Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’


One of the most mystical experiences in my faith journey is the Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Some traditions celebrate through every time a meal is shared, others have a devout and powerful liturgy for it to be offered daily and/or weekly, some its monthly, and others quarterly or just at Christmas or Easter. You get the idea, each gathering of the Body of Christ, chooses how to implement this sacrament. That is an outward showing of our inward faith. Though each outward showing has a mystical element. It may or may not be completely Transubstantiation, but I do have a hard time holding it is only a cracker/bread and juice/wine. Something happens in community, praying and sharing food together. The bread has been referred to as the body or bread or bread of life; and the juice/wine as the blood or cup of promise.

The tradition we are currently with, celebrates weekly. It is a fairly bare bones service, from the Restoration Movement (Church of Christ, Christian Church, Christian Church (Disciple of Christ) a movement that came out of Presbyterianism, but don’t quote me as church history in the minutiae is not a strength. There is not liturgical rhythmic prayers said together or responsively, but there is a meditation before hand sharing what may be garnered in the moment for the one sharing.  It can come from any passage in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) or Christian Testament (New Testament)- but the Gospels hold four versions (Luke 22:7-39; Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; and John 13:1-17:26).

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

-Mark 14:22-25 (English Standard Version)

This got me thinking and reflecting. Why does Communion matter? In the vernacular of this Body, it is the “emblems”, which is another word for symbols. Is it a safety blanket? Like Linus from Peanuts, just knowing there is something there to anchor you? Or is it more? It tied into conversations with folks about safety and paranoia of our world. See, locally in my kid’s school they have banned the use of backpacks between classes making the kids have to go to and from lockers, the rationale is shakey, and may or may not be due to drugs. There is a Toonie youth night at our Leisure Centre, yet it is not a safe place, for the idea of safety is metal detectors, bag checks, and frisks like an airport. This does not make me feel safe, or make me think my kids are safe. See it feeds on the fear that can be inherent within us. That thing where we seek out the worst possible situation, and then do whatever we can to make it a reality.

Jacopo_Bassano_Last_Supper_1542

I mean when we look at the Last Supper, here is the gathering of the unwanted of society. They had just come in on one side being celebrated for giving voice to the voiceless, and showing a way of hope and love…while on the other side, Pilate brought in his Legions to flex muscle and show that death would be the reward. Think if anyone had fear to live into it would be those in the Upper Room. Instead, they relax, they eat, I can picture some kibbitzing, sharing of stories, singing, it is a high holiday holy time after all. They have traveled far and wide to get here. The barriers of power and powerless were non-existent in Jesus’ group, and at the dinner, he did lay it out to his friends.

They shared a meal together, then he took up emblems. What did these Emblems mean? Look at the words…we shall do this again when all is right, when you have brought the Kingdom that was near, here, and all are living in a world where they belong, and the beautiful and diverse Imageo Dei is embraced and loved.

What is Communion?

It is the literal institution of H-O-P-E in the transfiguring power of L-O-V-E for us and our world.

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Introduction

Throughout my travels since April 2019 I have come into contact with young and seasoned youth pastors seeking to break the cycle of “trying to compete” and “bigger-better events” to realize it was not creating depth of Christian life. It led to conversations around spiritual formation and discipleship, investing in the person before you, with coffee with my minister it was talk of the emerging discussion of Liturgical Living. That is the rhythm of life. When we think of Liturgy, it is Latin for “work of the People”. It is the way the church year, and worship service is structured. It gives the ebb and flow of birth, life, death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is an emergence of ancient practices for our modern world and led me to bring together some thoughts from my years of community building, and monastic formation with the Franciscans.

Corporate Personhood

On the 6th Day in the ancient Hebrew Poem[1] that is Genesis 1 lets us know that humanity is made in God’s Image (Imageo Dei). What a beautiful image that each of us is a reflection of the Holy? This idea is then carried further by the writings of Paul (Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24) that points to Christ as the head, but we are all parts of the body. Each one of us significant, and different, but together functioning, it is a coming together of the personal and corporate personhood. Within the work of community building this sometimes takes the look at discovery what our own names mean (first, middle, last) and has it had any effect we were not aware or are aware of in shaping who we are. What does the name of our community have on shaping that? For youth, it was the work then of discussion and choosing a name through consensus that reflected our new Body of Christ, and from that flows out who we are.

