Posts Tagged ‘My Neighbour’


Thank you for inviting me to discuss belonging. This is a lifetime way of life for my family and me, that has left its physical, emotional and spiritual scars upon me. I was not designed for typical church. I was formed in the teachings of St. Francis and Clare of Assisi as a Franciscan, but was mentored by Basillians and Jesuits, and those that were of the social gospel, and sprung from the social gospel. The monastics, like Francis, Clare, Basil and Ignatius…they were of those that cared radically for their neighbour. Serving and learning in those communities, I was able to be apart of the radical love of neighbour that acted in such movements as the social gospel that sprung workers rights, women’s rights, that liberation theology would come from, that would have seeds in the fall of the Berlin Wall as John Paul II pushed for it, and Desmond Tutu in the end of Apartheid. The radical love I got to see in Calgary outside of the shelter system was at the community level. I speak of church families, where they realized families were staying in their church, and it struck the Holy Spirit within them…how do these neighbours shower? it struck on a Saturday, and on a Sunday the plumbers were in building the showers, and the priest was speaking as collection was to pay the plumber currently constructing…or realizing that they could not have all members of the community participate due to lack of a lift…or the food cupboard was empty…and well, let’s say collection for the church budget or the need of neighbour was a living breathing spirit.

But like the social gospel, these orders also had a strain of theology that was offensive. It was quite blatant in the late 19th and early 20th century, in Alberta as late as the 1990’s; and that being eugenics. The active belief those not seen “as typical” by society are deficient and everything has to be actively worked towards to eliminate them, or exclude them.  There is still strong pockets of this from secular and spiritual movements, most notably seen this past summer, with the United Church Observer’s supported work to ban the plastic straw, a device specifically designed for persons with certain disabilities, and without its accessibility would mean death. Most often we just see its more passive, and prejudicial form, of Ableism, most blatantly on display this past General Council with Moderator Nominee Colin Phillips, who with his form of CP uses a wheelchair and speaking aid. He stated in his column after it was a council of awkwardness, and people not engaging-my heart hears, to engage means we have to change, and adapt.

There is beauty in our heritage, but bad theology around the healings of Brother Jesus of Nazareth, has allowed Ableism and eugenics to flourish within the church by oppression or omission of the full Image of God, Imageo Dei in the Latin. And by that omission, we are missing out on the time, talent, treasures and blessings that come with the full Imageo dei. It is from reading the healing stories from the perspective of needing to be healed to belong, not realizing they are about belonging because of the beautiful rainbow of God’s creation to paraphrase Archbishop Tutu. To paraphrase Tutu again, if persons with disabilities, mental health concerns, cognitive issues, on a spectrum ala Cerebral Palsy or Autism, etc. are not in the Kingdom, then it is a kingdom I want nothing to do with.

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Affirming Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 Leland putting up his colour

For the work of the Kingdom to continue in the beautiful tradition of My Neighbour, as J.S. Woodsworth wrote it, the sin of eugenics needed an exorcism. This is the work I have undertaken, in thought, word and deed. It led me through My Neighbour, to what today is being presented as the Spirituality of Belonging. Before we step into that, i just want to take a moment to thank Robert McClure Untied Church for including my family in your community for the past 18 months. We will remember C. coming and talking to Leland directly about Wonderkids, Justina teaching how Advent and Sacred Aboriginal Teachings go together, the Christmas Play, Leland’s moment at the affirming service to step out of the ableism of Christianity with his proud declaration of rainbow colour, “I won Nana”; and B’s wonderful Easter egg hunt balloons so all children could be apart of the fun. Today, you will be a part of my last teaching given in a United Church, as I stated at the beginning to get to this point has taken its toll, and the activeness of ableism and prejudices, have left me today going against my medical support teams wishes and

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“I won Nana”-Leland

presenting. As I opened with, a lifetime of working to build places of belonging for all Image Bearers has taken its toll on my system, let’s just say it has been messy and the worst humanity has to offer I have witnessed. But that is why this work if so important. For this is the next step after the exorcism. This is the spirituality of belonging as the church titled my presentation which has a nice resonance. Belonging is the ickiness of life and the scariest word you will hear today.

It is the next step. But we don’t get to belonging easily, for that carries too much. I designed a simple culmination, the Belonging Pyramid.

It is inverted. The first layer being Accessibility which is the removal of physical barriers. This is the crafting or re-crafting of space so individuals can enter and use. This is the piece where community partnerships matter, money flows, Thanksgiving offerings work, and  government grants can be used.

The next step is the wonderful word most communities stop on. “Inclusion”  it is such a warm and fuzzy buzz word. But it means we got space for you.

The hardest piece, and the smallest that can create tipping and allow for the exorcism to be reversed, is belonging. it is that authentic space where you love your neighbour as yourself and the Holy. It is that space where the ickiness exists, because, you need to look at all angles before making decisions, all ripple effects, you may have to take stands for your neighbour that take your out of comfort, or safety. It is also the space where you heart recognize that one day that space will be empty…

But we do not do it alone, for the Holy Spirit of love was breathed into us at creation, and we live out of it…and the pyramid itself is balanced in Agape.

