Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’


Celtic spirituality speaks of their being 300 feet between physical life and spiritual life, that there is a thin space between where they can intersect. This is where love/belonging truly happens. Within the Belonging Pyramid, this is the heart that supports the inverted pyramid shape- Agape.

The thin liminal space. Are we ready to exist there as communities? I will take you through an exercise of Orthodox theology (those who like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, or are familiar with the marriage equality discussion documents from the Orthodox to the Anglican Communion, they were written to the Roman Catholics). It becomes a parabolic discourse to a third party so the other can look in.

For the Canadian Church (and communities) this can be the Trump-Southern Baptist conversation (great article here ). Where even Pastor Crum began resonating within the Thin Space, and knew something needed to be said, yet as many, Not time yet.

It is the same argument within dying congregations around the belonging pyramid and drive not to be open as it was with these dying congregations of the Southern Baptist convention that rallied around Trump. Creating the closed huddle, allowed for a theology of survival and rallying to something.

If we cannot afford a pastor, and our fear is the cost to retro-fit the building to be accessible for all members, renters and welcome to the community, then perhaps we should give up the building and partner with a community centre so we can ensure at the least accessibility and inclusion.

-Me, as an associate pastor at a congregation meeting, tenure did not last

The song of survival is often heard. It is a common one. Regardless of how much money is coming in, there is never enough, nothing can change, must maintain donations or we will not survive. There is always another project that crops up to fundraise for that takes over any (if there even was) thought for basic accessibility. See churches get away with even the top portion of the pyramid for the simple fact their buildings fly under the radar the most. They come up to the letter of accessibility code when renovations are undertaken but rarely will go beyond because of “cost” they say.

What is hidden in that statement at the accessibility level is: your need (not want, NEED) does not override our privilege to preserve our bottom line.

Like the pastor in the article struggling with delivering a true message knowing it would cost, the church does not want to hear the truth of those in their congregation. This is not just about persons with disabilities– oh wait it is. For elders, youth, okay across the lifespan are using mobility devices and need accessibility.

Yet, we may make noises at national levels, but trickle down to the congregational and very little change happens. Due to one fact, tradition of reading. The Bible stories are all read as very black and white. Jesus healed the (insert descriptor of differently-abled here) and then they were included in the community. Full stop, medical model, something is wrong with the person so it is okay, because they must earn belonging, inclusion, even prove the case for accessibility beyond an archaic ramp at a side with a door not even grown to allow ease of entry.

I fall back to John 9:1-12 a lot, because it is so clear on this issue in showing the pyramid:

Verse 1 identifies the “disability” (blind). Which is what accessibility is about. What is wrong, how do we remove some barriers.

Verse 2 identifies the question- what is wrong with them? (Inclusion) it is trying to understand how to keep someone out. Yes, inclusion has become that kind of word in our 21st century. What are grounds for exclusion? How can we look like we have drawn the circle wider, but in fact are strategically shrinking it so the bottom line, old guards belief system is not challenge. This is the type of question that allowed the person to be “included” in the wider community as a beggar, seen as a burden, and allowed to hear teachings, but not fully participate within Temple life.

Verse 3 is about belonging. Jesus gobsmacks his followers and the people. The glory of God. That is belonging. The cosmic dust, life spark within each of us. The spirit that connects us with everything and everything with us within the Holy (that really is a puzzle created through and with the Thin Space tapestry of all creation). That is right, Jesus is showing that part of that tapestry is diversity within all its forms (other times he showed it through acts of kindness to Samaritans (traitors); and Romans (occupiers)).

Ahh but then the challenge for the listener where this might resonate. For Jesus does do a healing. This collapses the theory one would say.

NO!

It strengthens the theory. Look at the journey/ritual this man went through. Publicly to show the whole community that there was no turning him away any more. It was not only about vague inclusion. Jesus realized people could not understand belonging and agape. He short circuited it, much like his own transfiguration story. Jesus gave this man a ritual of transfiguration to reveal the living cosmic dust within to all.

Love illuminated.

