Posts Tagged ‘Rome’


Anti-semitism, isolationism, wars, Islamophobia, dominance of Christendom are all traps that words like Paul writers centuries on can be used for (Romans 9). He writes about the faith journey, the journey of discovery. How it is not always the words said, but the heart presented. That is that in the journey one has to realize it is the one that takes the risk. These are examples being used in his writing of Israelite and Gentile, the same we would use examples in our own world to make a point. Like Jesus did with his parables of the Good Samaritan, one seen as a traitor but turns out to be the hero. So Paul is writing about those that are seen as “holy” and “with God” yet they are just show, and it is the struggling heart of the outsider that shines through the love.

It is an astute heart that looks beyond the literal, and sees the way a philosophical discourse is structured (Romans 10). It is a structure that Paul reminds the gathering in Rome, it is not an exclusive love. It is not meant to be horded or lorded, but rather shared. It is a journey- a pilgrimage of discovery, renewal and rebirth. It is like a comic book universe that reboots, so it is with our lives and the release of baggage as we release the old and let the new in. It is not just the summation of knowledge, ritual and rites, checking off the right laws followed. It is more than that.

It is the deep dive of actions in faith that moves beyond legal and illegal, into the right and wrong territory, it is a life lived that others can look to and knows what you held to be true. A life lived that shows others and, upon remembering, ourselves what we truly value.

The new path though may mean bucking from the old, as Paul points out, the fear of change (Romans 11) can create a freezing like stone or cement. This is a big shift, much ink and video has been spilled on the topic of change management, saving x, y, or z organization or denomination- mainline, non-profit, corporation, etc. What it comes down to is the shift will challenge the norms of the old that harm or rest power in a few. The shift to the new that is healthy will inspire and carry through a good transformation for society. The journey will entail grieving over the loss that if not counselled properly will lead to destruction, and pain that is unnecessary. In the midst though, one needs to be present to what is happening, deeply listening to find the divine guidance to what is truly meant to be birthed. Not what one wants to birth for their own ego (or as we would say back then, sin).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

Romans 12:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Be the authentic you. Understand what vocation your life has shaped you for. It understands that we all have our role within each group we are a part of, and that our gifts are meant to be used. It is a tough call, because one would then assume the gifts should lead to money. In a perfect world this is true, but in our imperfect world it may be that other employment or source of funds makes it able to chase your purpose in life. It truly is a vocation by tent making, or vocation of career, or a mixture of any and all of the above (Romans 12:3-21).

Paul’s words have also led to 3 ways that believers will engage with politics, either an attempt to convert the whole to their morals (social conservatism); create a Just Society (Social Gospel) or disengage entirely as it is all in God’s hands, and as such one should not participate (Romans 13:1-7). I believe Paul was laying out another point that one should not resist just being problematic, ensuring you are a citizen above reproach so that when you do speak out or acting out in accordance with love it is noticed and has an impact:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

-Romans 13:8-10 (English Standard Version)

For it comes down to the point that the greatest commandment is love. That is the root of our actions, and that we are to love self and neighbour (Romans 15). This means one cannot disengage from public discourse, but one needs to understand how they are engaging and what is the goal (Romans 13:11-14). The goal is the kingdom that was near, being here as it was presented in the Gospel of Mark. It is about a transfigured world where the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for, the elderly and the orphan have homes and are loved, homelessness is over, peace reigns, oh hope is the core that lets love shine through.

The transfigured world is one where we accept one another as we are. We understand how some things we do have ripple effects that can affect others, and we care for that person and vice-versa. It is worlds where one is loving of self and neighbour, not wrapped up in selfish pursuit of the material, and that we understand our individual human rights, come with communal responsibilities. When both are in harmony a world is humming along, all are cared for and can be authentically who they are (Romans 14).

As always Paul signs off with plans to visit, greetings and thanksgivings (Romans 16:1-23). It is a winding path this Labyrinth of Rome, unlike a maze though, it may be winding,

but there is no dead ends, it takes us to the centre where we can rest. Rest, reconcile, renew, and reflect.

Who are we meant to be?

Who are we now?

Who are you?