So great lecture, now let’s do the work…I encourage you to get comfortable for we are going to do liturgy…thats latin for “work of the people” via theology….

Take a moment, centre yourself. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply, exhale releasing the burdens of the day. When you feel you have breathed all the breath out, keep going, let the joys of the day out.

Enter into this space. Breathe in and exhale deeply twice more.

You are travelling to just outside the church. At the entrance to the parking lot.

Accessibility: Read John 9: 1.

A person with blindness. You are that differently abled person. Perhaps you require a mobility device-cane, scooter, wheel chair, walker; perhaps you experience the world through the lens of mental health: anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, and on the list can go; perhaps a global delay, or you are on one of the diagnosis spectrums ala Autism or Cerebral Palsy; perhaps it is deafness or blindness. Here you are, complete and at the gates of a new community.

You have heard there is a farmer’s market. You cannot reach it. The hill has no access for your device, so you turn away home. Or you are able to enjoy the market but need the washroom. Someone has parked a truck blocking main doors. You are directed to a curb to step over to uneven ground to a small dark door. Your left side is weak and you know you cannot lift your leg up or you are in a wheel chair. You have a choice- soil yourself to stay or go home?

You are new to the neighbourhood using a good day of energy to explore, your spouse can drive but requires accessible permit parking. You have heard good things about this church, off a Sunday you see that they use their accessible permit spots to park bobcats. Obviously, there would be no guarantee on a Sunday they would not be used likewise, time to keep looking.

There’s a community garden, you have saved money to rent a spot, but you cannot get up onto the field where the plots are or easily maneuver to your plot? Not worth the hassle, just won’t be this year.

You stir up the courage to come to church one Sunday, only to reach the door and realize that you cannot reach the door handle to enter, and no one is around. You turn around.

Some would say this is not accessibility, but it is through the eyes of the codes, for everything up to that point as not seen as “illegal”, much the way the man with blindness experienced his world.

Inclusion: Read John 9:2.

The world of labels and diagnosis was designed so we could become inclusive. In the best environment it simply shows what is necessary for someone to be brought into the circle. In the worst, it allows for different barriers to be erected under the guise of “inclusion”.

That is the question being asked by the disciples; what is wrong with this guy? What caused it?

You arrive on a Sunday, and someone opens the door for you. Obviously, you can see where the sanctuary is, but how do you know where anything else is in the church? You are non-verbal, possibly use pics or words to know directions but nothing is labelled. No directional signs to the office; or rooms; or Sunday School or youth group, does this church have a library? You heard something in the announcements about the library having an event this week?

It is soup after church. No tables, your wheel chair does not have a tray, how do you balance? Or perhaps you have weakness in your hands? Seeing the heavy table to be brought out you don’t want to be a bother to ask.

Sadly during service you had an accident and now the fabric chair is ruined, but you don’t want to be yelled at again.

You or a parent/caregiver have been overstimulated due to the noise level of service or something else. You seek a quite space. Can’t use the nursery not a baby, and too much stimulation going by the Wonder Kids. Try any doors to find them all locked. Can’t calm yourself in the lobby. Time to go home, as usual even the tools you have you cannot use because locked doors are more important, but you are included as the building let you be “included”.

Communion Sunday, a holy time when all are to come forward and partake of the “Lord’s Supper”. But you cannot eat. You are not part of the Lord’s Supper or the family table, at least you are included.

People come to talk to you, nope, they are talking to those with you about you because… there is something different, or as disciples said, what is wrong with that person? What label can be put on them?

You decide to reach out and be included in small groups. Some do not understand that not everyone in your house drives so always doing things the way you have always done them means exclusion. You struggle one winter night to come out to learning circle, it is a rough night for your physical self. Church is low lit and you almost trip over the chair blocking the hallway with the “silence sign” on it. Or you can’t get around it with your wheel chair—so you go home.

Membership classes are offered…nothing on ages for membership. Nothing on child care. Your family can then not join together as one would have to come one year and the other next, for financially it is not there to afford child care for the weekend. But you have a seat in a sanctuary on Sunday morning.

A service on different prayer practices. Stations set up, cannot maneuvor a mobility device around to get to each, so sit silently and hope no one notices you.

Feedback on sound system that can trigger convulsive brain activity or flashbacks from trauma.

Exceptionally loud music compared to speaking that can overstimulate a mind that is not neuro-typical.

There’s a youth group. Nothing about ages or when it is or who to connect with. You may fit but are afraid of rejection because so many churches before have told you you do not belong.

But like the blind man of the story, or women of the time, you are allowed to come hear about the Holy, just not be in the whole presence of. But you are included.

Belonging: Read John 9: 3

There are those that have shared the journey, that share grieving, and celebrate life together. There is a rhythm on the “way things have always been done” so if you have always been here, much like the disciples, you got the norms of the place and time. Jesus looks at you and does not see the labels, the diagnosis, the worldly prognosis; or whatever other b.s. (belief system or the farm term if you prefer) the world puts on you.