Corporate Identity

As individuals we encounter tough situations in life. We have our own guide posts. Our own mentors, family and friends that feed into our being whether positively or negatively for our own growth, and shape our core being that is given the guideposts of core values, beliefs, and learning. The corporate religious person is the same. The challenge is that each part of the body exists within a spectrum of spiritual development. Yet, in a corporate gathering we can work together with the guideposts. For Paul wrote to the church of Corinth “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for eyou were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,” (1 Corinthians 3:2, English Standard Version). It is the beginning of a journey, but we are laying ground work and preparing, working as one to cast a vision for who we are now, and who we are being called to be. It is like the Liturgy, for what the Liturgy in a service builds to reflect what is valued most by the gathered community, same as with the spiritual formation process.

It leads to opening up to setting of core values that become the guide posts for behaviour, and conversation creators. I remember in the late 1990’s when I began working with youth and children, doing events and retreats, the standard across mainline and evangelical circles was rules based on “thou shalt nots” and SAD rules (No Sex, Alcohol or Drugs). Discussing with colleagues and finding that incidents were up quite high at events, we entered a time of discernment for something different. That was the shift to the Values, and the who we are, and out of that our actions will be shaped. Much like Jesus when he would sit with the woman at the Well, the religious leaders, or even his disciples…remember when he called Peter Satan? It was a teaching moment to remind Peter who he truly was based on the Shema (the Great Commandments, a prayer of the Temple) and to get out of his head and back to his Godly heart. So too this conversation of Corporate Personhood, shapes the community and creates the courageous safe space for any to enter, and know what they are joining, and that it is a journey of transformational change ahead.

Just like the rhythm of prayers in the Liturgy of gratitude-thanksgiving, grace, confession, reconciliation, assurance of pardon, prayers of the people…so too the community values set the rhythm of life for each gathering. It also allows for the courageous conversations of what topics the gathered are struggling with or curious about to set the Holy Conversations (curriculum) and what aspects of the Bible and faith they want to deep dive into.

One Example

There are many examples that can be drawn of those within church families and those that came from community and the change this type of rhythm created in their life. Positive shifts, minute or major, yet each story is personalized and contextualized. What happens though with the corporate personhood becomes the lighthouse in the community, “Your word is a lamp for my feet,  a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, New International Version). This is what shaped my coming to corporate personhood. It is the benchmarks in the Rule of Life Ministry of the lay Franciscan Orders. I have modified some of the questions that can arise, as I have used this in many contexts of spiritual formation classes for the Christian to the Non-Christian in church, spiritual direction centres, simple communities, and post-secondary classes (non-Christian schools), please note my thoughts are italicized (and on my YouTube channel short thoughts about each):

The Holy Eucharist.

Since we see the Eucharist as the heart of our prayer, our personal rule would call us to frequent participation in this Sacrament. We partake of the Eucharist on all Sundays and all these Principal Feast Days — Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and All Saints Day (if available in your area.)

Eucharist, or communion, a sacred gathering of being family, at the Institution of the Sacrament we have two versions, in the synoptic gospels it is highly focused on the meal and the symbolism. In John, we get the sacrament of service, with the foot washing that became part of early practice within Ana-Baptist communities, and a part of the Maundy Thursday Service, highly powerful if uncomfortable. The symbol of care for feet, the often ignored, but most important part of the body, for one who uses a wheel chair it could be the hands. It is showing care for the least thought of symbolically.

It is also more, for in these stories, it is Christ shifting from Master to friends. The equality of all. There is a structure given, but also the acknowledgement that something holy happens each time we gather in community to eat together. The being present in the now, and listening not simply to respond, but the shift to listening from the heart. That is to understand one another, and discover who each other are. It shows the power, as Peter’s anxiety is revealed, Judas’ treachery, all in the conversation, and letting the silence rest to be filled. It creates space for the corporate Personhood to become healthier, and a place of belonging.

What questions does it raise for the value placed around ensuring enough for all?

Ensuring that all are heard?

That all are valued?

What is the practice of the Eucharist for yourself and community?

Penitence. (Daily Self Examin)

Regular examination of our obedience to Christ is necessary. To be reconcilers we must first be deeply reconciled to God. We practice daily self-examination and annual use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I have used in my own praxis the concept of self-Examin, instead of penitence. The reason of heart is simple, not everything is about self-flagellation. In the course of the day there is oops, could’ve done that better, should apologize, but there is also beautiful moments of knowing the Holy Spirit, seeing God show up unexpectedly, feeling gratitude, joy, hope and love. It becomes a look at our own day, and knowing that God is in it all, and it is okay to have the full spectrum of emotions. The journey takes us through, as Psalm 23 phrases “The valley of the Shadow of Death” but also in Psalm 23 it lets us know that all we need is God, for all the rest creates white noise, that is if we truly come into our understanding how does it shift our experience of life?

