Posts Tagged ‘Presbyterian’


Presented by Calgary’s Affirming Nework:


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

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

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

But I digress.

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

So why the hell do I bother with church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pilgrimage continues…

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

 

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The book came onto my radar from the Presbyterian Writers section of the Presbyterian Connection paper. R. Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls (2017, Cascade books) Let us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We can Do About it. 

The book came at the right time in the healing journey.  As I reflect on what has happened, and process through in a healthy way reading this study and stories (both qualitative and quantitative data) it affirmed I was not crazy (or at least not about those times in my life.

Everyone has aspects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), for it is the whisps that allow for a healthy outgoing self. What happens though is that there is a high percentage in the ministry that were found to be full blown NPD. Now, I am going to stop a mind tangent that will happen for some, these are different predators in the church than the pedophile cleric/elders. NPD’s are actually quite puritanical. As Ball and Puls would point out, there may be a sliver of cross over, but the atrocities coming to light in the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist, Jehovah Witness and Mega-churches around pedophilia are a different mental illness than what the scope of this study is exploring.

This is a must read for anyone in leadership, or prayerfully discerning leadership. It shows what can go wrong, what are warning signs for the toxicity and closed tables/pews that those with NPD strive to achieve. For it is by keeping out the new and fresh through harassment, haranguing, and flat out lies that allows them to maintain control to the detriment of the community, oh and it is never their fault.

I state it as part of the therapeutic journey because it was not only ministers I have served under, or been apart of community with I noted that these stories resonated with. Also the “financial” controllers of certain religious groups, and leaders within the scope of Non-profits (which the charitable model grew out of the religious models). It is the ill health that creates the chaos to feed the ego of the individual(s) so they can create the solution. The solution also tends to be back as “it has always been”.

“In an important sense, therefore, organizations exist in the minds of their members, organizational identities are parts of their individual members’identities, and organizational needs and behaviours are the collective needs and behaviours of their members acting under the influence of their organizational self-image.

-(Ball and Puls, p.139)

That is simply to say. An organization is shaped by its members, in a healthy organization it will reflect a collaboration between leadership and members. In an unhealthy organization the disunity and chaos will fuel the image the narcissist needs to exists for their own fulfillment as their self-love is a deep rooted self-loathing rotting out themselves, and stretching out to others.

The destructive force is what was taught in the gospels by Brother Jesus when he spoke about a house against itself cannot stand. That is a house designed to only create worth in a few, will eventually collapse into a place of harm and destruction.

Unhealthy people, then, are attracted to unhealthy churches, while the emotionally healthy will tend to either leave an unhealthy church or hunker down and make the best of it.

-(Ball and Puls, p.139)

And that is the summation of why these leaders continue to thrive. Habit keeps healthy people in unhealthy situations. Much like the conditioning and gas lighting done to the victim of domestic violence not to flee. The only way to help a person with a personality disorder is first they must want to work with you for healing, the next is by rigged boundaries.

The healthy MUST make the decision to abandon ship.

And warn any they know that their be dragons there…it is unhealthy water do not go there.

Are we strong enough to demand courageously safe and healthy sanctuaries?

 


Image result for broken coffee potI am used to diverging theologies and belief systems within the Christianities. I have sat through many a sermon and/or liturgy I do not agree with and discourse about it freely. It is part of being a thinking and feeling believer. It is about knowing that just because words are put forth to be recited in unison, one still needs  reflect on the words and if they believe them before repeating them.

I also am the first to admit when it comes to sermons, I love the sermonette, give me 10 solid minutes of deep thought and application, with good music, extended learning let it happen in a raucus bible-theology study with kids playing, coffee flowing. Unless it is a contemplative service. But that is an aside on taste, showing that we all exist differently for there is the person that loves the extended play sermons as Sunday may be there only time to get to church. But I am rambling.

Part of the Liturgy (work of the people) in Mainline and Catholic-Orthodox churches, is a prayer of confession, most are phrased something like this:

Prayer of Confession

When we recall all that you are for us,

we confess to you who we have been, trusting your grace:

 God of compassion,

we confess that we prefer darkness to light,

and our own plans to your purposes.