Jesus flips it to the heart of the matter. You are here to shine through the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27-28 (read it) the Holy Breath is within you. You are created just the way you are meant to be, in a perfect reflection of God.

It was Jesus pointing to the world and going, YOU BELONG because YOU ARE. Any healing done after that was because of how dull the hearers were and the risk they were placing a child of God’s life at due to their ignorance.

But as you rhythmically breathe back into the now of your community. Breathe in the Command Jesus gave us. Love. Breathe it in deeply, breathe it out deeply.

Do this three times, and rest in the presence of Love. Or Agape as it was termed.

Rest in that Agape, and when you are ready come back.

(Once all are back).

It is fairly simple, we can discuss accessibility, we can discuss inclusion. Those things already happen, I took you through the eyes of the one experiencing what is. The physical building can be as pretty as one wants it to be. Universally designed as much as we want it to be and is able for a 30ish year old property. We can have someone open the door or prop it open so everyone can come claim their seat on a Sunday. We can attain everything up to code and function so the circle is drawn wide for inclusion.

BUT, and this is a big but. If we are still the disciples pointing and asking the question, or not making eye contact…we are having adventures in missing the point. The point is belonging. Authentic longing, based on the love Jesus showed in this story. The scary thing of belonging especially within the differently-abled/persons with disabilities/mental health/medically complex (let them pick their descriptor) is that there may be no warning and suddenly…

Their spot is empty. That is why we create barriers and labels. You have now experienced different perspective, the thoughts on building agape belonging is upon you or remain in the status quo.

 

Within your groups take a moment to pause and reflect:

 

  1. What did your heart hear in this experience?
  1. Where does that feeling reveal you to be within the pyramid?

 

Accountability: 

Consider, what you can do to create a spirituality of belonging this week. One little step within your own community. Share with your group, and come back and share next week with them how it went.

Children’s Time

You Are, You Belong

Image result for Brad Meltzer's I am Helen KellerOur stories start with a beautiful poem of Great Creator making all. It speaks to us that when each of us was created it was in their image, and breathed into with blessing. Today, I am going to let you meet one of Creator’s images and blessings.

Start with the last page: I am Helen Keller, I won’t let anything stop me.

Helen was born both deaf and blind, if you cover your ears and close your eyes, that was how she knew her world. Her own relatives believed her to be a monster. Yet she didn’t stop wanting to let the world know the love she had inside. Her family, her tutor helped her discover how to communicate in her own way. She would go on to shatter her world’s old way of seeing things.

What are ways your family or friends have helped you?

Helen learned to communicate through signs, by being shown through touch.

She realized people needed help. She fed the hungry, grew schools to help those who were told they couldn’t to learn.

What is one thing you can do to make your school or home or church more welcoming?

Read the last few pages…

Closing prayer: Thank you Creator for the wonderfulness of difference, that each of us is lovingly blessed to be who we are meant and created to be. Amen.

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It is those over nacho political conversations that can bring up the best memories, and what is lacking in the political party fields of today. I miss the times when policy and people came before quests for power. Yes, I realize the terms “blood sport” and “power” have always been intertwined with politics. But entrenched ideological loyalty even when your party has gone full on nutbar to harm citizens was not present. There was the party that would act as conscience, provide an “extreme” of what was needed in the social net for citizens to prosper (and like health care, and other safety nets, aid corporations for they did not need to ensure these things), others would moderate but pick up on the point to maintain power effectively creating some sort of compromise. Historically this has been the position of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (and all the labour, justice and social gospel movements that formed it) and then the New Democratic Party. Sadly, the voice has been lost (I was hoping the Greens would’ve picked it up, but…).

We are just a generation into the repercussion of 1990’s austerity/common sense revolutions, and attempting the rebuild. New “research” screams what needs to happen. But it is known knowledge: affordable housing needs to be built for a variety of ages and needs; social programs need to provide much needed prevention into poverty and homelessness; minimum wage (much like original legislation) needs to be a living wage; universal health care needs to be improved- grown and to include dental, optical, mental health and pharmacare. As well bureaucracy needs to be shrunk, we need to care for our persons with disabilities, children and elders. As well as citizens of all stripes, and those that can easily be discriminated against. Y’know the old Just Society mottos.

And before people cry out about lazyness, or “old stock Canadians” and hand outs… do I need to point out the history of the “homeless” or “transitional” shelter in Canada? Where they were places of short term stay for educational equipping, health care, ensuring entitlements or employment, establishing all documentation necessary for citizenship and then provision for the home(stead) that was necessary for the individual or family to thrive and grow– to BELONG in their new community. Was it always easy? No, we can look to our reserve system, but even with new Canadians there was bigotry towards those of Asian descent; Ukranian; Mormon; Loyalist (American); Francophones; Irish and Scottish (to name but a few). One can say- yeah but they came here to be Canadian first. Yes, they came for what a new land had to offer. They were/are Canadians. Just as any refugees and immigrants are today. Yet, what we forget is that Canada has always been a MOSAIC, not a melting pot. That is, the beauty of Canadian Identity has grown and been accented by the cultural pieces of the world brought to our doorstep. Just take a drive around your town, city or province and visit historic sites pre-colonization and post-colonization. It is a celebration of the diversity of life.