What is reconciliation? Obviously not a Presbyterian Sacrament, it is Roman Catholic and-or Anglican. It is not just the sin list, but the work that comes to reconcile with those harmed by actions. Yet, there are a time when that is not safe, or times when the reconciliation is about yourself to God. Sometimes reconciliation is about coming to love yourself, and letting what the world or church has put on you to be blown away with the Ruah (breath of God) to be who we are truly called to be.

For beginning learning about this, the space for positivity can be created by asking for 3 things thankful for, 1 thing to do for health or helping, and one thing that has been learned between each gathering from members.

Personal Prayer.

We set aside a definite time for prayer each day to spend time with God, to pray for others, to meditate and to express our thankfulness. Prayer is the root from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished.

Set times, and all times. It is the discovery of healthy relationship with God and others. Understanding the wide variety of prayers and way of prayers that are out there- labyrinths, art, music, drama, writing, journaling, liturgical prayers, personal, prayers of petition, prayers of celebration, and the list goes on. Prayer is about learning how to build a relationship, to get to know God, you and neighbour, much like the Psalms show us (Billy Graham encouraged a reading of 5 Psalms a day so each month you would read through the whole book, the idea being that it shows how to be with God).

Self-Denial.

This is the discipline of saying “No” to oneself by putting God first. We are often aware of the places in our lives where additional self- discipline is needed, but our Spiritual Directors should be asked to help in this area. We also focus on eliminating the ways we may manipulate others to our own ends.

In Lent we practice giving something up. This is a step into this. The idea of fasting. It can be giving something up to replace that time to know God more. What does it mean? Within spiritual communities I would create the shock by making the time “phone free” that is the youth turning their phones in at beginning of the night to be completely present with one another. It is about understanding that there are moments in time when we step outside of ourselves to be present with neighbour, self and God for learning, discovery and growth. Too often we use things to create walls between ourselves.

Retreat.

Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. At least once a year, we participate in organized or private retreats of at least 24 hours of silence.

Silence is hard for a retreat, trust me. I look to teaching in short spurts to enjoy silence, with prayer working on meditation, and sitting in the silence. But the idea of retreat is important. This is the understanding of Sabbath in life. Turning off the work of the day, the burdens (and yes many times this can be technology). It is also about creating structured times of being with God individually and corporately. There can be themes, specific Bible stories and spiritual practices used, but no fixed outcome. It is not like a business retreat where we are creating a vision, this is about being in the Holy Conversation with God and seeing what emerges for the next of life.

Study.

We all need to learn more about God’s will for us. Study of the Scriptures and of Franciscan spirituality is important to our Christian growth.

How does life and faith interact? What do we need to discover about culture? About our faith? Billy Graham also noted reading a chapter of proverbs a day to learn how to be with neighbour, perhaps this is like that. We spend time with our Bible, and with our newspaper and other scholarly materials to discover the intersection of life. Scholarly does not mean heady tombs, these can be books found in the non-fiction sections of bookstores and libraries on a variety of topics of interest or need.

Simplicity of Living.

Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with “belonging”, can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, eliminating those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God’s love.

Work.

Service has always been an important part of the Franciscan vocation. Daily work is one way in which Tertiaries serve God and others; we are often also called to serve God and our brothers and sisters in individual ministries, ranging from prayer to social activism.

We have a cultural narrative that sets out what is valued. We miss in the cultural narrative that each person has a vocational call upon their soul from God. It is about knowing what work we have to do for survival or paying the bills. There are moments work is a must (you own a house you need to mow the lawn whether you like it or not), chores, etc. Yet, there is also choices of what we pursue in our own time as volunteers or actual callings. We live in a society that takes all types of work for our world to function, and all that needs to be honoured as we help one another discern who we are meant to be, and how to serve, learn and grow.

Obedience.

All Tertiaries are obedient to the decisions of Third Order Chapter. We say the Daily Offices, we support each other by prayer, attendance at Fellowship meetings and a pledge of financial support to the Third Order. We report regularly to the Order on the keeping of our Rule. We have Spiritual Directors whom we see regularly.

What is obedience in this day and age? Being a part of an organization usually has reporting structures. What this speaks to is an understanding of who we are (our core values), and are we living out of those values? What challenges are arising? What times of redirection? Times of change? New opportunities? Doors closing for us? New doors opening? It is about developing one’s character so that we are living our profession, and when we aren’t we are aware and go to the safe (sanctuary) space to renew and replenish.