We shrink from costly discipleship

and seek cheap grace. 

Forgive our fleeting enthusiasms and shallow commitments.

Guide us always

so that we might live in your glorious presence

and follow the way of your Son now and always.

(From the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Lent 2 2019 Order of Service).

But we know in liturgy planning when it is not set ala Anglican or Roman Catholic, that those presiding/preaching can craft their own or use other resources. It is part of Protestantism and gives a connection to the people in the pews. It can also lead to moments of awkward silence and fading voices when one decides to be bold or risk with their prayers. It can happen on any end of the theological spectrum, but this past Sunday it was jarring for me, and many of the younger ones in the pews to hear our Elders praying along by rote the two screens of this prayer from 1996, Pastor Joe Wright’s Prayer to the Senate of Kansas. It is a very American centered prayer, and out of the Religious Right. Some will read the words and say it sounds like the one above, but the one above reflects inwardly to our own journey, this one attacks specific groups. As well, in my years of researching hate groups and extremists grounded in religion, it sadly sounds like something out of a Southern Alberta Klan rally of the time. The italics inserted are scriptures of my own rebuttal. The still small voice of the Holy Mystery (Spirit) resonates strongly with me in anger to the words, and to reflect on what the Kingdom means in 2019 during this time of Lent:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. (so far pretty Kosher, could sound like the woes from Gospel of Luke 6’s Sermon on the Plains).
We confess:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism. (I point you to Matthew 23 when Jesus calls out the Scribes and Pharisees. It is not about Sola Scripture, it is about understanding the world we live in. Also as the preacher and believer (which these passages are geared to now) it is about understanding that we need to be true to our faith and not using it for leverage. Pluralism is nothing new, it is what happens in a world of people, within the church there are multitudes or you wind up with lemmings. The spiritual teachings of Jesus were not to develop Lemmings, neither were his disciples’ that came after.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. (John 4 The Samaritan Woman at the Well, those seen as actual traitors to the nation of Israel under occupation, and yet here is Jesus sitting, conversing, and being with her authentically…oh yeah multi-culturalism oh so evil. The 10 Commandments acknowledge other deities, what it points to is the supremacy of the river that is YHWH that the other wells are fed by).

No photo description available.We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. (Ah 1996, the year of death threats when I wrote in Calgary, AB in support of equal marriage. The buzz words are all here to attack the LGBTTQ2+ brothers and sisters, or those that shun traditional marriage…but what is traditional marriage in the Bible? We have examples with David of domestic violence, of love of Jonathan, with Jesus we have beliefs ranging from celibacy to marriage, Peter was married, Paul was not, in the Hebrew Bible Abraham had multiple wives…but wait how did Jesus sum up the entire Law and the Prophets: Matthew 22:34-40