Was that a rabbit trail?

No. It was pointing out that we have reached a tipping point politically where we are attempting to mirror the melting pot to the south. The idea that there is only 2 choices, and we must choose. That is a fallacy. We have multitude choice. We can choose segregation and hate. We can choose money over people. Or we can choose to grow a great mosaic of a nation, that is prosperous, just and inclusive. Where each citizen belongs for we share the common good, and the accessibility needed for the individual to be a part of the community.

This sparked from nachos, for while discussing Alberta Politics, my old political stories kicked in. Back when Joe Clark (Joe Who?) had returned to lead the decimated PC (Progressive Conservative, historically created in an attempt to beat the liberals, a progressive left leaning labour party merged with the Conservative Party of Canada, creating a centrist party. Hence the terms Red Tory and Blue Tory, purple if you shared visages of both) Party of Canada. In 1993 they were reduced to 2 seats (due to Mulroney’s Western alliance with Blue Tories (Reform) and Quebec Red Tories (Bloc Quebecois) walking away to form their own parties). Clark in the late `90’s had brought the party back to between 12-16 seats. Back to official party status, and a decent fifth place party, that with a former PM at the helm (and one who had beat Pierre Trudeau) an elder statesman quality.

Best way to learn the political game? Join a small party, and be there to learn from the elders. That is what I did. Policy wise we were focused on being fiscally conservative (using money wisely, a lesson the other parties learned from Tommy Douglas, a pastor and premier of Saskatchewan, father of Medicare, oh and first leader of the newly minted Federal NDP in the 1960’s)…but also knowing the social contract needed to be renewed and citizens cared for (socially progressive). The Purple Tories in the party did the money bit, us Red Tories had fun going for broke creating what was just left of progressive policy for the NDP at the time.

Then Clark stepped down. It was quite amazing how many wanted to lead this little fifth place party back then. Some rumblings of merger with the then CCRAP (Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, a rebranded Reform Party, that would become simply the Canadian Alliance Party). Most in the small but mighty knew that merger was not the right path, cause hey, if they were wanting us back that must mean we were on to something. As a young man, I was also excited that if this worked I would be running in my Federal riding under a new leader and living out one of my dreams as a kid (it would take until 2006 for that to become a reality).

All i remember about that race for leader was I backed a gent named Gafferty, who had to drop out I believe it was a stroke or a heart attack. He released his candidates. Most of us Red Tories (whether we liked Free Trade or not) fell to back David Orchard by the last ballot, because Peter MacKay was a merger type. Orchard made a deal with MacKay, to back him and swing him as leader with the signed promise of no merger… well a MacKay/Harper chat later, and fautly where to vote info sent to members and the Conservative Party of Canada was born.

I point to this as the rise of truly divisive ideological politics. There was a homeless progressive/red Tory vote available, but entrenchment began fomenting.  With the entrenchment it began a dissolution of actual debate/discussion of policy points, laws, and programs. What is began to dissolve into was a shouting match where everyone would pull “data/facts” wherever they wanted. The goal was to prove that the one who yelled the loudest, was right.

The failing, is that the loudest yeller, who can get the most money, does not create the best governance for the people as a whole. Canada is a diverse nation. That is as a mosaic we are economically diverse, culturally, religiously, ethnically, gender, and the list can go on. Ideological entrenchment does not bring all along for the ride, it demonizes, and creates hate.

I ponder what if, we could actually remove the last generation of politics. What if entrenchment never truly entered Canada?

As you look to the next election in your area. Get to know the candidates. Ask the hard questions. Push them on platforms, policy, the things we can see as boring and take more than the threads Twitter allows. Learn some history. Discover what has worked before, what needs to be fixed. What does it mean for the citizens that have the least in your area to be lifted up to a level where they are no longer struggling but can grow from. What happens when we shatter our ideas that health care is for the healthy? That there is a worthy and unworthy poor? That this person or that person is different from me…in reality we are neighbours, and as neighbours we all have a right to exist does not matter how much or how little tax you pay.

What if…we stopped looking at ourselves as tax payers at each level of governance?

What changes if we framed our discussion in the way our Constitution Act, 1982 and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 frame it: Citizens (and yes with agreements signed post World War II that extends to refugees and immigrants)?

A little bit of wisdom to keep in mind, 7 generations from now when history looks back upon us. We will not be judged by how wealthy we made corporations, or how we kept medical costs low. What we will be judged upon:

How we treated our migrants, our refugees, our immigrants, our seniors, our children, those without voice in our world, the have-nots, persons with disabilities, persons live life with mental health challenges; persons who have chronic illness, the sick…

Essentially, how we treated our neighbour, when they needed to belong.


