in the spectrum what needs to be addressed aside from the interior causes, is what is known as Circles of Support.

These are the folks that support you. There are professionals (paid to be in your life) and personal (friends, family, volunteers, etc.). It is a unique activity to mind map this out with you at the centre and see how balanced your life is. The goal is for personal to eventually outgrow professional as you progress through healing.

It would’ve been easy for neurology to continue adding to a cocktail of medications to try and control my seizures. Instead they looked at the whole person before them, and chose a step to see what could actually be done to address all aspects of what was happening to me.

That was another huge referral. It also speaks to me why I was able to get to the true diagnosis and healing journey within 2.5 years, as opposed to 20ish years. Sometimes, it is simply the person before you that needs to be seen and heard.

To practice seeing the other, I have learned to take a story from the Bible, and re-write it from the perspective of characters involved in it. Take special attention to characters views you never considered or those characters you did not like. Good one to start with is David & Bathsheba.

 

 


Missio Dei should be our response to Imageo Dei. Dei being Latin for God, with Imageo being Image (hence, what we are created in) and Missio being mission, that is what we are to do as God-bearers. Lately one would assume the mission is to be an asshat. Sadly, when one’s core values/beliefs are judged by actions in the media, in regards to the Religious Right, the apologetics (another Christian term, for defense of the faith) around USA President Donald Trump, and some of the actions of the recently elected UCP government in the province of Alberta, that description may be apt. Another could be pedophile or rapist or genocider with the stories out of the Residential Schools, Roman Catholicism, Southern Baptists, Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek mega-Church, Jehovah Witness’, Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, truly one can insert any denomination or Christian movement and scratch the surface to find atrocities. Such actors need to be exposed, ex-communicated and turned over to the authorities.

But that is not the Missio Dei, see that is what the political power we have been handed, financial power, and power over others has corrupted in us. Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul to many) warned of the love of money being the root of evil, Shakespeare in Hamlet I believe, stated that power corrupts, and Green Arrow in Zero Hour stated of his friend Hal Jordan who had become the evil Parallax, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is time to regain our soul.

To that the church, and each who professes the faith needs to actually ensure is that we are listening to the mightily still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. For, as we were chasing plug and play programs, looking to corporate North America for strategic ways to do church, planning our next stewardship or giving financial campaign…well…the Missio came to our doorsteps.

In the positive within Canada, we have the opportunity to sponsor refugee families and aid them in coming to our country, supporting them to grow new homes. Not only from Syria, but there is the Annuyak tribe from Ethiopia that has been displaced into camps in Kenya (and I am sure in our mutli-cultural churches many family stories of those we can help). Our leaders can aid in support of immigration efforts for family members, and of securing permanent residence and/or citizenship as well.

Locally, sadly, due to economics and over reliance on one stream of financial income for our province, we have many families and neighbours in need. Whether it is aid with the still unknown school and busing fees, school supplies, aid in paying rent/mortgage, utilities, finding securing work, getting to and from appointments or food banks… Know where this is going? A familiar passage I have shared in my speaking, writing and teaching, the Great Commandments:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version)

It may be big things as listed above, or simply being with a person and listening over a cuppa. Yet as we look further into the political in our lives, we are also needing to look at local action.

It is churches having youth programs, not just for church members but open to youth of the community. Creating a safe space for kids to be, especially as many cities think short term to save money and cut the things that are free for kids. The ripple effect is that then the more nefarious places of belonging find recruiting grounds. It can simply be stopped, I have been a part of many amazing things like this in the past. If only the old guard in church concerned with monies, could get out of their own way and allow love and hope to grow in the blessed buildings they are so concerned about preserving. Amazing how investment within others, and showing they matter, helping them become who they are created to be, makes our communities better, or as Jesus stated:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

Nope, this isn’t about sinner prayers or conversion. This is about aiding someone as noted above, investing in them, so they can become who they are meant to be. Being with them in the ups and the downs, the celebrations and the mourning. Walking with them in love, and helping them find the hope. For some youth, it was the early morning traditional old English service at a church, not because they could give a flip about the old school Liturgy, or the home made biscuits or tea at the end… it was the seniors (elders) they finally had grandparents that spent time with them, listening to them about their week, their dreams.