2,000 years on (in some cases over 4,000 years) from the stories within the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. Meaning and understanding has shifted and changed throughout time EXCEPT for those around healing. Why? Simple, we do not want to understand what is a disease and how someone is specifically created. Anything that is outside what we want to see as “typical” we want to demonize.

I can’t wait until I am in heaven with your son so I can hear him speak and see him run and dance. -“Well meaning” congregant.

That needs to end. At the current General Council 43 of the United Church of Canada there is a gent with disabilities up for moderator. I would love to see him elected. Yet I know the church is not ready for it. It would cause each and every congregation to confront authentic accessibility, inclusion, and belonging sourced through agape and not lip service. Much like a small Southern Baptist congregation of Trump supporters in their pews on a warm Sunday morning as the pastor opens to preach about the 7th Commandment (thou shalt not commit adultery) and backs down because they are not ready yet for the full implications of faith.

So is spiritual life that does not see the beauty in the diversity. The belonging of the person in full person-hood, or as Brother Jesus said, “Glory of God”.

It is trite, but it is true. We are all created in love just the way we are.

But are we ready to hear the full implications of our beliefs?

Are we willing to step out of the physical, and into the Thin Space of resonance?

To live, unreservedly out of love for OUR NEIGHBOUR?

 

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By Benny Leung

The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and I trust many of us are familiar with the Easter narratives.  The resurrection, as many of us know it, is a happy ending to the grander gospel story – the crucified Lord is risen, He appears to his followers, commissions the disciples to a world-wide mission and ascends to heaven.  Indeed, this is exactly Luke’s narrative on the resurrection story.  The reality, however, is that the resurrection stories are quite diverse across the four gospels.  For example, Matthew reports the resurrection, reappearance as well as the great commission but makes no mention of the ascension of Jesus.  John’s narrative is shorter still as he only narrates the resurrection and reappearance.  In today’s message, I will focus on Mark’s account of the resurrection story.  As usual, I will begin with an analysis of the passage and then proceed on to the hermeneutics.

It is consensus among modern biblical scholarship that the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8.  After all, the most reliable early manuscripts all conclude with 16:8 and do not contain verses 9 through 20.  Unlike John, Matthew and Luke, the ending of Mark is perplexing and suspenseful.  For example, the women were told to deliver the news of resurrection to the disciples but fled the tomb instead, because they were afraid.  There is no joy, no reappearance, no great commission, no ascension.  Perhaps this is why the later scribes, out of good intention, added verses 9-20 to ‘complete’ the story as the early church tradition knows it.  Today I will not argue whether these additional verses should be part of New Testament scripture.  Rather, I want to focus on the perplexing and suspenseful ending that is dictated in 16:1-8.

The three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, have witnessed the crucifixion.  In particular, according to 15:47, the two Marys also witnessed the burial of Jesus.  According to verse 1, the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body likely because the burial took place in a hurry and there was not enough time to prepare the body properly.  From the perspective of the readers of Mark, another woman had anointed Jesus in Bethany not too long ago (14:3-9).  The actions of the three women in chapter 16 resonate with the narrative in chapter 14; together, the two accounts frame a story of victory.  Particularly the former account foreshadows the death of Jesus, while the latter account is a denunciation of the power of death over Jesus.  That is, the anointing of the body did not take place because Jesus has risen.

The three women expected to see the body of Jesus as they had the intention of anointing the body.  The question “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” is a legitimate question.  After all, Mark wrote that the stone “was very large” and it would have been beyond the ability of the women to move the stone.  What follows is a surprise to the women.  Not only was the stone rolled away, but they saw a young man dressed in a white robe.  Present day readers, given the knowledge of the other Gospels, would be inclined to conclude the young man as a heavenly being.  However, the fact that the women were “alarmed” would also allude to a similar notion.  The Greek word for “alarmed” is also means “terrified/fearful/astonished”, which is a typical human reaction in supernatural encounters.  The idea that the young man is a heavenly being has significant implications – a message has been delivered from heaven and now humans must proclaim this message.

What follows is the resurrection announcement (16:6 NIV):

 

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.

 

Jesus the Nazarene and the crucified one are inseparable.  Jesus the Nazarene is the dear Rabbi who the women had travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Jesus the crucified one is the one whom the women witnessed suffering on the cross.  It is this Jesus who is not found in the tomb because He has risen.

