Posts Tagged ‘Luke’


It is astounding that almost 2,000 years on one still has to spend time writing about what it means to be welcoming, hospitality even. It is ancient customs that have been forgotten. In our ideological entrenchment of life it has become challenging, because far far too many are to fixated on carving out their space. That is this is mine, not yours bugger off. Which truly when you read the ancient story in the Hebrew Bible of Sodom & Gomorrah, this is what drove to their destruction. A lack of welcome, hospitality. See the villagers saw the newcomers as nothing more than sex toys and property, Lot was no Image may contain: textbetter offering up his daughters as property. It was the lines in the sand. The pissing match. The violence, and power assertion to make one feel like the other, less than. Really it was taking an eraser to the Imageo Dei, and well it didn’t end too well for those places as a result.

Yet we forget these lessons, because we cloak it in falsity to push fog issue political agendas to ascend to power. To keep the masses dosed healthily on the opioids of life, that is using religion as a way to distract and detract from the Missio Dei that Jesus was quite blunt about…that whole thing of the Kingdom here, loving neighbour, self, and God in a holy circle that is to constantly be drawn wider. Physically accessible, spiritually inclusive, and emotionally a space of belonging. That’s right, you are here, and you will be missed if you are not.

This is what Jesus was seeking to equip his disciples for when he sent them out. The Gospel story from Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 lays out what is being sought. He sent them out 2×2 (my YouTube channel has a look at this from a leadership perspective):

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

-Luke 10:1-12 (English Standard Version)

Pretty good depth growth for a movement, from 12 disciples doing life with Jesus to 72. That’s 36 teams going out to pretty much the parts of the world they could get to by foot. It is totally relying on the kindness of strangers as Blanche would say in a Streetcar named Desire. These are the types of passages Mendicant (open hand, beggars) orders like the Franciscans look to with their spiritual formation. This idea of reliance on God in the image of others to open their homes, and lives to you, as you would open up your world to them.

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Now Jesus is not naive, he knows that everyone is not going to be living this way. The ancient world had caste systems. A hierarchy of citizenship and other. The Romans could treat these folks like cattle or worse, and even the religious of their own spiritual path had ways to create division and otherness. It was not an easy trip they were being commissioned to under take, yet if the town was open to the ideas and the Holy Heart, they would be cared for. Reciprocal interdependent relationships where all gifts are used. If they were not open to the Holy Heart, they were to carry on.

So many bemoan the death of Christendom, and this loss of alleged and supposed power and control in society. Yes some decent things came out of church basements around human rights, health care, and public education. Yet way too many atrocities were allowed to be brushed aside as a result of the clerical collar and heretical use of the Holy Scriptures. The end of the yearned for times of old, means the end of the heresy and hiding of the shadow side. It is a time of authenticity as he dust our feet off, and say no. Yet turn to the light that has shone through and continue the path there. The question is as religious oppressors continue to fight for the limelight much like Sodom & Gomorrah, will we let them, or will we point to Jesus’ way of hospitality and Holy Love?

I will simply close with the words of Luke here:

 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

-Luke 10:16-20 (ESV)

If one was to look at your life, where is your name written?

Are you living the life of hospitality?

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Image may contain: textBefore we dive in, just a reminder if you are in Calgary on July 12 and looking for something to do…discover the journey of PTSD-PNES at Dalhousie Community Church 6:30-9:00 p.m. contact Kelly at Restore Counselling.

Oh, and YouTube videos will return shortly… But today we are taken to a passage that has more than likely been misused in its time in the Lectionary of Christendom. Christendom for those who don’t know is the term of the Empire Church established by Constantine in 325 CE after conversion and making Christianity the official religion of the Empire, up until the early 1990’s I would say. There has been gasps ala the Quiet Revolution in Quebec to remove Christianity from political power and control, and as we are now 1/5th into the 21st Century the life support is coming off and this heresy is dying. It leaves many questioning what is the point of church? Why bother? It also leaves some who are used to absolute authority to have to wrestle through the new-old normal. That is that church needs to show (not tell, the old writer’s adage) the relevancy of God’s love in the here and now of our community. There is no silver bullet or plug and play program for this, it is authentic relationships, and being like Jesus, and being okay with rejection and moving on in our Missio Dei. 

The Gospel reading from the Lectionary on June 30, 2019, which in Canada was the Sunday we celebrated Canada Day , for my family it was a beautiful road trip out to a small town church where hospitality was felt. This ol’ Dad used to fighting for his son’s right to worship, was, well it was dust in my eyes honest (nope it was tears when I was told it’s okay he is worshiping God his way let him)…So if you are in Vulcan on a Sunday, I encourage you to take in worship at the Church of Christ, oh and the Trek Station (yes the Trekkie in me is strong).