It is true I am hard on the religious of our world. This far into so many contacts with the Holy Mystery and we still regress back into our pack is stronger than your pack b.s. (either the old standard meaning or belief systems, whichever resonates). We create banners/credos/terms for inclusion of certain segments, set aside others, but when it comes down to it and what is truly worshiped—money—comes to the front one will quickly see where beliefs lie. As well, when the edge of the comfort bubble is nudged just that new millimetre watch the retro-grade-a-thon.  But I also continually challenge myself and my own b.s. Look deeper, try new things, see what it truly means to draw the circle wide, not just to include but to belong.

Mostly due to an understanding of human development and history. Knowing when we get it right it goes exceptionally well for everyone, but when we get it wrong it is bloodfest worse than any 1980’s slasher movie.

That is why I decided to dive into the exploration of the Sermons on (insert place word here) by exploring the Gospel of Luke.  Luke was the disaffected travelling partner of Paul (Saul) of Tarsus. He was a physician by tradition, and set out to write an orderly history of the early movement which is seen in two works, the synoptic Gospel of (St.) Luke and the Book of Acts (of the Apostles). What is notable in a quick short hand overview is that both works focus highly on breaking down the religious and empire based cast systems, reaching out to the disenfranchised, and making a declarative statement that all belong on an equal basis. This is after all the story that begins by the Creator asking the non-person (read girl), Mary, if she would consent to having a child. And it steam rolls from there.

Leading up to this we see healings (as I addressed the point of in a post here); the scandal of calling a tax collector (the one seen as a “race traitor” for openly serving the Roman Empire, and stealing from their own people) to already breaking religious traditions around fasting by pointing out why would you do this when you could commune so deeply with true belonging. In other words, we have chattered the ladder, made a circle, an all are welcome within and belong, so quit imposing your holier than thou b.s. on us. Quit forcing us to live in fear of the big bad evil bearded bastard in the sky that is out to smite us if we do not do what you say.

Which brings us to:

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

-Luke 6:17-19 (English Standard Version, ESV)

The flat plains. Not being above the people, but within the people, sharing power and belonging. Which is the non-caste system world the laws, prophets, judges and other ancient stories tried to build but were always screwed over for power. It was the idea of the fields the poor could gather food upon after the harvest so they could stay at subsistence levels, instead of using the goods of the whole people to care for the whole people.

Not the bloody overthrow the Zealots (and other Messianic cults of the time were pursuing) or the segregation of the Essenes, or the status quo of the Pharisees/Sadducees/Herodians… but something so radical it was scary.

From within the circle, he would share from a place of belonging and new life.

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

-Luke 6:20-23 (ESV)

What the heck? It appears at first reading Jesus is re-enforcing the caste system, and that one should gladly accept their lot in life because it makes them holy.

WRONG!!!

What is being pointed out in blessings is simple. You have lived so outside the normalized oppressive system as untouchable, non-humans that a new world can be created. There is no benchmark of normal, there is no typical. There is no better than or less than or living in fear.

For he goes on to remind them in this poetic psalm by pointing out those that are within the caste/touchable, the fear they live within:

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

-Luke 6:24-26 (ESV)

It sounds like being smacked for having the good life. Nope. It is being smacked for letting things like wealth, self-gratification, and oppression of others to achieve these things being what drive you. Think of those that have created systems that traumatize and re-traumatize humans… those are the woes. We are created to be interconnected and interdependent. We are in woe, when we do not see neighbour, but other. When we cannot aid another in living the life they are meant to live with all the supports they need to thrive.

I can just imagine the conversations and questions that were coming from the gathered families during this discussion. Yes you read that right, discussion. It was not lecture, a drop a heavy message and scoot out the backdoor. Jesus was in the midst, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and answering questions. I remember in bible college being accused of a drop and run of a heavy teaching, and it wasn’t an accusation. I did. It was a message I needed to hear to be able to change how I bring sermons or lectures and ensure there is time for interaction, and a structured after time to answer questions some may be unable to bring up in a gathering.

This is how I could see this topic ringing out, what are we to do with those that tell us we are not good enough:

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic[a] either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

-Luke 6:27-36 (ESV)

Oh what can hang up some many in bad teaching. The genesis of love the sinner hate the sin b.s.; or hug a Nazi in progressive circles (do I really need to hug a Neo-Nazi? NO!)  or lip-service to inclusion or… Jesus was throwing down ways to actually stay safe, non-violently resist, and to see that even the most vile has the cosmic spark within them. There is value in the life of the abuser/oppressor, but we need to stay safe. Turn the other cheek is non-violent resistance for it allows an escape route. For those who understand ancient/passive martial arts/defenses it allows the person to move and escape without escalating the situation. To understand that taxes and force are used to demean by stripping one of their possessions, when you take that power away by giving more it confuses and confounds. Especially because in the Beatitudes here tie into the blessings of being the outside caste (aside), know that the community will uplift and care for you and your family as we resist to shatter the oppressive authority of Empire, hatred and religious oppression…as the light shines into the darkness and replaces fear with hope, hate with love.

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

-Luke 6:39-42

The journey is to become fully equal where we can respect one another’s words of wisdom, consolation, empathy and kindness. Not only words, but words supported by authentic actions. The judgements are those that have already been cast idly and falsely, this is a reminder not to be like that. Not to use others as a scapegoat as you have been made. But to stand in the new life, to know who you authentically are, working on being the best you possible. To speak in wisdom and kindness, as those who have mentored and taught you have.