 

The Greek word for “risen” in this verse is a third person passive verb.  In fact, a better translation of verse 6 is found in the NRSV where it is translated as “He has been raised”.  The implication of the third person passive verb would suggest that the resurrection itself is not caused by Jesus himself but God.  The fact that God raised Jesus resonates with the cry of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (15:34) – God had never forsaken Jesus!  Rather, the resurrection is a judgement on those who mocked Jesus before the cross.  More importantly, God made Jesus a victor over the enemy – the power of sin.

 

After delivering the resurrection message, the young man instructs the women to “tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  The empty tomb and the testimony of the women do not serve as sufficient evidence for the resurrection, particularly in a culture where women are deemed lower in class and less credible.  Instead, the key to proving the resurrection is the encounter between the disciples and the resurrected Lord.

 

Furthermore, this set of instructions also alludes to the rehabilitation of the disciples.  The singling out of Peter is likely designed to resonate with the Peter’s denial of the Lord instead of a suggestion that Peter would be a leader in the church.  This mention of Peter, in reference of his denial, ties closely with 14:26-31 where Jesus predicts the scattering of his flock, his resurrection, and the mention that he will go before them to Galilee.  Mark does not describe the disciples seeing Jesus, instead he recounts a promise that this will happen.

 

Finally, Mark concludes his gospel narrative with verse 8 – “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid”.  This ending is perplexing because it is not an ending that we would expect.  The women had intended to anoint a dead body but was greeted by a message of resurrection instead.  Shouldn’t they be filled with joy because Jesus has been risen?  Rather they fled in fear and kept silent of the good news.  At the same time, the ending is suspenseful because, unlike the other Gospel writers, Mark does not venture into Jesus’ reappearance, the great commission, or the ascension, leaving the narrative without closure.

 

While some would challenge Mark as a poor narrator, I would argue that Mark purposely concluded the gospel narrative with an open end.  Bible scholars dated Mark to be written sometime between A.D. 55 and 70.  By this time, the early church has established somewhat of a foothold and the community of faith would have heard the testimonies of the disciples concerning the resurrection.  In other words, the resurrection would have been deemed as fact and not folklore that required objective evidence.  If that is the case, the message of Mark has no incentive to prove that the resurrection is true.  Instead, Mark wishes to challenge the community with this: you have now heard the gospel, what are you going to do with it?

 

I have stated many times that Mark portraits the disciples not as examples but failures and counter-examples.  Yet, the Lord, through the young man in the white robe, assures the invitation to them.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” serves as a vivid reminder that the Lord is faithful to such a point where He keeps the covenant even to those who have failed in the most epic way.  Peter said, to the Lord “Even if all fall away, I will not.”  Yet, according to Luke 22:60-62:

 

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!”  Just as he was speaking the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

 

It is not tough to imagine what Peter had felt after seeing the soul piercing eyes of Jesus.  The man who vowed loyalty to the Lord ended up betraying the Lord.  Peter is now broken but the Lord, through the invitation to Galilee, seeks to reconcile with Peter.

 

As distant as the resurrection story is to the present-day Christian, the application of the story’s principles is timeless.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” is as applicable to us as it did to the disciples.  A common blind spot amongst Christian men and women is the notion that we think we are invincible to temptation.  I, for example, have fallen victim to this blind spot.

 

I graduated from university in 2005 and so I am an old dog now.  Shortly after graduating I was involved with a woman whom I had a physical relationship with.  As a person who had been attending church since a teenager, I have promised the Lord to not do such things, but I have failed to keep my promise.  The relationship lasted a few years and we eventually parted ways.  The bible is right that man and woman become one as they join in an intimate way.  I knew I had hurt her, I knew I had hurt myself and I knew I had failed the Lord.

 

Like Peter, I was in so much shame that I felt unworthy to attend church.  However, the holy spirit convicted me to confess to a few brothers and sisters whom I had trusted.  One of the brothers made extra effort to walk along side with me in through the journey.  He made me promise to read one chapter of the Gospel a day.   Beginning with the Gospel of Mathew, it did not take long for me to get to Mark 16:17.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  The Lord had gone ahead not only to meet Peter but to meet me also.