But I digress…let us begin to unpack Luke 9:51-62:

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them.[b] 56 And they went on to another village.

-Luke 9:51-56 (English Standard Version)

The Samaritans are the whipping posts of Ancient Israel (for more on Samaritans come out to Centennial Presbyterian July 14 for my sermon, or check out the upload at 9 p.m. that day). They are a people of mixed heritage, from the ancient Israelites’ in exile from the Hebrew Bible prophets who intermarried with the captors and created a new nation. They worship differently, they understand their relationship to God as the same, but different. Jerusalem is not the centre of their story, rather it is Mount Gerizim. In Jesus’ journey of discipling his followers he had to ensure they had been exposed to the expansive religious practices of God’s children and to be equipped as to what to do with rejection.

See, this resonates a little with me on this journey I am currently on. It is showing, he does not bring wrath, he rebukes the refusal of hospitality. The refusal of greeting the Imageo Dei of one another and living out of the Great Commandments. It had nothing to do with how they had chosen to worship. We can create divisions easily in our world, and now with the onset of Social Media and search engine algorithms it has become increasingly easier to avoid any dissenting or different opinions on matters. It is a system that allows for fear and anxiety to grow.

What happens though when we authentically listen to understand rather that to be understood or to respond? When we hear another’s pain, and acknowledge it? We let that be held in the Holy Silence. What happens when we look beyond the labels and the coding put on one another, so that what is seen is that beautiful image we are crafted in? For me it is sad these passages hit the lectionary in the summer months, the time traditionally in Canada when churches shut down their mission, how many will hear these words? Wrestle with this understanding of inclusion and belonging? That it is okay to be different and be together?

Breaking down of labels, conservative or progressive, what about Gospel? Let us jointly call out the hate and bastardization of our faith by others and show the message as it truly is.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[c] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

-Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)

Don’t look back. It is a weird conundrum of the Christendom walk when we speak of testimonies. The story of our faith. We usually focus on the come to Jesus moment, yet here is an allegory reminding us not to fixate upon the past, but to embrace the present and live in the love. The testimony can be a psychological trap never to move out of, but really what it should be is a re-write of this has happened, but then there was a course correction of actualization, realization, and renewal in which I attuned to the Holy Spirit within that breathed life into me.

Love comes alive.

Are we willing to live in the glory of our diversity in our unity? Or like those in the stories today, are we going to allow “difference” and “yearning for the past” to keep us apart?

What is your choice?

________________________________

A 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. Buy e-book or Trade Paperback from Amazon.ca here.


There are many questions that swirl around as one continues wrestling through the echoes of the past trying, and sometimes succeeding, in shaping your identity today. It has been a quiet time of reflection, and truly just getting my memories under control to be able to continue to write these reflections on the Sunday Lectionary readings. These readings are from June 23, 2019…but as I cracked opened my bible on Thursday in the Husky House, I can tell you there was some empathy for where the Prophet Elijah was at in his journey in 1 Kings 19:1-15

Elijah is left in the shadows, his journey and despair is what I have felt in the midst of PNES/PTSD. Have I made a difference? Is it worthwhile to continue to worry about healing, or simply accept the hear and now? Elijah, literally is at the point of despair where he wants death to conclude it. It is the spectrum of feelings one can begin to experience when things go askew with our life, whether personally, professionally (collectively?) or with loved ones.

Yet, The Holy Mystery does not respond by quickness of reinvigorated life or simply death for the faithful servant on the lamb. Nope, it is a laid out expansive life as Elijah is taken through another journey. Yet it is a journey of illustration outside of Israel. It is letting Elijah live the inclusive and expansive love God has intended all along, not one little sliver has it right, but rather for all… Taking a broader look which can be hard in the shadows by ourselves, yet showing that it takes an outside agent to move through. In a way, the story with the Syrian king, Elijah and God, is a living breathing story of the Shema. That is love God with everything, love of neighbour as self.

The lectionary continues to challenge on this theme of love to emerge from the shadow, from the pain, but that it is in community as the Psalmist cries out. The Psalms are a beautiful collection of songs, hymns and prayers that pull no punches. They give an authentic window into life, and that even the spiritual life is filled with all the “feels” (that is the spectrum of emotion). It is life lived, like any life. Yet, for the spiritual, the why of life is understood at a deeper level, a level of holiness. And that holiness can be ugly, especially in the darkness as Psalm 42 sings out.

And the singing out continues in Psalm 43 that shows the Psalmist seeking out hope in the darkness. Hope, such a small word, yet one that can carry so much power in life when looking for healing. Looking for a way out of the shadow. It answers the why question. I know my recovery is going well, and that has a lot to do with my wife and kids, but also the friends that did not abandon us, and even within the darkest times still having sparks of being taken out. Keeping a semblance of what the old normal was as the journey into the shadow time, and the emergent light of hope continued.