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

-Romans 16:24-27

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Sin, righteousness, our old self crucified (Romans 6), living as slaves or freed are words Paul has chosen to communicate with the folks of this gathering for where they are in this life. Paul is laying out the transformation, and ritual of renewal. In life coach we speak of discovering the gremlin-saboteur, acknowledging, thanking (yes, even if it was not helpful in becoming the full you, this gremlin had kept you safe), then a ritual of drawing out, writing out the words used, naming the gremlin… then destroying the gremlin when you are ready. The old you dying. The old you being crucified so that you can step into the new reality and begin the practice of living out of authentic love of self that shines through in your love of neighbour. A stark reminder in verse 21 for when we let new gremlins creep in, or in times of stress and struggle old ones reassert:

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

-Romans 6:21, (English Standard Version)

The old life is a living death for you are not whole, you are not living into who you are meant, and created to be. When you are in the new life, looking back may bring shame upon your past through your new eyes, but that too can be a path for a saboteur. Instead, focus on who you truly are, affirm the divinity of love that is you. Live into and out of that.

For we can default into legalism, the judicial system of life of what is legal and illegal as living under the law and rules produces (Romans 7) and it will guide us into a decent living this life. For we know what the end result should be, and the loopholes to work around when the means may not be completely “legal” but have we lived fully into the divine right and wrong?

I think there was a reason.

-Jesse Stone, Stone Cold (2005)

It was a cryptic comment from Chief Stone, after a gang rapists father tried to get the victim’s Dad arrested for assaulting his son when the son had called the victim a bitch. The Dad’s defense was the assault was for no reason. The function of legal/illegal versus right/wrong. There was yet to be a case made against his son, so it was not a crime. But there’s still a reason.

Reading Paul’s words around law and legalism, and more importantly living, I reflect on this scene and many others from the film and book series where a prophetic police chief keeps reminding folks that the police deal with legal and illegal, and all the loopholes that brings. While right and wrong, is a more inherent gut thing that when one is on the path of health, or whole, they just know how to live.

For Paul, that is the emerging life in the Holy Spirit. Some believe it is something that comes down upon us when we “convert”. To those, I believe a point has been missed. The Holy Spirit (Ghost for some) is the living breath of the Holy Mystery (God). It is what bonds communities together. It is what was breathed into creation of humanity on Day 6 of the Hebrew Poem in Genesis 1. It is not so much a coming down, but a coming out. That is we finally let it burn through the sludge we have used to bury it all this time. We allow our true nature to evolve within us, and evolve us.

We connect to the Cosmic Christ, so it becomes easier to live out the hard life lessons. We can move beyond what is allowed, what coding of other people say about them, we are able to look upon people as persons. Individual and not by grouping, you become able to see the divine within them even if they cannot see it within themselves. You begin to understand that life is not a quick fix, that there is preparation needed, and that inherent worth and dignity of the person. It is when your light, becomes able to connect to the spark, and perhaps, just perhaps a new healing journey can begin for another.

Like a game of Blob tag as a child, so is the game of connection of Holy Spirit.

Emergent light of community through self (Romans 8).

To the true you.

 

 


Scholars believe Peter, the one that is held as the Apostolic Succession by the Roman Catholic Church, wrote these words in 1 Peter between 60-64 CE, in the seat of Imperial power, Rome. As has been noted in earlier posts there were many different types of Christianities all existing under one huge umbrella. Peter’s as seen in the first chapter held to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, but also to the life, teachings, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. What is lost in translation, is that the simple fact of the “gospel” they chose to live as followers of the Way was an act of treason. Say what?

Yes, you read that right. TREASON. See the term gospel is a political proclamation. The way the followers of Jesus of Nazareth deemed to live was in direct confrontation and contradiction to the Emperor’s Gospel. It created a scenario where in different jurisdictions persecution, imprisonment and even execution was valid. Paul, when he was Saul was a lead inquisitor from religious oppression on this front (and it was one of the reasons the other Apostle’s struggled with trusting him). In 64 CE Nero’s contempt and rage would reach a crescendo as he attempted to cover up his own burning of Rome, and yes it would lead to the execution of Peter.

Yet Peter still brings these words to the second chapter:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”[a]

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

-1 Peter 2:1-12 (English Standard Version)

Peter dives into personal holistic formation. A rebuilding of the self within the new reality of wholeness. As the Holy Spirit/Breath has been attuned within you. That’s right, it has always been there, but now you are aware and living in the Oneness with God. All the religious barriers created were thrown away. It was about being the Law and the Prophets as Brother Jesus had brought them together in the Great Commandments of Love-God, Neighbour and Self. This is what we are now living into, and living out of. By doing this, even if you are not understood or seen as weird, what cannot be questioned is the actions of compassion. Even when those actions destroy and eliminate societal levels creating a community where all belong.