 

If the physical Galilee is the place where the disciples were called to witness a renewal in discipleship, then Mark 16:7 is the Galilee where I heard Jesus’ call again – a call for repentance, a call for renewal, a call for obedience, a call to follow him once more.  The Lord has come to reconcile with me.  It was like seeing Jesus in a different way; I was able to see him more clearly than before.  But make no mistake, life was not rosy after this.  In fact, some had used this information as a weapon against me, but such is the consequence of my misdeeds and I have no one else to blame but my foolishness.  Yet, the Lord has used my testimony as an encouragement to others who are in a similar predicament, and at the very least, I am no longer living in the bondage of my misdeeds.  Perhaps Mark is right after all, life is not necessarily easy when God decides to turn it upside down.

 

Let me wrap up today’s message with a quote Tim Geddert’s commentary: “Mark ends his Gospel, not by telling the reader what happens in Galilee, but by telling them what must happen in Galilee.  It is not about literal journeys back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem, but a life of following Jesus.”  The resurrection story is not only about how God defeats the power of sin but also about how holy God has come to reconcile with man.  The invitation to Galilee is open to me as it is to you.  Most of us here have heard and accepted the Gospel but now what?  Now we must go to Galilee, where we will meet Jesus and respond to His call once more!


It was a blessed time of discussion. Much like what can happen around a coffee or meal at my home. And yes, the crazy neurology kept at bay, the data banks were tested, and the memory was strong.

It was great to be on Light News Radio today, and for the Holy Week reflection series (yes even unannounced I am sure you noticed there was one happening). I thought I would share the discussion for all to hear.

Please feel free to share freely this post, so the talk can hopefully percolate other conversations as we strive to break down barriers, draw the circle wide, and allow for authentic belonging fully knowing and embracing the risks that takes:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/boldradiostation/the-distinction-between-inclusion-and-be?autoplay=true

(Also know, this was my first “public” speaking/teaching time on spirituality since my last sermon at Centennial Presbyterian 8 months after performing my Mum’s funeral…so that is since Stampede 2014. Another blessing my time away due to medical challenges has accomplished.).


Luke 2

The second chapter of Luke. The physician’s orderly and “historical” treatise on the rise of early Christianities. It is one that can provide conflict, and queries. For as noted previously, if the village was rarely left by those who lived there. How is it that these humble labourers could afford the trek to Bethlehem for a census? Was the census historical? That is a question that can be answered in varying degrees. Yet today I will challenge you, if it is not a historical census, then what is the purpose of the tool in the literature of Gospel. Gospel means good news, yet few understand it is a political platform, an outline of the way of life. This was written as a direct challenge to the Gospel of the Empire. It was written as a rallying call for the early believers that a different path of radical love, shattered barriers and chains of oppression was possible, and radical belonging should simply be a way of life.

So why the Census? It was the tool that showed the affront to the Empire the quickest to the non-Jewish-Monotheist audience. For the census was meant to flex the Empire muscle, and it was usurped by the birth of a baby, in a humble stable/creche. It even more so showed that the first called to this amazing sight was not the wealthy, military powers or religious controllers. The first called was the shepherds. Those outside in the fields, the lesser thans and not so wants arounds. Setting the tone for this political platform. It was about everyone being present—barriers shattered.

Even with following tradition of presentation and circumcision, the prophet and prophetess voice of Simeon and Anna rang out. The voices of the Elders affirming a different path being seen in this life lived. A life that would return to the humble village life, learning his faith at the hems of the matriarchs, growing in life and work with his father, Joseph as a labourer, until his time would come to step out and into the world.

There would be a story that they would return to Jerusalem for Passover where Jesus would teach the Rabbi’s showing his wisdom around his bar mitzvah age, and challenging even his parents to understand what they had agreed to. Was this possible? Maybe. Could it have been smaller in just how Jesus conducted himself in the village? Probably. Yet what was being illustrated was a boy becoming a man, and stepping outside of the caste of labourer close to untouchable, into a scholarly-priestly cast. In the 21st century Canada this may be hard to comprehend. But it is the story of a child breaking a barrier of exclusion. An imposed barrier placed around socio-economics and used to keep people oppressed.