This week’s lectionary gave us an alternative writing of a prophet, and a Psalm. The Psalm snippet came from Psalm 22:19-28, Psalm 22 is famous in kitchy Christianities because the opening line is quoted by Jesus on the Cross, as the Psalmist literally cries out to the justice the Prophets taught. Writing a reminder, an affirmation if you will of the source of all.

The prophet that is shared is a “major prophet” which literally is deemed such just cause it is a long book. I do love to wrestle through the writing of the prophets in group studies, I tend to avoid preaching on them from the pulpit. The reason is that they are layered, and best unpacked in conversation. I find when preached on they easily become these Thou Shalt NOT texts, or bastardized into a futuristic text which is not the intent. These are people called by God into a role like the Judges, they are meant to keep the people out of exile, or while in exile to encourage and exhort and point out what needs to be shed to come back to the roots. Come back to the roots, see every movement has roots, yet we tend to avoid the hard conversations, it is the avoidance of these holy conversations, that we leave rot in the roots so that death happens to the gathering. This is what the role of the prophets were, the voice to kick start and maintain the holy conversation.

Isaiah is a book that some hold was written by one prophet, some scholars stipulate 2 or three prophets wrote it in movements. The works are during the Assyrian Empire’s control and conquering of Israel. The prophets pointed back towards the Just Society God had laid out, as we saw with Elijah’s story the Great Commandments and what that means for a healthy transformational society, but also that it is not easy, and that love carries through the shadow.

Here in 65:1-9 Isaiah is speaking, in my humble opinion, to a people in their adolescence if we are to borrow from lifespan development. They have been pushing boundaries,and discovering the why of life. They have seen and felt the consequences for always doing things as they have been done (exile not fun), and no the early adolescence selfishness is not working.  The ground work has been laid, but will the message go in one ear and out the other, or land in the mind, or more importantly the heart. That through this comes growth, and in that growth one must find hope.

It is these holy texts that Jesus of Nazareth was formed, and taught, as well as one of the lead apostles of the early church, Paul. Paul wrote to the gathering in Galatia:

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

-Galatians 3:23-29 (New Revised Standard Version)

It is the path out of the shadow. It is faith. It is doing the work to go deep with self and neighbour. And in going deep, you see the holy in one another. You see each other as created, the Imageo Dei (Image of God). Paul is pointing out that the oppressive rules created to make spaces of exclusion in the Holy have been eliminated. That the oppressive castes created by the Empire have been erased. What is left is simply, the beloved and blessed creation of the family of God.

Let that settle in.

Do we gather and live as such?

The final piece of the puzzle that this builds to is in Luke 8:26-39. Luke was one of Paul’s disciples. A disciple is someone that does life with another, to learn and grow. Luke was a physician who set out to right a history of the early church, and this was done in two books in the Christian Testament, Luke and Acts. This story comes from Jesus’ time of travelling, teaching and healing.

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes,[a] which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn[b] no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus[c] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons[d] begged Jesus[e] to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes[f]asked Jesus[g] to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus[h] sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version)

An ancient voice sees a man tormented by many demons, it can be literal (been involved in some exorcisms in the modern era myself) or an allegory for unpacking mental health. Could this be a former soldier so traumatized that he is experiencing Dissociative Identity Disorder? Both are plausibilities. How one sees Legion’s affliction is secondary to the story, if completely irrelevant.

What Jesus sees is an Imageo Dei; what the religious and people saw was a label. A label designed not to figure out how Legion could be a part of community, but a label to keep Legion out of community. To make him feel less than. To make him fully understand by those “religous authority” that he was not loved by God, and was a less than Image of…

What the story here is with Jesus, is Jesus looking at, a neighbour, a friend…one that needs kindness. Accessibility when Jesus goes forward to talk. Legion has his back up as he is expecting the B.S. that has left his outcast, and instead Jesus opens up. That is the first step, can one even enter the community? The next is Jesus affirms that he is an image bearer, for he challenges the shadow that keeps him, he lays out hope. Inclusion if you will, the circle is being drawn wide enough there is a place for Legion to wrestle his demons and perhaps the hope of healing.

Finally hope is answered…he is sent into the community as a full member.

Belonging.

Nothing changed about who the authentic Legion was. Despair met Hope. In Hope, Legion knew there was more than the shadows and the demons, more than the labels.

This is the core of Pentecost, erasing that which keeps us apart.

Are we willing though is the question?