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. (Can’t argue this one living in Alberta. We have normalized addictions as a means to support non-profits, schools and hospitals. It goes against what the original Social Gospellers and So-Cons in the CCF and Social Credit stood for in bringing us public education, universal health care, and government entitlements–yes all sides of the theological spectrum can sit down and work together to build a better world, it is a beauty of Multi-culturalism and pluralism).
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. (There is more than 2000 verses in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament about care for and provision for the poor. In Acts of the Apostles everything was kept in common, in the Gospels the women worked so the men could teach, to an outside eye these men appeared lazy. And dang it then there’s the Sermon on the Mount teaching about the speck and log in eyes. Government entitlements and safety nets were designed to support the least of these in times of need, they are there and paid in to by a society that states we value all for their inherent worth. One of those ideals from the teachings of a schmuck out of Nazareth)
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. (I am putting these two around abortion together, in the USA it is a hot button issue because it is a law issue. In the Commonwealth nations it is a medical procedure. Want to point out in one breath you cannot call someone on welfare lazy, and then lambast a woman with no options for abortion if you will not provide for her. A true believer would not be attacking and defending Jesus is with both, they would be building a world where all life is honoured from conception to death. They would also stand with those making hard decisions, and be compassionate to them. They would also believe in gun control, and that taking of any life whether shooting, war or death penalty is wrong. Yes, I am going to cop out and point to the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7 ). 
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. (This bullocks comes from Proverbs 12:34, spare the rod and spoil the child. It also led to such domestic discipline rods as “rule of thumb” you could use any rod to beat wife or child as long as it was not thicker than your thumb. Jesus commanded us to let the children come to him, and to keep that youthful spirit of curiousity. He commanded us to let them be heard. All these things were honouring and nurturing inherent self-worth and self-esteem. Anything else put out there is a heresy (and I have had this word lobbed at me enough to be comfortable lobbing it back).
We have abused power and called it politics. (In an address to a State Legislature this term makes sense. But a more Gospel centric viewpoint that honours how Jesus spoke about Empire and Sanhedrin would be we have abused power and called it leadership, finance, politics and religion…this is skirting one’s own inward introspection, and not rending onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s).
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. (Coveting is a Big 10, it is also covered in the Sermon on the Mount by pointing out not storing up treasures on Earth. That is that the intangibles of life are what give it value not the things. Ambition though is not always tied to what your neighbour has and creates a false dichotomy).
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. (I love how he does not attack Freedom of Speech, but rather the Canadian Freedom of Expression. What was the Pastor trying to get at here? Riding a 1990’s hobby horse of My sin is better than yours more than likely. What is missed is a riskier call out against hate, and the need for Love. The core of the Gospel, but that would mean admitting the us-them mentality that already existed in USA politics of the time, and religion (and that which is trying to get a beachhead in Canada).
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. (Which is the Gospel message, and reinforced in the Epistles. The throwing off of the caste systems, the constant asking of why do we do that? How do we draw the circle wider? How do we belong? The affront of the miracles of Jesus was that he forced the community to accept those they had cast out, those they had placed the “I am not as bad as them for x,y,z”. Enlightenment is moving beyond the letter of the rules, to the soul and understanding that we are all created in the Image of the Holy Mystery, and have the spark of cosmic dust and Holy Breath that gave us all life and all of Creation).
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. (I just question how a nation that extols separation of Church and State has such a statement within their hallowed halls?)
Amen.(Amen means essentially and so it is. I would challenge with any prayer, by rote or repeated, it is on the conscience of each believer for we are thinking and feeling whole beings).

Lent is the journey of drawing nearer and more intimately with the Source of all that is, was and ever will be. It goes beyond just a purge of a sin list, but into a practice of life that allows for a new world to be created based on the greatest gift of all– Love.

It was that teaching that led the Political and Religious authorities to execute Jesus of Nazareth on a Dark Friday, and on a rising sun Sunday for the Universe to say “Nu-uh” to the verdict as new life was born.

Step into the wilderness, journey to the darkness, and await the new light. Be present each step along the way to see what awaits.

Patience will be rewarded.

Your Lenten chuckle, cause laughter heals and teaches:

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As a Christmas gift I got one of those inspirational sayings calendars, this one from a hero/spiritual formation guru of mine, the Dalai Lama. On January 4th the statement was simple: The sharing of food is where relationship begins.  It rings very true.

Think about it.

When do people usually relax the most?

Pub over nachos. Cheap burger joint. A kitchen table (heck its why most house gatherings eventually wind up there).

It is why I have always held the firm belief in my spiritual journey that communion was never about the grape juice/wine and bread/host, that was not what Brother Jesus was instituting as sacrament.

These thoughts were renewed when my daughter and I went back to our Presbyterian church home on January 1 and it was a communion service for us to partake in.  You just need look to the earliest church writings from St. Paul, where he is chastising people for abusing the communion (community) meal, where some gorge and some starve, and you begin to see the true institution.

A new way of life was being called for. It would lead to the structures executing Jesus. He was saying, take time together, slow down life, break bread, eat and drink so all are cared for. Take this time to get to know one another, and like Sabbath, refresh and renew.

BUT…

Yes it is a big but, and I cannot lie. Like the Dalai Lama pointed out, for building community/family it was not the be all and end all.  This is meant to be the beginning where new life transformation emerges.  The breaking of bread is the beginning for the most radical transformation of ever…beginning to truly love one another authentically.

So who will you invite for a quick bite to start life with?

A great commercial to see, #Eattogether