Why is this a story of this barrier shattering?

Simple. Not only was it affirmed by the religious controllers in their own shock. Jesus took the stance of activist. His words struck chords with his parents who were probably hurt when he pointed out of course I would be here in my Dad’s place. But it was more that they were still thinking in the false system, the one where oppression was common place and accepted. Even though both Joseph and Mary had made decisions 12 years and 9 months earlier to step outside the system, they had so easily slipped, relapsed if you will to the addiction of the system. Jesus intervened on their recovery road.

As you enter the Gospel and see these stories of shattering barriers imposed by economics, politics, and religiosity…

  • what barriers do you see in your world today that need to be shattered?
  • Who are the shepherds to be welcomed?
  • What is your Bethlehem stable?
  • Your temple prophecy?

Your moment of throwing away who the world says you are to be, and becoming who you are meant to be?


Guest Post/Sermon by Benny Leung

The passage that I choose for today’s sermon contains two distinct narratives – the first spans from verses 7-12 while the second spans from verses 13-19.

We know from the earlier chapters that Jesus had begun ministry and saw great success.  At the same time, he also attracted much unwanted attention from the religious political leaders; this led to tension which amounted to conflicts that led to his crucifixion.  Of course, the religious leaders’ worries concerning Jesus were understandable.  After all, Jesus did challenge the prevailing rigid social and religious status quo (i.e. washing of hands, the Sabbath, etc).  More importantly, Jesus’ ministry offered the masses that the religious institution could not offer – healing of illnesses and casting out of demons.

Many of us are familiar with the biblical account of why John the Baptist was killed by Herod.  According to the Gospel writers, John agitated Herodias by challenging her marriage with Herod as illegitimate.  Her anger towards John eventually amounted to a plot that led to his death.  In addition to the biblical account, Josephus had also recorded the account of John’s death in The Jewish Antiquities.  The historical account showed that John’s ministry gained momentum and had thousands of Jewish followers.  Knowing this, Herod feared he was losing control over the people and saw John as a threat to his position.  As a result, Herod proactive sought for opportunities to remove John in order to secure his position before the Roman Empire.

In light of this historical account, Mark 3:7-8 tells us that people came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Tyre and Sidon to see Jesus.  With the exception of Judea and Jerusalem, all the other cities are quite multicultural in a sense that there were gentiles living among the Jews.  In other words, while John’s ministry was limited in the wilderness and to the Jews, Jesus’ ministry spanned a much larger spectrum in terms of geography as well as culture and nationality; this made Jesus even more of a threat than John.  Thus, Jesus’ withdraw to the lake is likely a conscious response on his part in order to not jeopardize his ministry by the unwanted fame that he was gaining.  Jesus knew very well that the objective of his ministry is to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and not gain popularity.

Verses 9-10 adds further flavor to Jesus’ withdraw.

9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.

10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

The boat that Jesus had his disciples readied was not a pulpit for the purpose of teaching but a means to avoid people from crowding him.  That is, the boat was there to separate Jesus from the crowd.  We can’t help but to ask the question of why the Messiah distanced himself from the people whom he is called to save?  What was the crowd there for?  Clearly, the people did not gather to listen to Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Instead the crowd was there to seek physical healing because they had heard about the great things that Jesus did.  Interestingly, this set of verses did not mention healing of any sort; perhaps Jesus purposely refrained himself from healing the masses in order to emphasize the true purpose of his ministry.  Jesus came to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven, everything else is secondary.

Finally, verses 11 to 12 talk about Jesus’ authority over the impure spirits.  The fact that the impure spirits fell down before Jesus and proclaimed him as the Son of God would indicate the spirit knew about Jesus’ identity.  Interestingly, Jesus ordered the spirit to not tell anyone about him.  Why did Jesus do that?  Clearly, it is not the so-called messianic secret but Mark’s effort to prompt his readers to ask: who shall or is permissible to reveal the identity of Jesus?  In the context of the Gospel of Mark, it is God the Father and the passion of Jesus that are permissible to reveal the true identity of Jesus.  For example:

The voice that came from heaven in 1:11

The foretelling of the passion in 9:9, 10:38-39

The transfiguration in 9:7

The impure spirits were prohibited from revealing the true identity of Jesus because they are incapable of revealing the Son of God in the context of the Kingdom of Heaven.