1 To Theophilus.

The first book I wrote was about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up into heaven. Before this, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the apostles he had chosen what they should do. After his death, he showed himself to them and proved in many ways that he was alive. The apostles saw Jesus during the forty days after he was raised from the dead, and he spoke to them about the kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he told them not to leave Jerusalem. He said, “Wait here to receive the promise from the Father which I told you about. John baptized people with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

-Acts of the Apostles 1:1-5 (New Century Version, NCV)

Been a bit behind in my reflections on different scriptures. This one has been percolating since Mother’s Day (in Anglican tradition Mothering Sunday; and other traditions Christian Family Sunday). The scripture that falls on this day is traditionally stated to have been written by Luke, the Physician, the one that travelled and had a falling out with Paul. His sequel, Acts of the Apostles, to his Gospel, the second part of what speaks to a “historical account” of the early church. That is trying to show the gospel story for those who have been disenfranchised by their society, it also touches upon Trinitarian language (language of the Trinity alluded to in scripture, adopted by Constantinian Christendom), but more on that later.

When the apostles were all together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, are you now going to give the kingdom back to Israel?”

Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.”

After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 As he was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go.”

-Acts of Apostles 1:6-11 (NCV)

Many have seen Hebrew Bible story throw backs to Elijah or Enoch. Enoch of course being tied to the texts that aids in the building upon of Paleo-Seti theology (Ancient Alien Theory). It is the idea of a human ascending from this life. In this moment Luke is conveying the concept of Jesus as an ascendant master, a concept that would have been available to a group meeting within a major centre due to the Roman Roads network. It also lays a passage of how we will recognize the second coming of Jesus. But truly reflect on that passage, come back in the same way you saw him go.

Some have used this to speak to rapture/second coming end of the world language. But what if it is less violent than that? What if it is those mystery-mystical-random acts of kindness experiences that seek no recompense? What if it is what simply has been being stated in every vision of Mary of Nazareth since her son’s ascension and hers (more thoughts on Mary of Nazareth here). That is, as we have seen Jesus go through life, transfiguration, death, resurrection and transition is the journey of the soul for each of us, and through us the essence of his life and teachings will transfigure this world.

Yet in this text rooted is the choosing of the new life to replace that which succumbed to the darkness in Judas Iscariot:

12 Then they went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. (This mountain is about half a mile from Jerusalem.) 13 When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon (known as the Zealot), and Judas son of James were there. 14 They all continued praying together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers.

15 During this time there was a meeting of the believers (about one hundred twenty of them). Peter stood up and said, 16-17 “Brothers and sisters, in the Scriptures the Holy Spirit said through David something that must happen involving Judas. He was one of our own group and served together with us. He led those who arrested Jesus.” 18 (Judas bought a field with the money he got for his evil act. But he fell to his death, his body burst open, and all his intestines poured out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem learned about this so they named this place Akeldama. In their language Akeldama means “Field of Blood.”) 20 “In the Book of Psalms,” Peter said, “this is written:

‘May his place be empty;
leave no one to live in it.’  And it is also written:

‘Let another man replace him as leader.” 21-22 “So now a man must become a witness with us of Jesus’ being raised from the dead. He must be one of the men who were part of our group during all the time the Lord Jesus was among us—from the time John was baptizing people until the day Jesus was taken up from us to heaven.”

23 They put the names of two men before the group. One was Joseph Barsabbas, who was also called Justus. The other was Matthias. 24-25 The apostles prayed, “Lord, you know the thoughts of everyone. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to do this work. Show us who should be an apostle in place of Judas, who turned away and went where he belongs.” 26 Then they used lots to choose between them, and the lots showed that Matthias was the one. So he became an apostle with the other eleven.

-Acts of Apostles 1:12-26 (NCV)

Why would this text be important on Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day? Simple, too often our created patriarchal church structure has silenced the all to important divine feminine. Silenced the women at the tomb. The women that sacrificed and worked to support the mission of Jesus of Nazareth and his men. The woman that chose a different path that what society said was “right and just” for her non-entity status. A woman that chose to stand and watch that same society destroy her child.

Yet that same woman, was the mother of a movement. Mary of Nazareth held authority in the early community because of the balance of divine feminine and masculine that Jesus taught. The different way, the getting right with creation where God/YHWH/Holy Mystery created humanity in their image- Male and Female. Both. Together. The replacement was divined through many ways of understanding, but in the midst of the story, is that Mary is the one that called for it, and ascended to it. Without her and the other matriarchs would the movement have survived the crucifixion?

Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday holds truer to the roots of the scripture of a Matriarch. Or perhaps it is because I have seen how many traditions have misused the concept of “Christian Family Sunday.” Thought to embrace the diversity that is the Christian world, instead another way to sideline the marginalized voice, the matriarch, the divine feminine and assert the religious right idea of patriarchy. While Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday still allows for the deviance that was the original movement, for it speaks to the women (however they identify) that allowed us to become who we were truly meant to be.