Actions and words of authenticity rooted in love shatter the hypocritical system of now that the religious who say you are not worthy you exist within.

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[b] 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

-Luke 6:43-49

And what happens when you are authentic in your lived life?

What happens when you are authentic in being a life long learner?

What happens when you reach the core of the labyrinth of your soul? Touch the cosmic dust that exists within you? And realize that same dust has connected everything in creation to you and you to them?

What is the new world symbolized by the plain?

Are you ready for your words and actions to resonate HOPE and LOVE?

Pick one simple act, tell a friend when you will do it, go back and tell them the outcome.


Moses brought the Decalogue (10 commandments) down from Mount Sinai, they were re-taught after the exile in the book of Deuteronomy, and out of those sprung the laws and the prophets. With this fundamental cornerstone, you knew that Matthew (who tradition teaches was the former tax collector) wrote a gospel (political proclamation of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth) to Israel, well there would be something from a mount. The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), which can be seen reflected in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke 6:17-49. Luke’s (who was a physician that had set out to write an orderly history of the Christine movement) takes place where the disenfranchised toil. Matthew’s take place where those during freedom (much like the Exodus) had gathered to understand the point of all the rules that had oppressed them.

What should be a great opportunity of foundation teachings of challenging oppressive authority, regimes, thought patterns, prejudices, hatreds, misogyny, ableism and anything else that separated us from the other, has been twisted in the very same way the religious authorities did 2000 years ago (and before and since). To simply control through passive or active abuse. Statements out of context around passivity, adultery and even the beatitudes or woes.

It is a misunderstanding that happens many time when one comes into a religious text believing that the black and white on the page is eternally and implicitly infallible. What is missed is the context of the past and the experience of the now. What is missing is that unlike how it is presented, it was not a one-way lecture or diatribe or simple question and answer. In the time, this was probably over several hours or days, with food, and many interjecting, questioning and puzzling. The equity and equality that grew within the Jesus movement would mean that all questions whether from men, women or children would be accepted (Paul would address this challenge in synagogue style Judeo-Christianity in his pastoral epistles in typical Paul faction, but that is a tangent for another time).

There will be posts breaking down the teachings into easily reflective tidbits because there is a fallacy to rush through as it is only a few scant lines. Sadly, by rushing through the intent (spirit) behind the letter of the teaching can be lost. We tend to gloss over what the original hearer would have heard, and what that means for us today as we reflect into the words our own experience. There is a reason why ancient teachings continue to hold value beyond their original words. It is an intangible (much like ancient stories- see writings such as Joseph Campbell’s 1000 faces of the hero) that resonates throughout the DNA of the human story. This is what the primary focus of the Mount/Plains series is about. The secondary is to answer a question by some about what sermons from me when I was teaching/preaching would be like. There is the spiritual formation/discipline style you have read previously, now we enter the social justice work of learning to live the My Neighbour teachings and yes, the sermons of the Mount and Plains fall into those.

The question for you reader is simple:

Are you ready to change your world (personal and communal)?


Captain Jonathan Archer These people you’re fighting – what makes them heretics?

Yarrick We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.

Captain Jonathan Archer [scoffs]  For that you’ve been at war for over a century?

 -(Star Trek Enterprise “Broken Realm” Episode, 2004)

It is funny, not ha ha, but sad irony that the Christianities have spent so many centuries rooting out heretics and executing them. I state this from the obvious, even with what was kept in “canon” is the story of a movement that included many who did not belong, and had different views expressed within (tax collectors; cortezans; labourers; zealots; persons with disabilities; Samaritans—in the ancient world quite a motley crew). The crew brought their own understanding, language and beliefs into the movement of transfigurement.

Even that moment had Jesus inner circle upon seeing Moses and Elijah respond with making shrines, not seeing what should have been seen in the moment. Falling back upon the familiar. From Jesus’ execution, to the grand nu-uh to the Imperial-religious powers, to the breathe that shattered false barriers to bring belonging…a new wave had begun. One that for its first almost 300 years was quite diverse in understandings, in what was brought into, and in standing its ground when religious authorities made the call to cast them out of the Synagogues. That is when two monotheist religions stared at each other, and one was told to conform to what was “traditionally acceptable” and what was not. How did the early adopters respond? Some thought of giving in, but truly they realized what was at stake, the ability to grow, change and adapt to what they experienced.

Thomas Cranmer almost 1200 years after Constantine brought the same idea forward during the Reformation, and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was the Reformation that brought the stories of God and her people to the language of the people, but also brought creation where both the cleric and people’s words of worship could now be known by all. His intent was not for a static unmoving, unchanging liturgy (Latin for work of the people) but a dynamic creation that would shift and change with the communities and people, and how they came to understand the Holy Mystery that had created. The teachings of Brother Jesus, and the cosmic love that bound it all together.