Imagine… actual care… and time to simply be, not overly programmed.

What about hungry kids?

School nutrition programs-breakfast, snacks and lunch. Some are privately sponsored, some are government sponsored. The official Opposition says these are on the chopping block with the UCP driven “austerity”, the UCP Government states they will be funded from 2019-2020, yet there is no budget yet to prove this to be a fact. The floated balloon showed the ignorance of many around this program in that they blamed parents for having kids.

Yet, there is something more needed than simply the food. I would say it is not meant to just single out the students in need, rather it should be these three meals provided at each school across the province. Why? Simple, let our kids all eat together, the older serving the younger, discovering care for one another, equality, and that it is important to care for neighbour.
The unknown becomes an opportunity for the church. Whether individual congregations or working together. Figure out how to financially sponsor a meal program for a local school for the school year, in fact, remove the burden of lunch room fees from the parents and provide the volunteers to provide the meals. See it is about investing in our kids, not just with the food, but with those who can give the time to be present in the children’s lives in positive ways. That invested time goes a long way.

I would take the challenge a step further, and then have a network of churches in a community work to provide rotating nightly community meals- work with the community association if needed, so that there is always a social place to go and break bread. For those who celebrate Communion (Eucharist) we speak of the mysticism within the elements, yet it is the gathering and seeking to understand and care for one another.

Generations being together.

Nations being together.

Simply starting as neighbours, then becoming friends, and possibly, over time, the family we choose.

As you discuss where God is calling, simply look to your neighbourhood, and ask, why here and now God?

Quite a few times, it is already on our door step and we are simply blinded by ourselves to see it.


In the Summer 2019 Issue of the Presbyterian Connection there was an article of mine published about a Homecoming (p.34) at Centennial Presbyterian Church, which led to a conversation with the National church’s resource development department on becoming a church of welcome. Here is the result of that faith-filled conversation on the dynamic diversity of the Imageo Dei and the beauty of a hospitable church to all.

It truly is about belonging.

Read: EQ4_Visitors_Call_Home_print-1


Change is hard. Especially change from what is acceptable in societal norms. It is why there has always been struggles for equality and social justice. Those in control do not want to lose the power and wealth that comes with control. For those that move into a new living of life it can become easily legalistic and a checkbox of virtue. That is not what Paul was intending with answering questions sent him, and addressing situations brought to him. Sadly, many have not looked at these letters as inspiration for reflection upon one’s organization or community and how to live together better. Embracing a renewed life within a Just Society, sadly it has become the cast of legalism. Remove the context of Corinth, and one can forget what this gathering was trying to shepherd out of.

A place founded on trauma and pain. Yes, you read that. Veterans and Freedman were at the centre of pain of the Empire. Being used and abused. Use and abuse passed on to those seen as less than themselves, or as cattle (property as non-citizens were viewed). Barbarity, pillaging, violence, raping and the list can go on. Might make right. The end goal washed all sins clean if you will. The colony was still the epicentre of these behavioural societal norms.

The opening salvo is in regards to sexual immorality not even tolerated in the Empire (1 Corinthians 5). Now when one reflects on what was allowable that is quite scary. It is incest. Yes you can read the first line that it is wife of his father so possibly still a step-mother not his mother, but still a unique soap opera type conundrum. Though understanding Empire norms, it more than likely was mother and son. One has to wonder if the further isolation and abuse heaped upon the gathering led to mental health issues within the conclave that caused this. Paul wants the person out, but it is because they are unwilling to heal and change what they are doing. That is not making the steps necessary to life recovery, they are in full on relapse for addiction cycles and in that instance distance is needed with the offer of olive branch to come later.

This salvo bounces into as he rambles into lawsuits (1 Corinthians 6:1-11) and talks about accepting being defrauded, but it goes deeper as it stems to the false witness. Paul is reminding the gathering that their yes needs to be yes, and their no needs to be no. As the issue appears to be using the colony’s court system to settle matters that can be settled with honesty and mediation within.