For that is the story of Mary, and the strength she had in mentoring, letting, releasing, and loving her son to speak love into the world…and all that came from those four letters upon their family.


Mendicant. It is Latin, and as such appears to hold airs of awe-ness. Yet when the word is translated it means open hand or to be more abrupt how it was used back in the 13th century for Francis of Assisi and his circle of friends—pan handler, beggar. That which we attempt to continually criminalize today. Those that seek a share of blessings of others, and then continue to spread out from there.

For Franciscans Mendicant is a call to remember where the blessings and possessions flow from. The Source of the Holy Mystery that will continue to provide, given that the flow is continued within the blessings to continually move out and not store up.

The teaching of the Exodus Story as the people wandered, Quail and Manna was sent each day to be gathered, on the 6th day, there was more so an extra portion could be gathered. When there was attempt to horde, it rotted.

In Acts 5:1-10 the physician Luke recounts this tale of the early church:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

A desire to remind the community the source of blessings, the choice to openly share, the need not to lie or horde. The choice to live out of the love of the Holy Mystery within. If you would like a bonus spiritual practice, take this story and write it from the perspective of Ananias or Sapphira, what is revealed about your own journey?

These thoughts bring us into meditating upon the Aquarian gospel 111:

Jesus teaches. A man requests him to compel his brother to deal justly. Jesus reveals the divine law, the power of truth and the universality of possessions. Relates the parable of the rich man and his abundant harvest.

1. And Jesus taught the multitudes; and while he spoke a man stood forth and said,
2. Rabboni, hear my plea: My father died and left a large estate; my brother seized it all, and now refuses me my share.
3. I pray that you will bid him do the right, and give what is mine.
4. And Jesus said, I am not come to be a judge in such affairs; I am no henchman of the court.
5. God sent me not to force a man to do the right.
6. In every man there is a sense of right; but many men regard it not.
7. The fumes that rise from selfishness have formed a crust about their sense of right that veils their inner light, so that they cannot comprehend nor recognise the rights of other men.
8. This veil you cannot tear away by force of arms, and there is naught that can dissolve this crust but knowledge and love of God.
9. While men are in the mire, the skies seem far away; when men are on the mountain top, the skies are near, and they can almost touch the stars.
10. Then Jesus turned and to the twelve he said, Behold the many in the mire of carnal life!
11. The leaven of truth will change the miry clay to solid rock, and men can walk and find the path that leads up to the mountain top.
12. You cannot haste; but you can scatter forth this leaven with a generous hand.
13. When men have learned the truth that bears upon its face the law of right, then they will haste to every man his dues.
14. Then to the people Jesus said, Take heed, and covet not. The wealth of men does not consist in what they seem to have–in lands, in silver and in gold.
15. These things are only borrowed wealth. No man can corner up the gifts of God.
16. The things of nature are the things of God, and what is God’s belongs to every man alike.
17. The wealth of soul lies in the purity of life, and in the wisdom that descends from heaven.
18. Behold, a rich man’s ground brought forth abundantly; his barns were far too small to hold his grain, and to himself he said,
19. What shall I do? I must not give my grain away; I must not let it go to waste; and then he said,
20. This will I do; I will tear down these little barns and built up larger ones; there I will store away my grain and I will say,
21. My soul take now your ease; you have enough for many years; eat, drink and fill yourself and be content.
22. But God looked down and saw the man; he saw his selfish heart and said,
23. You foolish man, this night your soul will quit its house of flesh; then who will have your garnered wealth?
24. You men of Galilee, lay not up treasures in the vaults of earth; accumulated wealth will blight your soul.
25. God does not give men wealth to hoard away in secret vaults. Men are but stewards of God’s wealth, and they must use it for the common good.
26. To every steward who is true to self, to other men, to every thing that is, the Lord will say, Well done.

Get comfortable, and prepare to enter the story. Slow your breathing down. Feel the chair you are in melt away. Feel the room fall away. Move back into the time of the ancestors. In the gathered market place, you have travelled from a small centre to hear the travelling labourer turned teacher. The words you have heard of this man speaking have shaken up the wealthy in your town, and scare the religious leaders.