Spiritual formation. Holistic health. Mentoring. Or to use a Biblical word- discipleship. Not about huge numbers, but about a depth of character created that makes a true positive and holy change in the world.

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[b] whether it be to the emperor[c] as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[d] of God.17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

-1 Peter 2:13-25 (ESV)

This is a passage that can be used for evil (ala weaponized) so easily to create sheeple. For it sounds like Peter is telling his gathering to surrender and do whatever the government and other institutions tell them to do. Whether it is right or not. Think of how this has played out in time with slavery, holocausts, genocides, sexual abuse cover ups (and the list can go on). In a way saying that you cannot question authority. But that is a shallow and twisted hearing of the words for a man that lost his life to stand against the Empire.

Look at the key words: Do good, Love, Live as a free people. People in the Empire were not free, they were controlled by a strong caste system, and many were seen as nothing more than property. Things were hard to change in the era. But these key words are inspirational to those that want to bring change. Stand firm in your belief of faith, know that it will be challenging (as the second piece walks one through what happened to Jesus with his stance of equality, justice, and love).

It is about throwing off the oppressive labels and shackles that still exist in this day and age. What stigma causing labels are holding you back? Do you accept them, but know that you are just how you are meant to be? Or do you hear the words of Peter and live into the defeat that the labels are used to bring about?

It is the choice between light and darkness. For darkness exists because the hope has been snuffed out. One is left to believe that their life is dark and defeated, hopeless. No hope to return. This is what Peter is saying, there is hope. You have done the work destroying the sludge that had buried the light of your soul. Let that light shine, and know that change will happen.

Will you choose to live the light?

Apostle Shuffle 1

Posted: December 1, 2018 by Ty in Brunch & Bible, Spirituality
Tags: , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What story does your love create in the world?

 

 


James continues to write and lead the gathering of the Way in unique political-religious times in Jerusalem.  Rome is plotting the retaliation, but this small gathering of followers of Jesus of Nazareth exists within the synagogue system with Zealots; Essene (okay they are a bit more secluded by themselves, but you get my point); Pharisees; Sadducee; and other sects within the Judaic tent.

Yet through things like the opening teachings around testing of belief, show the tension within the early movement, and the established religion (much like with any new movement trying to prove its wings). Think about it. This is a movement of Messiahship that was not what was expected. Jesus of Nazareth had been 1 of hundreds of active “Messiahs” at the time of his crucifixion. Choosing his Way, could very easily be seen as a kind of heresy, and more to the point may create some tensions within family units already struggling under occupation and then the new reality in Jerusalem with Rome held at bay.

Interesting enough though, in chapter one, James calls forth the most ancient of tales from the Hebrew Bible, can you see it within these words:

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[d] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

-James 1:2-18 (English Standard Version)

What images or story archetypes are emerging with these words?

No it is not from the Torah (Pentateuch); rather it is from the Wisdom writings. Think of the ancient theatre of Job. Seen as God’s most beloved, he becomes the target of a cosmic wager between the angel tasked with testing- Lucifer- and God. It becomes then Job’s friends that try to convince him to walk away.

Why would James write to bring this story to mind for his gathering?

Testing will happen. There will be those seeing the loss of relationship, or work or material goods and try to convince you to walk away, but like Job you need to see deeper. The cool part about calling forth this story to the hearer though, is that it also has a point where Job rages against God, and God responds.

Think of the solace in that? You can feel disconnected from source, yet easily fight back in. Denial works in releasing that which keeps the Holy Spirit locked away inside you. Step into the light.

That is, know that testing happens in life, as it refines beliefs. It is challenges, and relationships that allow us to grow, understand ourselves, each other and our world.For the biggest challenge in life is stepping into the new day, knowing that you do not know or control the outcome…

but that is okay.

 

 


The Christmas season liturgically is 12 days that bring us to what is colloquially known as “Ukrainian Christmas” in January. It is one of the calendar discerning points between Orthodox and Roman Christianities (and the Protestant Christianities that spun out of the Roman Church). Liturgically this is the journey of what is commonly called the wise men, or like the old hymn, “We three kings”. Better translated the Magi, or magicians. The astrologers, the elder wisdom of the East brought to a creche in a manger in Jerusalem.