Now some may say this sounds highly Catholic or Anglican. Yet, I challenge you, does your spiritual gathering have a rhythm for prayer or service? That is a liturgy. Plain and simple. From the Reformation until the early 21st century struggles around this happened through many movements, as the traditionalist/fundamentalist wanted to keep it static because of tradition and that God did not change; while the progressive/fundamentalist (a fundamentalist can understand things both ways depending where they place the emphasis) pushed boundaries, let movement in, different music, open up of prayers, social movements, challenging powers and principalities, and language- how beautiful and transformative was the language changes as structures were broken down and we began to understand what our genesis was from.

It was a reminder of the Indigenous groups under the Roman Empire that had converted either by force, or shrewdness (the Norse Chieftains understanding the control that could be given to them under monotheism) …also a reconciliation work for the damage done of further exploration and passive/active genocides.

What also was celebrated was a full encompassing of the stories of God. Understanding the Gospels were not only the four in the canonical bible, but were more, and each person was crafting their own through the life lived out of their beliefs. Also, though a deeper understanding of the words used for understanding the Holy Mystery. Yes, Trinitarian language (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) existed within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testaments, but it was a belief structure pulled from an allusion to this plausibility. What also existed within the texts was poetic, metaphorical, anthropological, historical, animist, psychological, sociological and many other forms of understanding the Holy.

Language was changing. Liturgies were experimenting. There was a revival happening.

The powers to be were not happy and attempted to clamp down. Sadly, some took the “threats” seriously, and like those in the Christian Testament stories when challenged folded under the pressure. Some took their lumps and spun out continuing growth, and some continue to exist under the guise of language and linguistic gymnastics.

Yet here we are celebrating a Sunday. A liturgical moment. Created by the people, as part of the work of the people. Part of community building. For some, it holds significance, for others being there and saying the words is a hypocrisy. Yet both claim the spirituality of Brother Jesus, and live a life for the better out of their heart held beliefs. The challenge before us is one of true authenticity. Moving beyond the entrapment of language as the beating stick, or as the opening quote reminds us—how much blood has been shed over 9 or 10 days?

In the Christianities how much blood has been shed over who holds the power to speak the right words/proof texts of the Creator?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

-Matthew 25:31-40 (English Standard Bible)

When actions transcend words, and are what shapes our lives, then what does the Liturgy become? Does 9 or 10 matter? Or the words used to express our relationships of love with Creator, teacher and neighbour?

When love reigns… how are you and your community transfigured?

 

 


One gets a perspective on the world when they are engaged working with those without voice to discover voice. Whether it is a certain population, community, spiritualist, sectarian or political movement… or a child. It is the little moments when kindess can be modeled and taught. It is a proven fact cited by many sources and many times over (learned while a mentor with the Alberta Mentor Foundation for Youth; and re-integration mentor with Calgary Young Offender’s Centre) that an adult committing 1 hour a week minimum in a positive way into a child/adolescent’s life can change that life for the better.

Yet too often as adults we drop the ball horribly. I am not yearning for yesteryear, but publicly there was accepted behaviours, privately–well I am glad the roof has been blown off the private abuse. BUT we still need to understand what it means to be, well, human and to be a good citizen. This is the investment, the colloquially it takes a village, for we all need to participate. Unfortunately the extremism of Right/Left political spectrum helicopter parenting/parents-rights movements have shattered this ability.

What am I speaking of?

We no longer understand the simplicity. And as a community will no longer call out and hold accountable bad behaviour, but rather will seek the most expedient method responsible for ending conflict, even (and usually does) mean removing the voice of the bullied.

If we can’t understand yes means yes, no means no in sharing toys of snacks…

In schools we tackle the “no sharing rule” or the “only sharing with those that you play with outside of school. Yet we do not address the harassment that comes with “No” for the person who brings the snack and maybe does not want to share with someone. It is the movement of independent rights, separated completely from interdependent responsibility.  Reaction is to cancel sharing, or to allow harrassment to continue until the resolution is for the afflicted to give in, or simply feel so scared not to bring something to school as a snack.

This is seen in play groups, when my child would start playing with something, and another child would want it and demand they share. Parents would say our child was mean when they would continue playing until done, then pass on. “That’s not sharing”. Yes, that is sharing, she/he did not want to play with your child, but the toy, the time was up, and passed on to the next in line. Watching your child harass the other child until they are reduced to tears or pass the toy over, or attempt to share only to have your child walk away without you saying anything teaches nothing but that the most important needs in the world are the ones of your child.

Same repeat story in the Public Libraries with technology, the card allows for x numbers of minutes for each cardholder. One child’s time is not more valuable than another, they may choose to play together (kids have a knack for finding friends adults will never see–a maybe or yes to creating a better world), but also no is a proper answer and waiting your turn is a proper answer. Child or adult harassing or shaming the one using the device is not the proper response to no or wait your turn please. Staff watching this behaviour and not interceding shows that this behaviour is acceptable and will be tolerated in public with no repercussions.

The other piece is the “teach abuser grooming behaviour for victim” where the apology is not actually acknowledging what was done was wrong (ala I am sorry you felt that way, or (insert rationale to my behaviour here) or blame the situation or purchase the “sorry you are mad at me present”.