 

  1. As you hear Brother Jesus for the first time, let the words truly sink in. When were you lost in the mire? When were you like the farmer trying to horde away all the crops and letting them rot instead of trusting provision. What emotions does it bring up? What memory really sticks out? Sit with the memory and what happened within it? What is revealed of your heart in these moments in your journey?
  2. As you hear Brother Jesus for the second time, let the words truly sink in. When has the clay slipped away to allow you to ascend the mountain top? What memories come up in the moment when you know you were in sync with the Holy Mystery, a true mendicant? Stay with the feelings. What opens within your soul?
  3. As the words tumble from Brother Jesus’ lips a third time Let the heart of the Holy Mystery become one with yours. Where are you being called to wealth and wisdom within your vocational life? Sit with this call and let it resonate within you. Are you ready to take the first step?

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal. Feel the dust vanish. The noises of the market place vanish. You travel forward in time, feel the room reshape around you. Your chair again. When you are ready open your eyes.

The call is as simple as when Jesus offered Peter the keys to the kingdom. He stands in your heart, all is connected. The Cosmic Christ offering you the keys to the kingdom. Are you ready:

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e]loosed in heaven.”

-Matthew 16:17-19

To answer are you ready for your call, re-read the passage above from Matthew, only replace Simon, Son of Jonah, with your first name and who your parents are, replace Peter with your name. Now re-read it 3 times, pausing each time to let the words and sentiment truly set in.

Our Brother Jesus has laid out a path of unity and oneness for the family of humanity, it is simply bound together in L-O-V-E. The Cosmic Christ holds the key to unlock Universal love for you.

Are you open to stepping out of materialism, and into the Holy Mystery?


Location: Kitchen of the Rainbow Chapel.

Presider: Friar Ty

Altar dressed with Communion elements; four Advent Candles, Christ Candle, Gingerbread house made for Jesus, Mary & Joseph to return to from Egypt by the Children; statue of Our Lady of Mount St. Carmel, statue of St. Francis of Assisi

Opening Prayer:

From Mother Theresa:

Jesus in my heart,The Altar of Gift-Mass, celebrating the five gifts Mary's saying yes birthed into this world.

Increase my faith,

Strengthen my faith,

Let me live this faith

Through living

humble oberdience.

Amen.

Gathering Psalm: Psalm 150

Candle one:

Gift: Peace

Story: Desmond Tutu‘s story of the Noses

Song: Let there be Peace on Earth

Candle of Peace is lit.

Candle Two:

Gift: Hope

Story: Mother Teresa’s wedding gifting story

Song: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Candle of Hope is lit.

Candle Three:

Gift: Faith

Story: Francis and the Lepers

Song: Peace Like a River (with actions)

Candle of Faith is lit

Candle Four:

Gift: Joy

Song: Joy in my Heart

Story: Mary Said Yes, Mary visits Elizabeth Luke 1:26-56

Song: Jingle Bells

Candle of Joy is Lit

Christ Candle

Gift: Love

Story: Here come the Shepherds (Luke 2:1-21)

Song: Jesus loves me

Prayers of thanksgiving from the gathered family

Eucharist:

Story of Friends, where Jesus calls us his beloved friends which for today means we are family.

The Bread of Life Given for you

The Cup of Promise poured out for you

Alleluia.

Closing Prayer:

Our Lady of the Yukon

Arise- go! Sell all you possess…give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me – going to the poor- being poor- being one with them- one with Me.

Little- be always little…simple-poor- childlike,

Preach the Gospel with your life- without compromise – listen to the Spirit – He will lead you.

Do little things exceedingly weel for love of Me.

Love-love-love, never counting the cost.

Go into the market place and stay with Me … pray … fast … pray always… fast

Be hidden – be alight to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fears into the depths of men’s hearts . .. I shall be with you.

Pray always. I will be your rest.

Amen.

 
The Altar of Gift-Mass, celebrating the five gifts Mary’s saying yes birthed into this world.

From the Children, joining hands around the altar, singing “Let their be peace on Earth”

 


English: Saint Luke the Evangelist. Russian Ea...

English: Saint Luke the Evangelist. Russian Eastern Orthodox icon from Russia. 18th century. Wood, tempera. Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. He is considered one of the Four Evangelists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Introduction

St. Paul of Tarsus is a divisive figure within the church today (much as he was in his day). The challenge of St. Paul is not simply his writing, but his life lived out prior to conversion and post-conversion. This short paper will be examining a treatise on the life of St. Paul just prior to the turn of the 20th century. The challenge is that the writer of this work has expounded nothing new, or rarely anything that would not have been evident through an inductive reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles.

W.M. Ramsay with the flair of the era puts pen to paper to craft St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen. The text attempts to bridge what is historically known of the life and times of Paul, while balancing it with the written record by Paul, and his followers (ala Luke author of Acts). Ramsay leans on Paul’s writings to prove one of his theories that Christianity is not just a religion, but a system of living life as action (p.13). Through this concept a summary of the work will be prepared, followed by interpretation of some key points within the text as seen by this writer.