Then Paul stretches in the last bit:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (English Standard Version)

A weaponized text if there ever was one. A mis-translation when it hits the term homosexuality. This concept as we know it did not exist within the Roman Empire. What was being pointed out is the practice of fertility worship that saw you in the temple (Aphrodite’s in Corinth) sexing whomever was on call (male or female); and coupled with the Roman practice of “making men” through anal rape just before puberty, so no, not a passage about loving relationships between consenting adults (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). For today, it is pointing out that sexual abuse cover ups by clergy and elders is bull shit and needs to be called out, and the monsters rooted out. It is pointing out that everything from God is good. It is what we do with it that makes it good or evil. Consensual sexual activity is a beautiful and affirming thing, stalking, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual trafficking are immoral and an affront to the imageo dei.

The seventh discourse of 1 Corinthians is another one of those weaponized chapters. Man, the Way of the Labourer of Nazareth has been sex-occupied for a very long time.  There is no prescription for what “married” entails, so that is a societal construct that Paul is leaning on to speak to the faithful to live a fruitful passionate life. One in which they move out of the customs and barbaric norms of the Empire into a new way of being. The greatest point made is living how you are created. If you are single and not desiring physical intimacy then perhaps you are meant to be like Paul and celibate.  If you desire another, then be with them fully not just filling a gap until something better comes around. Sadly, too many have used this discourse to state that husbands have complete control over their wives body, and the wife must always submit. Hogwash. It is a philosophical construct damning the institutions of the time. Paul is basically pointing out in the relationship, like what is to be in the gathering, there is no hierarchy, no power differential, both parties are equal. Both can consent or not as they desire, and the other is to accept it as holy. The relationship is a deeply communal existence that is not to be taken lightly, so too is the life of singlehood. Neither is to be rushed, for it is the time to do your soul work and know who you are truly meant to be in the Holy Mystery.

Then we enter into this weird discourse on eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8). It is a passage that has been used to point out that your behaviours should and can be tempered by the community you are apart of. A teaching that may or may not sit well with a person. The story is simple, Paul sees no issue in where one gets their food what he points out as a problem is that some of the younger on the journey may stumble into old ways if one eats this food. It is like pointing out to an alcoholic not to hang out in a bar. It is also pointing out that everyone’s actions have a ripple effect by touching on one practice to hopefully get community members to become self-reflective on what they are doing that may be causing newer members to fall.

There are two keys in the message: your life has meaning for those you walk with; and that everything is good. Is it the stopping the eating of idol food, or helping the newer person walk into the light more fully first?

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 9:1-3 (English Standard Version)

Paul touches upon a challenge to those in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9). Be who you are meant to be. Meet those as they are. For some in may have a tinge of a Franciscan Charism to it (as much as I may dislike it). For Brother Francis and his group were of the open hand. Letting things flow freely through for their aid, as they were but custodians until the one who truly needed the item came to be. They met those society had cast away where they were at and gave them belonging.

Paul is pointing this out to the gathering in Corinth, you were met where you were at and began the soul work. Now it is your turn to be the mentors and bring your protégés along. Are you open to the challenge? Have a circle of mentors, a circle of peers, and a circle of those you mentor.

The biggest challenge for the stumbling laid out by Paul is idolatry (1 Corinthians 10). Paul is pointing out that it is a recycle, a relapse, a fall back. It is going to what was once comfortable where you knew the outcome. The life in the gathering is mysterious, and the outcome is unknown, but you feel better about yourself. The old life is comfortable and you are not an affirmed imageo dei just a piece of ass (to be crass) in the salvation worship machine of the age chasing after easy fixes, money and power that always fall short in filling the void in your being. The silenced quiet voice,that is speaking into your heart, if you relapse will go mute again for your heart will be deaf to it. Is that what you want?

The saboteur speaking freely to your soul?

 Or the cosmic spark?

Which do you believe you deserve?

Which does your life lived show you in?