What follows is a narrative of the commissioning of the disciples.  Beginning with verses 13-15

 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.

14 He appointed twelve*that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

15 and to have authority to drive out demons.

we see a sharp contrast from what we had read about the crowd in the previous narrative.  Here Jesus only called those whom he wanted to the mountainside – there was no crowd and the setting had gone from the lake to the mountains.  Mountains are considered sacred places or places of spiritual encounters in the Jewish context.  In the OT, Noah’s Ark landed on the Mountains of Ararat, Moses received the law in the mountains and Elijah heard the voice of God in Mount Horeb, etc.  Similarly, the disciples were about to have their spiritual encounter as Jesus established the team of twelve, giving them the capacity preach and authority to cast out demons.

The purpose of building the group of twelve was to extend the longevity of Jesus’ identity on earth through discipleship (i.e. being with Him) and ministry by giving the disciples authority (i.e. enabling them to preach and cast out demons).  Jesus appointed twelve individuals out of his many followers to establish a tight knit community to represent Him and expand his ministry.  The Twelve has an important symbolic meaning in the messianic context – if the Messiah is to come and deliver his people from exile, he must (re)establish the twelve tribes of Israel.  Further to the symbolic meaning, the emphasis of the Twelve rather than an individual would suggest the importance of the community over individual.

The text proceeds to presenting the names of the Twelve ending with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  The clear tension between Jesus calling those whom he wanted and the fact that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus cannot be overlooked.  We ought to ask why did Jesus call someone who would ultimately betray him?  Did the Son of God fail to know what was to come?  For now, let’s toss aside the debate on predestination or the argument of whether Judas was saved.  Instead of challenging Jesus’ competency as a hiring manager, we need to remember an indisputable fact – none of the disciples really knew or understood the identity of Jesus (at least in the context of the Gospel of Mark); it just happened that Judas was an example that stood out like a sore thumb.  For example, James and John, through their mother, was eying for a high position in the Kingdom of Heaven.  In another instance, the disciples argued amongst themselves on who is the greatest.  Of course, we mustn’t forget Peter denial of the Lord.  Finally, the scattering of the disciples after the crucifixion.  All these examples serve as a reminder that none of the disciples really knew the identity of Jesus and the purpose of his coming.  Yet, Jesus saw another reality: The Kingdom of Heaven would be manifested through these stubborn and unworthy losers.

As distant as these stories may seem, the lessons from these stories are ever timely.  The present-day Christian is often under the scrutiny of deadlines – whether at work, family matters or ministry.  Even if we are able to escape the scrutiny of deadlines, we often subject ourselves to various metrics at work and/or ministry.  In the context of church, we measure our success on worship attendance, number of baptism, Sunday school attendance, church giving and so forth.  Over time, we end up worshiping these metrics instead of worshiping God, and we end up losing ourselves in the kingdom of heaven.

It takes integrity and courage to walk away from momentum or temptation of success.  Jesus withdrew to the lake to distance himself from the needy crowd; all those who came to Jesus had a legitimate need – they were either ill or demon possessed.  Yet Jesus knew very clearly that He did not come to satisfy the need of the masses.  The purpose of his ministry was to tell people about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The healing and the casting away of demons were means to declare the coming of the Kingdom.  In fact, Jesus exerted considerable effort to help people understand the reasoning and purpose behind his miracles.  Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we often see Jesus telling the healed and the liberated to not broadcast the miracles that they had just experienced.  What Jesus was trying to direct people’s attention away from the miracles but indulge them in the mystery of the miracle.

The business of evangelism is often a failure to the detriment in this regard.  I am not going argue whether the healings by charismatic televangelist are legitimate, although I am pretty sure they are not.   What I want to ask today is whether these healing help the healed see the coming of the Kingdom?  Closer to home, I know of folks who are hard-core advocates for evangelism.  Far too often, they are subject to the emotional euphoria from masses responding to an alter call.  In extreme cases, they fall into the trap of the messianic complex where they think they are the Messiah instead of Jesus.