Summary

Ramsay set out a synopsis of the historical record typologies (p.13-14) to give the reader and understanding of where he had been. The summary itself of the work is to provide an understanding of who Saul of Tarsus was and who he became on the road to Damascus as he became Paul of Christ. Ramsay expounds on the privilege that Paul was born into as a Pharisaic Jew (p.29) to a family in Tarsus of the Roman Empire (p.27). This is the link that Paul would later use to escape some tortures as he was a citizen of Rome, as a full blooded Tarsian since his family roots most likely dated back to the refounding of the city under Antiochus IV circa 175-164 B.C. (Ramsay, p.27).

This wealthy young man was classically trained by a powerful religious sect of his time, whose family had station and prominence within Jewish circles. All this ended for Saul of Tarsus as on the Road to Damascus he heard the voice of Jesus calling him Home. As the Apostle called out to the gentiles, his wealthy family saw not an Apostle, but rather an apostate (Ramsay, p.29). This new standing Paul brought led to his disowning by his family, loss of personal wealth and safety. Yet it did not remove his Roman citizenship.

St. Paul Traveler and Roman Citizen is a work that takes the reader through a biographical outline of the life and times of St. Paul of Christ.  This life though due to the age of the text can lead one to not fully comprehend the movement of academic discoveries which will be touched upon next.

Interpretation

As Ramsay borrows from the Biblical text that Paul had a fixed and steady gaze (p.30) it is with bemusement this writer can see the subject looking upon his biographer the same way. Luke, a fellow traveler with Paul wrote two books Luke-Acts which could have been two parts of a trilogy cut short, but it is the work of Acts of the Apostles that Ramsay uses to not only place Paul’s letters in historical context but also interpret them (p.41). Is this a proper reading of the letters?

Ramsay’s hypothesis is that this physician cum historian took his role seriously and sought out the sources to authenticate the historical premise of his writing (p.62). This does a disservice to the ancient methodology of communicating truth espoused by such theologians as John Shelby Spong and Matthew Fox, as well as historians John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. The idea of literalism and modernity’s take on historicity is not what the purpose of the writing was. Yes, there were facts but there is also a method of allegory, metaphor, and understanding of the movement of story.

For it is this drive for literalism that has Ramsay still wrestling with what Paul’s thorn in the flesh is? Could this simply be an allegorical device, much like the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John, to allow the reader entry into the story to realize we each have our own thorn to live with? Instead, Ramsay postulates that the thorn is a species of chronic malaria fever (p.59) which comes out after he writes eloquently that it is this recurring illness that leads Paul to preach to the churches of Galatia (p.58).

Through the use of needing to discern one meaning, the ability of the Holy Spirit to speak to the reader through their own life circumstance and experience of the believer when they come to the text in an open prayerful form is hindered. This is the challenge with texts written in the modern mind they tend to pigeon hole God into one way of being, while there is the challenge of the lacking of mystery within liberal spheres at least the liberal method of coming to scripture does tend to open one up to multi-layered and themed meanings.

Ramsay may be weak in some areas, but there are nuggets hidden within his text. The paralleling of the Roman education with the Christian is one of these gems. The goal of Rome, as with many empires, is the unification and education of their populations with the Empire’s ideas (Ramsay, p. 63) and that the idea of fruition for Romans was only for amusement (p.78). This was the antithesis of what was found in Pauline teachings of the Church for their concept of fruition was not only for amusement, but feeding (p.78) and this led to classes where education and work go hand in hand that created bonds for the lower classes of the Empire with this new religious sect due to relevancy within life (p.78). The unique trick is that the way this policy worked itself out did not anger the Empire at first, as it appeared Christianity was not opposing the Empire’s systems but rather supplementing them (p.79).

For the astute Biblical student the educational pedagogy of the Pauline church shows how the church used the system, subverted it to its own aims of conversion and growth within the Great Commission. Ramsay grows this idea by hypothesizing that Paul had grand dreams for a religion that spread to the corners of the Empire, being mirrored within Paul’s travels to Rome then Spain (p. 139). Obviously Paul was not content with localized evangelization or discipling, one has to ponder if this quest for expansion was driven by the loss of wealth and position at his conversion?

It is questions that begin to arise as the reader connects the life snippets that are never addressed within Ramsay’s work that leaves the reader feeling isolated and not knowing where to take their inquiry next.

But following this expansionist, wounded pride hypothesis, more evidence is laid out by Ramsay himself. Due to Paul’s raising, education, and political training he astutely understood how to leverage positioning within the Empire for expansion. For Paul planted the first fully gentile congregation outside of the synagogue system within Pisidian Antioch (p.63). It is the outreach to the gentiles that created the controversy within the early church, but if Paul had not taken the gospel out of the synagogue there is a strong possibility that when the church had been expulsed from the synagogues it would have died. This shows Paul’s forethought, and understanding of religious dynamics that this writer can only attest to his time as a Pharisee, and member of the Sanhedrin.