It is the story as brought to life in the writings of St. Matthew. Who is believed in tradition to be the tax collector Levi re-named Matthew (which means gift from God) by brother Jesus in his 3-year ministry before lynching by the powers that be. Written for an audience of Judea to understand the different Messiah. Not zealots but those open to the Kingdom idea of the way shown by Jesus. For even the traditions it is wrapped in, lay out a new path. Shattering of patriarchy control by listing women in the genealogy.

And showing the seditionist nature of the Herod family is seeking power even it means inflicting harm upon their own people. The Herod family maintained power as the puppet royals of Israel, much the way munitions manufacturers have made their billions and trillions in commerce—selling/working on both sides. That way guess what happens with whomever wins? You are in favour.

This is Herod that the Magi come to:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5”In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’.”

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

-Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

 

 

Think about it. Herod would lead a scourge and genocide of the masses. Their first born to silence an idea being born into the world that we are each others’ brothers and sisters. We are in this together. Together a new world can be birthed. Together society can be just. Together we can dream no little dream, but one where love rules.

This is where the Magi showed wisdom in not succumbing to the money, the power and/or the prestige that was Herod. They stood in their beliefs. They did not sell out what they held to be true to appease the money.

How often in our world have we created situations where money/power run roughshod over our beliefs? In employment? Church (me thinks annual general meetings and tithing?)…but even more, as we must remember the Gospel story is a declaration of political intent. Caesar used gospels to proclaim his program for the Empire. So the apostles/disciples were doing the same in proclaiming their gospel of Brother Jesus.

What more needs to be looked at? A story where governance exercises its power not to the benefit of the citizen but the detriment. In Canada we have worked hard to build a just society, yet ideological entrenchment over the past few decades has shook this for we cannot look for what is best for citizens, but are lost in the loop of attack/defend our ideologies. What happens in the interim?

As a nation of just about 34 million we cannot move into our constitution to discuss a new division of power that would allow for a stronger public health and public education system than the one now that has these resting in smaller provinces that moving them up to the federal level for a use of the buying clout of the federation as a whole.

It means smoke and mirrors so each ideology has used Employment Insurance as a surplus way to find monies, instead of being available to those who need it with ease. Y’know the unemployed and those who are on medical leave from work in an expeditated fashion before debt creates an untenable situation.

It is in the province of Alberta bureaucracies designed for AISH (Assured Income for the Severally Handicapped) and PDD that are designed to cull the lists, and protect expenditures on what is available by not using transparency so the least of these live within poverty or not even being able to qualify because the bureaucracy has a “prove you deserve this” mentality that goes beyond confirmation by doctors and specialists.

The same can be said Federally to the CPP-Disability plan.

And lets not forget fighting against the Protestant myth of the deserving poor used by Neo-Cons to strip Alberta Works (Social Services) from being proactive, to being in a state where it is hard to grow out of the poverty cycle you are in once on it.

Yet ideologies argue between the left and the right instead of the constitutional guarantee of Peace, Order and Good Governance. We argue over issues that can be summed up by sound bytes of 140 characters, not understanding that for every bill, for every tax there is a ripple effect in the pond we exist within.  Ideological wars that weary the citizen to a point of apathy that nothing can change so why fight the system, let dark money take root, don’t show up to vote, because no party will be better than any other.

Disengagement due to disgruntlement due to government putting corporate profits over citizen well-being.

Hmmm…or Herod putting his gold coffers over those of his people.

Rome putting absolute power, and taking care of the wealthy class over the masses.

And the Magi know where the baby is, that brings the message of transformative love, and they must make a choice. Will they give in to apathy as nothing will change and tell Herod? Or will they believe the pablum because the last bill took care of their class because they are not the “label” currently being ignored or not Twitter sexy?

No.

They chose to go accomplish what they must, and not serve up their neighbour to death at the hands of ideological madness. For their wisdom was simple and shown in the gifts they brought.

            We are one in humanity. We are in this together from birth to death.

  As you journey with the Magi this season, how will you answer the question Herod in caring for your neighbour?

            Will you let apathy reign?

            Wealth control?

            Or love and care of neighbour win?


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

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

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus

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

 

Introduction

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then this happened:

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

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