Make no mistake, Jesus mandated his followers to make disciples of all nations; we are called to evangelize.  However, we must ask ourselves what kind of gospel we are sharing today?  Are we advertising a ticket to heaven or are we telling people about the Evangelion – that is, turning away from the old ways, taking up the cross to follow Jesus.  If it is the former, then we are not sharing the right things.  And if that is the case, it is a good idea to do what Jesus did; put everything on hold and take a step back to re-examine what the Gospel is.  The good news of Jesus Christ is about confession, repentance, reconciliation and transformation – it is about taking up your own cross and follow Jesus.

If withdrawing from the crowd takes integrity and courage, then indulging yourself in the community of faith is an act of valor.  After all, opening up yourself and subjecting yourself to vulnerability may not necessarily bring about outcomes that are desirable to our earthly understanding.  I have been involved in a conflict over the past few months of which the details I cannot disclose.  I had personally reached to the instigators to point out the issues, but I was ignored and brushed off.  The issues persisted, and I was discouraged to a point where I made a decision to sever myself from the church.  However, a good brother pointed the folly to such a decision and challenged me to seek a resolution on the matter instead.  Of course, leaving the church is the easiest solution because seeking a resolution means making myself vulnerable to the misunderstanding of blowing up a small matter or taking down the church because of my personal vendetta.  Yet, seeking a resolution also opens an opportunity for the instigators repent and, through it, the church would be able to live out the Kingdom values that we so cherish.

The fellowship of believers, the church, is one of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.  Love is not the only experience from doing life together; there is also pain and suffering.  Yes, the church is place of love, a place of liberation, a place of openness, a place of inclusion.  Yet the church can also be place where people are wronged, a place of bondage, a place of mistrust, a place of segregation.  God, through the life of Jesus the Nazarene, indulged himself in this mystery.  Because the Son of Man had lived through it, his followers must also indulge themselves in this mystery.  And through this pilgrimage, His followers will own this kingdom mystery, through which they will experience His grace and mercy.

 


Education. Business. Entertainment. Sports. Religion. Child Welfare. Politics. Persons with Disabilities support systems. Justice System.

Jesse Stone: Men may know somethings.

Molly Crane: Rape is something women know.

-Jesse Stone: Stone Cold T.V. Movie (2005)

#Timesup. #Metoo.  On one night…January 24, 2018 3 prominent Canadian politicians went down as the lid was blown off the badly kept secret of abusive misogyny in politics. I state badly kept, because the greater country may act like they did not know, but that is because they have been ignoring that which they did not want to know. They have ignored the voices that are being called out for complicity—that were ones shouting from the rooftops. The signs were so easily there, from a premier in 1934 booted from office; to how such Canadian politicians as Sheila Copps and former PM Kim Campbell were treated to name but a few.  This past week a Claresholm town Councillor having her life threatened in her own home by an invader for being political, check any female politicians twitter feed to note the abuse and stalker-like behavioural patterns.

Many astute commentators pointed out it is not a partisan issue, but rather an institutional issue.

Yet, sadly,  it does not surprise me. For the same power over people structures that allow this abuse to be ingrained generation over generation that it is acceptable and our voice does not matter. That perpetuates forced silence of the abused. The #Metoo movement is re-telling an ancient, and modern story. We saw it with the bravery in Sheldon Kennedy breaking the silence over sexual violence in hockey. In the persons with disabilities world silence breakers. We first saw it with the monsters revealed preying on our daughters in classrooms, and now showing that predators come in both genders (although how Riverdale got away with putting forward Archie-Miss Grundy as a relationship and not what it was—teacher rape of a student, though there was some minor redemption with the Black Hood story-line of season 2. But be honest with yourself, it could not have been played off as a relationship or affair if it had been Veronica and Mr. Weatherbee).

Spotlight and the breaking of silence around Cleric abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. That we know statistically is the same within all religious systems, where power works to silence the abused (regardless of gender or sexuality). We can hypothesize the sexual violence against women based on report versus non-report, against males it is harder because of the societal constructs working against it (note the Archie-Grundy myth perpetuating). But the story is not different it is the use of power.