This astuteness was also relevant when it came to first contacts for planting churches. The example used by Ramsay is that of the city of Ephesus which was the seat of government for Asia (p.148) and as such was a hub for travel, communication and ability to affect change. This was reflected in the Asian churches later revealed in Revelations (Ramsay, p.149) where all within the spheres of influence of Ephesus.

The idea of planned and systematic growth is old hat for religious movements today, but could it be that Paul was not only a traveler but a pioneer in this style of evangelism? Historically the church would see a repeat of this with Celtic Monastics spreading out throughout the world in the Middle Ages, but then shortly after the founders of churches left the communities themselves would implode. Paul’s plants showed staying power as they were able to survive the tumultuous times of the early church.

His mystery spirituality style of Christianity overlaid James, Bishop of Jerusalem, and Judaic Christianity and overtook John’s more Gnostic style church to become the leading “brand” of the Way of Christ if you will. Ramsay’s strength is not his inductive reading of Acts and the Pauline Epistles, the strength within Ramsay is that he lays out little gems of history that when taken together can illuminate a new picture of whom Paul was. For the uninitiated reading Paul can be painful, even though his letters are the earliest texts of the New Testament. Paul’s theology has shaped the church more than any other New Testament writer, and at times it can appear as the writings and life of Paul have shaped the faith more than even the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.

Is Paul a controversial figure within Christendom? Yes. Is he a controversial figure for those who may want to meet Christ? Yes. The challenge of any course is to be able to meet Paul, and see him through sympathetic eyes. For even with what this Apostle accomplished in taking the faith outwards, it is easy to lose sight that there is a story, a life.

That life is not like many of the other early Apostles from the working and lower classes. Paul was a child of privilege. He was the son of Roman citizens, who although the family line was Jewish, they still could claim birth rights within the Empire; they were not conquered and seen as little more than property. Paul was trained as a Pharisee, he was there when Jesus was executed, a member of the Sanhedrin, he voted to create the first martyr in Stephen, and made a career out of destroying early churches. For a family, a holy man of Paul’s emerging stature was a sign of pride.

Then this happened:

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s   disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues           in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether    men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared             Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He      fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you    persecute me?”

                5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into     the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

                7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes        he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three            days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

                10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a             vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

                11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a    man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man       named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

                13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all   the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here     with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

                15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to             proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I             will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

                17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he           said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the    Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he         could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he         regained his strength.

(Acts 9:1-17, New International Version).

In the life of Paul, what the believer experiences is the loss of the old life, at the time of Baptism the symbolism of dying to the old life and being born again. As Saul emerged from the water and became Paul in Christ, he went from family Holy Man to Christ’s Apostle to family apostate and lost his loved ones, his wealth and his world. Yet in the midst of this personal crisis he drew closer to God, learned a trade, and went out to live his true vocational calling.

Conclusion

Is Ramsay’s text on the life of Paul worth the read? When this writer first started the analysis it was going to be a resounding N-O! Instead as the words have come together, connections seen or not seen emerged it became apparent that this older take on St. Paul of Tarsus has illuminated why Paul possibly does matter to the church today. It shows someone whose life was radically changed, who used his skills from his past life to glorify Jesus and build the reign of God here on earth.

Paul’s life shows the continual discipleship model as those communities he planted or met, through his letters he continued the dialogue and ministry with. He showed astuteness for understanding his world, being engaged in the body politic, and standing firm in what he believed. He also shows the believer how to use one’s rights, but to ensure they are also upholding their own responsibility as they move forward in life to their society in being a good citizen.

Under Emperor Nero St. Paul of Tarsus’ life would face a tragic end at the end of an axe blade. Nero’s cover for his incompetence that ravaged the Empire’s capital with fire, was to blame this small religious sect of The Way for destruction. Paul as one of the most active evangelists and teachers was seized, tried and convicted, but due to the actual Roman citizenry they could not execute him in the arenas or be crucified on the highways as these methods were for the lesser than full humans (as they were inhumane) which led to his kinder martyrdom if there is such a thing.

St. Paul Traveler and Roman Citizen should be approached as one would approach any faith development. Bringing your own bias, experience, and prayers then letting the Holy Mystery illuminate why this matters to you. For this writer, the life of Paul, while never his favourite had new light shone upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

Ramsay, W.M. (1894). St. Paul Traveler and Roman Citizen retrieved from             https://ntsmoodle.com/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=146   13 October 2012.