Posts Tagged ‘Reformation’


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

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

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

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

But this is a dialogue on the text.

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

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

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

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

What proclamation is your life lived writing?

What is your gospel?

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

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


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?

 

 


It is amazing how an equitable and just community built upon the creation of equality found in Genesis 1 would become an empire of patriarchal oppression. Yet it is the story that happened. Constantine declares he had a vision to conquer under the cross. It was the cross that eliminated the pantheon and transformed the religion of the oppressed into the Empire’s rallying cry around 324 CE. It was also a rallying cry that stripped away many of the traditions, stories and mystics of the time for one that fit Constantine’s Empire narrative. Much was lost. Then came the great schism in 1054 CE between Eastern and Western, and more was shed to fit the surviving narratives on either side of the divide. And the narrative continues through the Crusades, the Reformation, Enlightenment, Restoration, Monastic renewals, Charismatic, New Thought/Metaphysic, Mormon and so on and so forth. Each stripping away narratives that spoke of the inherent equality of the movement.
Each that warned of a world to come if we allowed the power of the money, the power of politic to usurp the dignity of the neighbour, the person we are and the person next to us. Some of these narratives survived but so buried under the mistake of “unworthiness” needing to be saved in the “blood sacrifice” that the narrative of inclusion, love and belonging was lost. Even so much as to strip away the power of the Mary story, by usurping it by the Joseph story, and the God story. Making Mary a secondary or even tertiary voice in control of her own body.
This was not the intent of the sacred story.

Yet there are examples of warning, of other stories literally stripped from “Canon” depending on which movement branch of the tree of the Christianities you belong to. Here is one example within the Deutero-canonical tradition-the story of Susanna:

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1 There dwelt a man in Babylon, called Joacim:
2 And he took a wife, whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Chelcias, a very fair woman, and one that feared the Lord.
3 Her parents also were righteous, and taught their daughter according to the law of Moses.
4 Now Joacim was a great rich man, and had a fair garden joining unto his house: and to him resorted the Jews; because he was more honourable than all others.
5 The same year were appointed two of the ancients of the people to be judges, such as the Lord spake of, that wickedness came from Babylon from ancient judges, who seemed to govern the people.
6 These kept much at Joacim’s house: and all that had any suits in law came unto them.
7 Now when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went into her husband’s garden to walk.
8 And the two elders saw her going in every day, and walking; so that their lust was inflamed toward her.
9 And they perverted their own mind, and turned away their eyes, that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.
10 And albeit they both were wounded with her love, yet durst not one shew another his grief.
11 For they were ashamed to declare their lust, that they desired to have to do with her.
12 Yet they watched diligently from day to day to see her.
13 And the one said to the other, Let us now go home: for it is dinner time.
14 So when they were gone out, they parted the one from the other, and turning back again they came to the same place; and after that they had asked one another the cause, they acknowledged their lust: then appointed they a time both together, when they might find her alone.
15 And it fell out, as they watched a fit time, she went in as before with two maids only, and she was desirous to wash herself in the garden: for it was hot.
16 And there was no body there save the two elders, that had hid themselves, and watched her.
17 Then she said to her maids, Bring me oil and washing balls, and shut the garden doors, that I may wash me.
18 And they did as she bade them, and shut the garden doors, and went out themselves at privy doors to fetch the things that she had commanded them: but they saw not the elders, because they were hid.
19 Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders rose up, and ran unto her, saying,
20 Behold, the garden doors are shut, that no man can see us, and we are in love with thee; therefore consent unto us, and lie with us.
21 If thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee: and therefore thou didst send away thy maids from thee.
22 Then Susanna sighed, and said, I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death unto me: and if I do it not I cannot escape your hands.
23 It is better for me to fall into your hands, and not do it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
24 With that Susanna cried with a loud voice: and the two elders cried out against her.
25 Then ran the one, and opened the garden door.
26 So when the servants of the house heard the cry in the garden, they rushed in at the privy door, to see what was done unto her.
27 But when the elders had declared their matter, the servants were greatly ashamed: for there was never such a report made of Susanna.
28 And it came to pass the next day, when the people were assembled to her husband Joacim, the two elders came also full of mischievous imagination against Susanna to put her to death;
29 And said before the people, Send for Susanna, the daughter of Chelcias, Joacim’s wife. And so they sent.
30 So she came with her father and mother, her children, and all her kindred.
31 Now Susanna was a very delicate woman, and beauteous to behold.
32 And these wicked men commanded to uncover her face, (for she was covered) that they might be filled with her beauty.
33 Therefore her friends and all that saw her wept.
34 Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head.
35 And she weeping looked up toward heaven: for her heart trusted in the Lord.
36 And the elders said, As we walked in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, and shut the garden doors, and sent the maids away.
37 Then a young man, who there was hid, came unto her, and lay with her.
38 Then we that stood in a corner of the garden, seeing this wickedness, ran unto them.
39 And when we saw them together, the man we could not hold: for he was stronger than we, and opened the door, and leaped out.
40 But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us: these things do we testify.
41 Then the assembly believed them as those that were the elders and judges of the people: so they condemned her to death.
42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, O everlasting God, that knowest the secrets, and knowest all things before they be:
43 Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me, and, behold, I must die; whereas I never did such things as these men have maliciously invented against me.
44 And the Lord heard her voice.
45 Therefore when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young youth whose name was Daniel:
46 Who cried with a loud voice, I am clear from the blood of this woman.
47 Then all the people turned them toward him, and said, What mean these words that thou hast spoken?
48 So he standing in the midst of them said, Are ye such fools, ye sons of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth ye have condemned a daughter of Israel?
49 Return again to the place of judgment: for they have borne false witness against her.
50 Wherefore all the people turned again in haste, and the elders said unto him, Come, sit down among us, and shew it us, seeing God hath given thee the honour of an elder.
51 Then said Daniel unto them, Put these two aside one far from another, and I will examine them.
52 So when they were put asunder one from another, he called one of them, and said unto him, O thou that art waxen old in wickedness, now thy sins which thou hast committed aforetime are come to light.
53 For thou hast pronounced false judgment and hast condemned the innocent and hast let the guilty go free; albeit the Lord saith, The innocent and righteous shalt thou not slay.
54 Now then, if thou hast seen her, tell me, Under what tree sawest thou them companying together? Who answered, Under a mastick tree.
55 And Daniel said, Very well; thou hast lied against thine own head; for even now the angel of God hath received the sentence of God to cut thee in two.
56 So he put him aside, and commanded to bring the other, and said unto him, O thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thine heart.
57 Thus have ye dealt with the daughters of Israel, and they for fear companied with you: but the daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness.
58 Now therefore tell me, Under what tree didst thou take them companying together? Who answered, Under an holm tree.
59 Then said Daniel unto him, Well; thou hast also lied against thine own head: for the angel of God waiteth with the sword to cut thee in two, that he may destroy you.
60 With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and praised God, who saveth them that trust in him.
61 And they arose against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth:
62 And according to the law of Moses they did unto them in such sort as they maliciously intended to do to their neighbour: and they put them to death. Thus the innocent blood was saved the same day.
63 Therefore Chelcias and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joacim her husband, and all the kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her.
64 From that day forth was Daniel had in great reputation in the sight of the people.

Notice a parallel in the Jian Ghomeshi or Harvey Weinstein story of today?

I challenge you to spend time with this parable. Break it down like one would in English class. Take it through the plot diagram of preamble, inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement (falling action) and resolution. Then break down who is the protagonist (hero), antagonist (villain and other challenges the hero faces); supporting cast. Then challenge your world view, what would happen if you flipped the antagonist and protagonist? For we must understand that which we are against. Do this in community and alone. Then each take one of the outlines and re-write the text in 21st century of the community you exist in today (community league, religious gathering, etc.)…

What light has the story of Susanna shed on love for self and love for neighbour in the heart of the Holy?