These are behaviours in our children. If we cannot get them before adolescence to understand simple things like Yes means yes, no means no. Taking turns is sharing. You are not the only/most important individual in the world. In a community everyone has value.

HOW ARE WE TO GET THEM TO UNDERSTAND:

  1. Significant others do not owe you sex.
  2. When you ask someone out, you are not entitled to a yes…they can say no…then leave them be.
  3. Domestic violence is wrong.
  4. Emotional/verbal/spiritual harassment-abuse-manipulation is wrong
  5. Involuntary Celibates (or any other hate adjective) really is simply you are the ass no one wants to be around. It is time for self-reflection not violence (so no the van driver in Toronto and the Texas School shooter are not the victims, they are the violence bringers).

Consent is fairly simple. Yes many generations in general have struggled with it to the detriment of humanity, and harm of many persons. We are at a point in time where that needs to change, the movements have been subtle and overt to bring this change. How do I know this? Look at the resistance building to change, it is at a tipping point for a better world for our children.

The better world. That what is to be built upon the world we have for the next generation, 7 generations down.

Let old ideas melt away, new ones take root and grow fully. Learn from what is being born, and be the person.

As our village raises this generation, we need to be part of the positive tipping point.

Will you?

 

 


I was gladdened a few weeks ago when the newest affordable housing complex in Calgary broke ground that the government corrected the service provider gently on the use of terms. It was deemed by the service provider as “permanent supportive housing” yet the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), when announcing pointed to it as “permanent housing with supports”. Many will think this is just semantics b.s. that does not amount to anything but hair splitting. But it matters for the terms lead to the conditions which lead to the ability to create healthy communities through an interconnection of healthy interdependent citizens and their homes. It is the terms and conditions which outline the corporate and personal responsibilities for all stake holders.

Despite the long battle the City Council of Calgary had over secondary suites, and folks attempting to justify who their neighbours should be through red tape, let us be honest—we all have good or not so good neighbours—it has nothing to do with how they live (rent/own) but rather other life events that have shaped their personality. (and yes I am gladly awaiting new neighbours with secondary suites, and lane-way/mini housing). This is the hitch, and why words matter when describing housing (or as one round table for the federal government on housing in Calgary phrased it with member of Parliament (for Calgary Centre and at that time Cabinet Minister) Kent Hehr, spectrum of homes which is not just rental, but ownership).

I look to my own neighborhood. It is a mash up of group homes; long term care; seniors residence; affordable housing (which is a spectrum from near market; percentage off market to geared to income) rentals; family and friends couch surfing; shared accommodations; at one point I am sure folks residing in hotels; market rentals; condos; townhouses and houses (owned/rented).   As noted in rental there is different ways rents can be figured in; same with seniors or assisted living facilities or group homes, ½ way houses; Supportive Roommates (supported independent/interdependent living), sober housing and harm reduction (sometimes sadly becomes harm acceptance). All rolled up for singles; couples; roomies; and families (sometimes fur family allowable, sometimes not). As well, home ownership which can be straight through Canadian Mortgage; Habitat for Humanity style ownership or Affordable Homes (or perhaps another way I have not heard of yet).

These ways have a qualifying mechanism which can be as simple as credit/debt ratios to sweat equity to income levels to medical and/or care provisions. Each, depending on where they fall on the spectrum; have rules, regulations and laws that govern contractual obligations, complaint mechanisms, accountability tools, acts and levels of government that may or may not oversee, whom to seek out for conflict resolution or mediation. Essentially it lays out in computer terms for apps the terms and conditions. That is what are the rights and responsibilities for the owner/service providers/landlord/tenant/owner while building a healthy home, and when the need arises through positive or negative means—transitions out of that home to the next.

The contractual obligations before signing, while signed and at dissolution.

This is why I applaud the NDP (New Democratic Party) government in their subtle caring way for reminding us of that. In this example Permanent Supportive Housing falls under a legislative licensing act in Alberta which has a ministry; specific protocols of provision (i.e. housekeeping and/or meals); and a very specific anonymous tip line for complaints to protect the resident. This aids the tenant and the staff of the facility. For it lets the staff know their rights and responsibilities, also for the tenant, it allows their rights and responsibilities to be clearly understood and known by not only them but their circles of support (professionals paid to be in their lives, and social supports ala family, friends and chosen family).

The terms and conditions allows one when seeking a home, whether it is moving from one tenancy to the next, or into care or out of shelter to understand that what they are needing/looking/qualify for…is what is being offered by the operator and/or property.

Seek clarity, on what specifically the terms and conditions are.

More precisely, seek clarity on what this means for the rights and responsibilities of all involved in the contractual arrangement.

By knowing this. By being informed. It allows for a healthy home to flourish for the individual, couple, roomies or family…and by proxy be a healthy piece of the puzzle for the growth of healthy communities in truly living out the understanding of being and knowing neighbour.

Ty Ragan Psy.D. has worked many decades as a community builder in many styles of housing  for what many would term vulnerable populations, but are always someone’s neighbour seeking a healthy home.