Conclusion

St. Francis of Assisi was an odd-duck as most of the Mystics and Monastics of the Church were and are. In Franciscism there is no set “Reformation” moment in church history, it is about constant rebirths, resurrections and reformations as we continue to discover how to live the Gospel life and be the Body of Christ in our own pockets of this world. The lighthouse that casts a light. The teaching was simple, you took a Biblical teaching to heart, once it was part of you then you moved on to the next one, not before, so it was not simply knowledge amassing, but wisdom.

In the world of creating youth religious communities, it is the investment, the commitment and knowing that the goal is not confirmation but rather, does the youth know what they believe? Why the believe it? And when they are on their own, will they live it? That is discipleship, which in my humble opinion is the crux of the liturgical life.

 

 

 

[1] Poetry as in Hebrew it rhymes ideas not words as in English.


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


What is discernment? And why does recreating an old newsroom bring thoughts of it up?

Watch here.


Jesus said, come as a child. Not being childish, but with all the wonder, honesty and curiosity of a child. What does this mean for our journey today?

Watch here.


As I was informed I am under consideration for an honourary Doctor of Letters for my writing, specifically my latest work Soul Ripples, I came to understand the need to share the story of what happens next. Before that, here is what came before (available through Amazon & Barnes and Noble):

coverA stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

I began contemplating the real time sequel  I have been writing since my first volume ended with the entry of my first psychotherapists office on February 14. I encourage you to enter into Soul Ripples, and discover the holistic connecting points of life- ourselves, family, neighbours and history with our faith.

After riding those ripples, I am inspired to share the real time sequel here, bit by bit– once the healing is complete then the posts will be a compiled free e-book…so watch the category called Soul Ripples 2 for the story continues…

centennial coffee


It is a question that gets asked of me quite a bit. Why Church? In this era when most of my generation has checked out, and as frequent readers know over the years the headaches we have had with church (for some of those fun anecdotes I direct you to my memoir Soul Ripples ), everything from a pastor trying to break up my family to another stalking me from church to church to being fired in an AGM as the church did not want a youth group made up of children with disabilities…sigh….

Anyone can write the litany of why the hell not to bother with church. I mean this past Sunday I sent in a prayer request to our Calgary congregation because due to some douches (it is a very holy word I promise) bullying in the pew my son does not feel safe in worship. We are working with my son to re-discover the love of the Holy Trinity that has it his life from when he was never to leave a hospital bed to being the awesome fun loving teen ager he is today. Church was also part of that love.

See that’s the crux of it. Where many point to abuses (and yes those who abuse should be tossed, no questions asked, and turned over to appropriate authorities); or to the worship of money (go to an AGM and you will discover what your local church holds to be true about money, for more structured church services where they place things speak of its value–that is the closer to the end the higher the value). In regards to money, we visited a mentor’s church of mine this past Sunday, and offering was after the few opening worship songs, my wife had heard me pontificate about the idea of Liturgical structure, but the freedom this created in the person not to worry about money during service struck home, simple placement.

But I digress.

Do I attend with my wife and kids, as others we know speak of going- tradition, habit, and-or fear of going to the warm place with the pokey things? NO

So why the hell do I bother with church?

Simple, we attend because we believe. We believe in Love as lived by Jesus, we believe in the community birthed by the Holy Spirit, and the creation we have been given care of by the Creator.

I have seen the good of church. In my own life, it was a place to heal after a storm. I saw my kids eyes light up with wonder when they chose to be baptized.

I have seen the church as a whole activated to care for those in need, the literal homeless, ill, caring for elders, and those with dementia. Creating space for celebration of birthdays and weddings and life victories. Journeying with those in love, who are in transition or mourning.

Standing in loving justice that all are blessedly the same but gloriously different.

My Nan told stories of the church in England during the war, the place of comfort and meeting. How the Salvation Army ensured all were fed.

The children of her neighbourhood told stories no matter who they were, the Mays was always a safe place and Granddad and Nan were their second parents.

My Grandma wrote in her journals of the blessed belonging different churches created for her and my Dad and Uncle during their years.

Small groups caring for neighbours…generational homes being spaces always open for those that needed a port in a storm.

Note what is missing? Politics. Love of Money. Deciding who is Holy.

What is present, is a simple response to the Image of God before you with love and belonging.

Why do I bother, because it is in my soul– the HOPE that should and will be there with church when the Spirit moves…

The Pilgrimage continues…

Early September 2019 through the Presbyterian Church in Canada is an awesome resource coming that I was blessed to be a part of on being a church that visitors will want to call home. Watch for it!