It is a multi-generational trauma highlighted in the TRC in Canada; yet we need to understand it is a generational trauma passed down through thousands of years of conquering/colonialism that stretches at the very least back to the Roman Empire, but probably pre-dates that.

It is a society knowing homelessness, addiction, violence, mental illness and crime are symptoms of something deeper but would rather deal with the symptoms than the actual cancer.  Root cause missed in entertainment with stars blowing out, crashing mentally, overdosing, or doing 180’s that made no sense…the bread crumbs were there if we only wanted to know…

Same as the pain from acting out athletes, or the children of religious sexual violence.

But it is a system that allows Bountiful, B.C.’s pedophile community to declare themselves polygamous. A system where the person is commodified, and not seen as truly a whole person.

Yes, we are more open about talking about sexual violence than we have been in the past. In the past, though there were those in families or communities that worked hard to try to protect the young from it being passed on. Even as simple as a matriarch or patriarch refusing the grandchild to sleepover knowing the other was a predator. Neighbours that would become sanctuaries for children or others in need.

            Why does it continue?

Because we allow our voice to be divided. We allow the command, power and control to continue setting the story. We can speak of #timesup, but without unity of those abused by the corrupt structures of power …speaking as one to shatter them…it will all to easily be lost as a news story and relegated to just another news cycle ala school shootings in the U.S.A., or the annual story that churches should really do something about misogyny.

I wish I could say this is a problem of the last 100 or so years. Yet it is a problem heightened in the social media world of Millennials and Generation Z where they see the power abuse structure as so normative that social media is used to terrorize, commodity individuals until they believe their only option for safety is death. Let that sink in for where we are at in human history.

For I have contemplated these verses many time in my ministry. Told time and again that they were to be read in light of his Easter Resurrection, yet today in history I am convinced more than ever they speak to our world transformation. The foundations we are to shake:

18On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?” 19Jesus answered, “Destroy thistemple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”20“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”…

-John 2:18-20 (Berean Study Bible)

The Temple of Jesus’ day was corrupted: used by the powers to be to oppress, abuse, commodity of human beings and use the people. Sound familiar?

His Mother, Mary of Nazareth and his earthly father, Joseph, led the way in showing what could exist with true equality and a new way. The way Jesus taught. One of full inclusion, equality and love for all in the human family and creation.

That is what verse 19 is truly about. Shattering the corruption. Tearing down the temple and rebuilding what is truly meant to be. Or in our hashtag world to the monsters and predators in one unified voice: #timesup.

And the response is the one that is still heard today by the command and control power structure—this took so long to build what are you going to do in 3 days.

Well according to ancient myth poetry of Jesus’ people, in the first 3 days of creation the Holy Mystery, well, she birthed the very good foundation of the cosmos.

Today, let us join voices together across all those who have been abused. Let our voices that are new to the fight, or have been battling longer unheard than any not lose sight of the goal. Let us join our voices together without labels, in the truth that we need to stand firm in. Let us shatter this corrupt temple, and yes…let us build the world where we all belong, we are all honoured, and we know true love of self and neighbour.

Join in tearing down…so that together we can birth the new hope that this light is shining.

The statement for this day is not do we believe. But rather do we stand firm that this must end.

Is it not time to build a world we keep paying lip service to.

A world where all are safe and belong.

A world where the true cause of pain has been exorcised and light truly reigns?

Are we ready to stand with our neighbour against those that prey?

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I was wracking my mind and heart about what to share on this day of new life. Then I do what many do on Christmas day, a family tradition. We would gather throughout my life to watch the Queen address the Commonwealth. So the wife and I once again did today, and her message, the 60th on television, she was the first monarch to use the medium (and has been the only one since)…celebrating her platinum wedding anniversary to Prince Phillip. Speaking of the light in the darkness, the love of neighbour and self through first responders, charity, church and reclaiming/claiming home.

“The simplicity of the call of home this time of year”

-Queen Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth, Religious head of the Church of England (Anglican Communion)

From our family to yours this season, please join our tradition, read the article and listen to the Queen’s Christmas Message 2017.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR.