Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Apostle Shuffle 1

Posted: December 1, 2018 by Ty in Brunch & Bible, Spirituality
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Ah Simon, whom Jesus named Peter. Which can be translated in two ways- as rock or little pebble. I like the concept of little pebble, for if that is what community is to be built upon it works so well within the Gospel proclamation that a seed as small as a Mustard Seed will grow a huge tree to house all the birds. Peter, eventually came to lead the gathering in Rome.

But let’s touch upon a few of the things that happened before this. Peter could be working class to middle class if economics could be described as such in the occupied Judea. He was married (we know this because Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law). He is recorded as the one that tried to step out of the boat and walk on water, but a shaking of his faith causes him to fall in, to be rescued by Jesus. He is there when Jesus is transfigured and has an adventure in missing the point by wanting to commemorate the moment in the old ways. At one point in the journey of life, Jesus calls his best friend, Satan. Oh, and there was the sword and the cutting of the guard’s ear off in the garden. Let us not forget when Jesus was arrested and lynched, Peter in his fear would deny even knowing him. His closure and new beginning coming when Jesus walks with Peter to re-affirm his conviction of the new path Jesus had laid out. Oh, and for the Roman Catholics, the big shout out that Peter seeing the incarnation for what it truly was, and knowing the Oneness possible in the Holy Breath of creation, Jesus metaphorically let Peter know the keys to the Kingdom were his. Peter was the one that stood at Pentecost with the other Apostles as the Holy Spirit renewed the community; he argued with God about what was clean and unclean. Scholars believe it is his stories that inspired John Mark (the one running naked from the arrest in the Canonical Gospel of Mark) to put quill to parchment and write the Canonical Gospel of Mark circa 70 CE (6 years after Peter’s martyrdom).

This is the man that has Jude or perhaps John Mark act as his scribe to write 1 Peter for encouragement under times of persecution. Let us pause and really understand persecution, it is not when people get offended if you say Merry Christmas, or a world embracing all people so you feel social conservative values are threatened. It is actual execution level persecution. Yes there are Christians that still encounter this in the 21st Century, but there are many groups as well and that needs to be remembered.

Even at the time this letter was written there was some highly active persecution, as recorded in the ancient texts of the Didache. That saw some governors comparing notes of one-up-man-ship in how they executed Christians and other malcontents. Some areas could care less, and just let the small sect exist, for natural distrust by other citizens and residents of the new sect led to exclusion. Others took more of an active role encouraged by the Emperor who needed an enemy to cover up his short comings. As well remember this letter came out around the time of the Epistle of James that saw the religious re-seize Jerusalem from Rome, which created more of an air of suspicion for this small sect whose teachings completely removed followers from being apart of the Emperor Cult.

Which when Nero would burn down Rome in his madness…well… can one say scape goat in 64 CE? That is what happened with Peter, reported crucified upside down, for his beliefs in a hope of eliminating the sect in Rome.

These are the words in 1 Peter that came before that moment.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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

The pilgrimage of the soul to the heart of the sacred (I believe I wrote a book called that). It is the journey of the visible and invisible. The teachings of hope, faith, peace, joy and love. In his visit in Acts of the Apostle’s to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10) that all barriers and labels had fallen away. As originally intended, yet our shadow side of humanity had gotten in the way. This is the true salvation, moving into Oneness with the Holy Mystery, letting that Holy Breath (Spirit) connect us each with one another. It is as the Great Commandment had been laid out. No barrier love of the Holy, opened up love of the Image Bearer in the mirror before you, and for the one next to you.

Creates eternal joy as you are the authentic you. Knowing you are created just as you are meant to be. Now you are on the path of the vocation that is truly you.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time[a] the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

-Epistle of First Peter 1:10-12 (ESV)

Psychology. Mindfulness. CBT. DBT. These are things that are used secular to draw us back to our true core. Energy Healing and other holistic spirituality are used to draw us back to our core. Centering prayer and meditation are used to draw us back to our core. As is ritual in community and individually used to draw us back to our core.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[b] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

-Epistle of First Peter 1:13-25 (ESV)

Peter relying on what he learned as a child from the stories that would become the Hebrew Bible synthesized through the completion of the Law and the Prophets Jesus of Nazareth extolled in what would become the Christian Testament. How do we know this?

When the lawyer came to trap Brother Jesus about the greatest commandments he rested on Love- God, Self, and Neighbour with your everything– mind, body, soul and emotions (very much a medicine wheel). This is what does not perish when one is gone, the love they lived within this world, and the love in Paradise of the next life to come.

What story does your love create in the world?

 

 

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Prayer of faith. Pretty strong words are coming from James. Yet prayer is something that his brother spoke about quite a bit before he was lynched. Brother Jesus spoke out against showy-falsity and being authentic in the mystic aspect of our lives. Why? Because it allows us to break through the world imposed soundtrack of our lives, to the one at our true core…the core fashioned and resonating within the Holy Mystery.

That is James’ first step when someone is suffering, afflicted, ill or troubled even. Take time to centre our very being into our true nature. Yet even James understands there are times when this can be an impossibility, so this spills from his scribes’ quill:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[a] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

-Epistle of James 5:13-20 (English Standard Version)

Notice the words first before we jump into the role of Elders. The words of centering in life regardless of what is thrown at us. In Franciscan Charism it is called “Daily Examin”; not a time of counting the F’up list, but rather honestly looking at your day for times of growth, opportunity, regret, fulfillment, reconciliation and blessing. Truly turning your day into a Psalm, just like James counsels here, to be in contemplation constantly.

Yet he also touches on those moments when we cannot see who we are. When we are lost in the woods, or have veered off the path illuminated by the light, when we are Peter walking on water and look down and fall. Those moments of doubt when the soundtrack of the world sucks us into believing we are only good enough based on bank account, societal ladder labels, power amassing or material goods. Those are the moments when we seek out the Elders. Today the term may be prayer counsellor; mentor; life coach; spiritual director; those people that can see through the B.S. we are drowning in and bring us back to our core.

This is the authentic you. The you others within the Holy Mystery see you as, and when we journey together we see the love that made us, and the intrinsic value within us.

The Epistle of James is a prayer of faith to the early church and the church now. It is the little brother’s reminder that structures, fancy words, worldly power, or money or great shows do not matter. If it is all upon the surface it is for nought. The transformation for integrity and authenticity goes deep to our core, by burning away the muck of our souls to be who we are truly meant to be in community.

It was termed the Epistle of Straw and derided throughout history for that very reason. It is the words like those of Jesus of Nazareth in the original gospel, challenging the status quo. Challenging through a very simple concept, that would be recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (and the text that got me to attend church at 19 years old):

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Gospel of Matthew 22:34- 40 (ESV)

And the simple task put before us, was to simply go and do like wise in L-O-V-E (no qualifiers).


As we continue into the words of wisdom put to parchment by James, we enter what later Biblical editors termed chapter 2. The chapter and verse system of course was an outcome of the lectionary system. The lectionary is a reading guide for services that some (not all) churches employ. I enjoy using it when I preached/taught because in a 2 or 3 year cycle dependent on the lectionary over a course of Sundays you would touch upon/read all of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament. For a teacher/preacher it forces one out of their comfort zones and into some of the other corners of the written word.

farmin

My son and I walking at Countess Country Museum

But enough technical mumbo-jumbo, the second chapter continues the subversive teaching James’ elder brother, Jesus of Nazareth, had on his earthly travels. For he tackles the concept of “partiality” or within the world of Jerusalem during the revolution, the re-assertion strongly that one’s state in life had to do with blessings from God. That is that if one was rich they were beloved, if they were poor they did something. Much like some of the later canonical gospel stories would write about one with a disability– who sinned to cause this?

 My brothers,[a] show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

-Epistle of James 2:1-13 (English Standard Version)

free reign

My son, daughter and their wonder pup walking at Countess Country Museum. No partiality or grief of the world, just kids.

Now, one could easily use this to go on a diatribe about the economic and social stratification of society. Yet there is a stronger message here for the reader. In our world, we still hold to this grief concept. The idea that if we are not the “same” as the other, then we must live in grief. We must constantly be comparing, and as such know that we are “less than”. It is poppy cock. It is the concept that is foisted on individuals and parents of individuals who are differently abled (or super heroes as my son terms him and his friends).

It is within these words, once again coming to the simple teaching we are who we are created to be. Within the beautiful diversity of our world the image of Love that is the Holy Mystery is reflected. How our world interdependently connects, cares for one another, and lives is the actualization of the holy breath of the Holy Spirit at creation.

At different points in life, different labels are put upon us to show differences and keep us separated. What is missed, is the core that is the same. The cosmic dust, the spark of life.

It is about creating a life beyond labels. Not just lip service, but actually rooting out the Gremlim-saboteur that breaks you down as “not being good enough” or “never will” to be replaced with the resounding voice within. The true affirmation of who you are, what you can do, and to repeat: WHO YOU ARE as you live out of the greatest gifts we have:

L-O-V-E.


It is weird what launches into a rebooting mind. That is where these words come from, and possibly a few more posts in the series. It is from my favourite Epistle (letter) in the Christian Testament. That tradition tells us is from the teachings of James; brother of Jesus of Nazareth. That statement in itself creates some shock waves, not as many as when things like the Jesus Seminar first started, but still some.

It is hard for some to wrap their head around Mary and Joseph having children after Jesus. Part of it even for liberals/progressives or Protestants is our undiagnosed hold onto Roman Catholic doctrine around Mary of Nazareth. That being Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity. Which has relegated the gospel mention of siblings, to be that Joseph had a family before Mary, hence half-siblings, or that these were cousins being raised in Joseph’s house due to extended family having passed away. The rationale being that Mary could not be “sullied” by sexual intimacy (perpetual virginity) and extended further was conceived and birthed without sexual intercourse (immaculate conception).

Which makes James’ claim to being the brother of Jesus problematic. Some would state it is nothing more than Christian euphemism of us all being brothers and sisters. As well, by claiming to be Jesus’ brother, he shows to be a later convert (as in the gospel narrative they try to bring Jesus home) and has risen to such a high station as the leader (bishop) of the early gatherings in Jerusalem. This is problematic for a patriarchy structure because it shows strongly the leadership role given to women in the early church, and that Mary of Nazareth’s opinion held quite a bit of sway (even in Acts her presence during the choosing of the replacement of Judas).

Which is part of the reason James’ letter has been problematic. Another is that Martin Luther termed it an epistle of straw, because in the Reformation as they battled against corrupt indulgences the Reformers did not like the concept of faith/works being intertwined. It rung to them of a salvation earned, not freely given. Which as you study the history of the Reformation, rise of Nationalist church, Ana-baptist and Free Church responses creates a quagmire outside of the text.

But this is a dialogue on the text.

What is shown is a close relative of Jesus’ growing up, has risen to leadership and presents a very succinct Gospel message. One that mystics and monastics have discovered and attempted to get the church universal back on track with. Or as Brother Francis phrased it:

Preach the Gospel everywhere you go, when all else fails, use words.

Our life of compassion and kindness is what shows our faith. It is our gospel story that we right. For the term gospel is about a political life proclamation. For good or ill.

That is what James’ words are trying to get the community then and now to understand. What story do your actions tell?

What proclamation is your life lived writing?

What is your gospel?

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

-James (English Standard Version) 2:14-17


One of the greatest lies we tell ourselves is that normal is a universal precept. It is not. Each and every one of us is normal for our journey of life. We each have experiences, positive and negative, glorious and disastrous, and sometimes awesome or monstrous…yet that is normal for our life journey.

Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.

-Matthew 5:28

bookAs Martella-Whitsett aptly points out in her 2011 How to Pray without Talking to God, the word perfect in the original language is teleios, which is more aptly translated as wholeness (p.129). That is Brother Jesus is pointing out that we are already whole, living in the Divine Life is we choose to accept and live into it. Or we can accept the negative, and not realize that there is something beyond. That is continue to live within the “what ifs” or “what won’t happen” or “woe is me” narrative that becomes so much easier to exist within thus we create the false teaching within the Law of Attraction that you have brought this upon yourself (or in Biblical times, who sinned to create this condition?).

A something wrong consciousness is not a reality but a limited perception. A consciousness of separation is not a truth but a choice. Consciousness is pivotal.

(Martella-Whitsett p. 135)

Image may contain: textConsciousness is what we do with challenges and successes. It is not advocating for the slippery slope in some fundamentalist healing sects/meta-physics that our minds can cure everything or Spirit/God can by using the right incantation of words of “Truth”.

It is standing in your wholeness. Some would call it the image bearer of the divine, others in unity with the divine. Yet that is wholeness, affirming that spark of divinity that is within you, and you are just as you are meant to be.

This has been an important re-affirmation for my family. We have found sometimes within the disabilities community families can be so wrapped in grief for loss of what they believe normal is… they do not experience the beauty, wonder and wholeness that is with them or is them.

Or in Martella-Whitsett’s words (p.137):

Healing is the activity of recovery, repair and restoration, correcting a consciousness that had veered away from wholeness. In other words, we heal ourselves by cultivating a consciousness of wholeness.

How do you do that?

Martella-Whitsett outlines a practice that is all too familiar. Words may change, but the practice/disciplines are essentially the same. Sacred reading. Time in communion (prayer/meditation); Self-examin (affirmation/denial); community of spirituality; and journalling (words or images)…

Because it is in the moments of pausing from the busyness and noise of life that we can draw deeper into the Holy Mystery. We resonate with the Holy Breath that was breathed into us at creation, and the star dust within activates.

Or as bluntly as the reverend puts it in her book (p. 137):

God does not heal! God is wholeness.

And we re-encounter and renew that wholeness by time spent.

What is your steps into wholeness this week?


Faith, Leadership and Public Life

If you were to drop Woodsworth’s Bible it is said to have opened to Luke 10 (Good  Samaritan)….Drop Aberhart’s open to John 3 (Personal Salvation). p.287-288

Some say religion/spirituality and politics should not mix. It is an extreme view. I hold that one’s religious/spiritual beliefs should not be imposed on another due to legislative-political power, but if one truly holds core values within the spiritual realm you cannot set them aside if you are called to pursue a political vocation. It was a question raised in the debates in 2006 when I ran, as a Third Order Franciscan, and answering honestly that my religion would not be left out for it is intrinsically part of me and informs my social conscience, yet that does not mean I cannot and would not represent those within the multi-cultural riding I lived if elected.

It is a challenge, and in Preston Manning’s 2017 book, Faith, Leadership and Public Life: Leadership Lessons from Moses to Jesus that Manning touches upon. Mr. Manning has a strong Evangelical faith that has shaped his political career, and it is a generational call as his father, Ernest, was an Alberta MLA, Premier, and Senator, What is aptly shown in the words and journey of Preston is that faith is not one sided. He writes of the spectrum of Christians (and one can extrapolate to all peoples) that have entered public life. J.S. Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas with the CCF (on the left) and his father, and William Aberhart with Social Credit (on the right), but the same belief structure governing it; if not a different perspective on emphasis.

The book walks through lessons from the life of Jesus of Nazareth; Moses; David; and what Manning terms the Exiles (Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Joseph, Ezra and Nehemiah). I may not always have agreed with his perspective– i.e. the Conservative Party Merger; or that David was an adulteror (readers know I list the Bathsheba incident as rape). But there is wisdom in Manning’s writings that if one can step outside the rhetoric of entrenched ideology they can see what is being laid out.

A path of conscience. Yes, Mr. Manning is more socially conservative than I (though some days the wife points out the NDP can be more socially conservative than I); but he lays out for spiritual leadership an authentic path. One that walks much like the mystics and monastics of our ancestors in developing a Spiritual Rule (laid out in my book, Pilgrimage to the Heart of the Sacred): Daily Spiritual practice and examin.

He also writes of humility and humbleness in leadership. Why are we leading? He gives two examples as he shows the intertwining of his faith and politics:

At the end of the day, perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from Moses is that true leadership isn’t about the leader. It’s about serving someone and something greater. (p.179)

and

“It’s like trying to drive a car down the road while looking in the rear-view mirror. The most likely result will be a crash– and that will be your legacy.”

-Ernest Manning

We do what we do as leaders, not because of our legacy, or the esteem/power that comes, but because we are called to serve those we lead and do something to make this world better. The book also carries wisdom on a leader whose hardest battles will not be the attacks from outside, but when one inside your organization/church/party attacks you for who you are. Also areas touching on how to whether storms, look into yourself and remain healthy:

Particularly relevant to anyone in a pressure-packed occupation is the fact that most of us very much need a safe and cathartic outlet for our emotions, especially our fear and anxieties. Otherwise we unhealthily suppress them or vent them at the wrong time, in the wrong way and in the wrong place. (p.223).

A trusted support network. Some that are professionals (counsellors, spiritual directors, coaches, mentors) and a strong personal network. The term network may seem business or techno-centric. When I was working life recovery for those leaving youth corrections they used “Circles of Support” with the balance on the life map being more personal than professional. It means family and friends that are supportive and encouraging more than those that tear you down (and I believe we all know folks like that).

Between the Rule of Life; knowing one’s vocation; having the support; and being a support it may be possible to live as a healthy leader. Manning touches upon the need within religious framework to re-assert the need for reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians; care for creation and charity as other key points.

Manning’s third book was a good read. It challenged in some areas; reaffirmed in others. At some instances I outright disagreed, but there is tied in personal anecdotes with his lay theology. The main question that should arise as one reads through the chapters:

What are the take aways for my journey?

How do I commune with the Holy (what is your spiritual practice)?

 

 


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?