(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Advent: Vignette|Shepherd

This blog was originally published
November 25, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Stories, Vignettes & the Archive

Stories … they’re funny things. This A Deacon’s Musing feature will share vignettes of voices that are (often) an amalgamation of experiences, contexts and people. They will frequently be monologues, which will be speaking both directly to our United Church of Canada and generally to faith communities. As with all stories, this may not have actually happened, but all stories are true. And as story-tellers know, once you hear them, they are happening to you …

Please explore the Vignette Archive for more stories.

The Flock

The Flock

I can only watch now. Too much pain in my right hip. I suspect it has everything to do with trying to hobble that wayward lamb that kept running off. We never like having to do it, but they’re just stubborn … I guess sort of like us, like me …

I rolled down that valley wall. It didn’t hurt too much when I slammed into that boulder! I was young: weren’t we all! But, as the years have passed, first the rains would make it flare and now, well, I watch the flock go and am left simply to remember.

I’m old, though my memory reaches back. We didn’t have it then. I’m not even sure we knew to look for it, need alone where. And now, years since he died, even further since he was born, people are writing stuff down, they say.

Never had much use for those who thought they were smarter with word keeping. Those who have, always will, Abba told us as we tended to flock. Sometimes, after weeks away from the markets, we took what we needed. The Centurions wouldn’t let us feed or water the herd. If they didn’t allow us to market, well, like I said, we didn’t have it before then so we did what had to feed ourselves, our kin and flocks.

I hear some are saying there were lights and stars, singing and rejoicing, even word keepers from afar. I don’t remember it that way, but then I’m old and does it really matter? We all got the same thing that night, so long ago, who cares how you dress the goat? It’s the quality of it’s health that matters!

Nothing seemed special that night. Those in Caesarea told them to round us up – a census or some such thing. We knew what it was. Gather them, brand them and hobble those who might wander. Hobble, of course, was code to make sure the trouble makers were under Caesar’s thumb!

Oh and it smarted. Already there were those who thought revolution was ordained, that to tolerate this was blasphemy. For most of us, though, it’s all we knew. Whether Greek or Roman, Egyptian or others who came before, we had always known the yoke. Sometimes we wore it, sometimes we didn’t, and we always found ways to celebrate Yahweh in our own way. If it wasn’t Caesar, it would be someone else, Abba used to say.

But that night – sorry these memories have a habit of taking me afield – it was normal, nothing special. Yet … there it was. Like when we would sing when we met other flocks. After the night settled, we’d gather, share the news. Then, if we sang and found that shared note, it was in you: harmony some call it. That was what that night was like.

Too many people everywhere – shepherds will take wolves over people. People are trying at the best of time, worse when they’re forced together. The town was crowded, so we waited outside. Soldiers had herded us too – they were watching. Sure, we were afraid, sometimes when the Romans gathered us, a little example could keep the yoke tight. That night, they watched.

Then there it was – birthing cries. The people kind, she was in pain and just outside of the town. So we went – when the mother cries, you reply, was another of His lines. There they were in one of the caves – they were lucky the Centurions had cleared it for the census or no one would a been born that night. As it was, there they were.

The Cave

The Cave

Nothing special, just like us. An abba and an imma. She was bearing – with those screams you would of thought the babe was breached as she straddled the cave entrance. Her arms holding her as she squatted. As we arrived, he looked worried as we approached – and why shouldn’t he? We were those people everyone avoided …

But … but she stopped screaming, boy popped out, a snip, a slap … a pause then he cried. Nothing special. So help me nothing special. We might have been singing before her screaming called us, but none after. Just silence, just normal nothing …

But … in the silence, we knew, but we didn’t … like that song thing again. We felt it, but there are no words. That wee baby, all covered in the muck of birth, was … special? Holy? Words, did I mention that I’m not really a fan?

Ah well, here’s the punchline. The hips flaring and I need to do something today other than sit, but before I go, are you wondering what it is we learned? I’ve thought about it for awhile, you know to get the right word, even if only for words sake.

In that desolate cave, outside a town where we were being gathered like sheep, where fear like sweat beads as the hot days gives way to the desert’s cool embrace, this little nothing baby had it: Hope.

Even now, while everyone it trying to figure it out, use words to make sense of it all years after his death, Hope abides. I don’t know what you need or where you are, as you listen to the words of an old man, but know this:

  • Hope means you got choices.
  • Hope means when you gather, you’re not alone.
  • Hope means, that even in fear, light comes in the morning.
  • Hope means when you hold one another, not only are you made whole, but your dreaming dreams shapes the future.

The rest, well let the word-keepers do as is their wont …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Poetry II

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

 

Hope
In places dim
potential awaits

In times difficult
promise foretells

In present grief
trust perseveres

In confusion fugue
faith clarifies

1. Advent 2012

1. Advent 2012
Artist: Barbara Müller-Walter

Peace
In violent grip
amity attends

In storming turmoil
tranquility dawns

In boundary violated
accord divined

In agitated discord
serenity calms

2. Advent 2012

2. Advent 2012
Artist: Barbara Müller-Walter

Joy
In depression’s midst
comfort embraces

In harmony sad
wonder replies

In sorrow deep
mirth meanders

In words discouraging
affirmation abides

3. Advent 2012

3. Advent 2012
Artist: Barbara Müller-Walter

Love
In tempting apathy
Passion present

In will ill
ardor emboldens

In betraying treachery
affection reconciles

In hatred chaos
Tenderness tames

4. Advent 2012

4. Advent 2012
Artist: Barbara Müller-Walter

Another Christmas day comes to an end

Another Christmas day comes to an end
Artist: Jamie In Bytown

Advent
In hours haste
home soothes

In moment impatient
hospitable welcome

In outlook impetuous
harbour beckons

In death dirge
life renews

Blog links:

 Image: 1. Advent 2012
 Image: 2. Advent 2012
 Image: 3. Advent 2012

 Image: 4. Advent 2012
 Image: Another Christmas day comes to an end
 Wikipedia: Advent
 YouTube: O Come Emmanuel (Future of Forestry)

Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

2011
Dec 2/11

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Waiting for Crackpot Jesus Dea. Richard reflects on this child for whom we wait, where he might be found today and what choices lay before us as we endeavour to live into our discipleship.

Dec 8/11

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Gifts Dea. Richard blogs what the word ‘gift’ might mean to Christians as we enter the Advent Season of reflection.

Dec 15/11

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Rattling of Swords In this blog, Dea. Richard muses about the world’s tendency to seek solutions through the use of violence & war and whether or not that is a compatible choice from our Christian vantage.

Dec 21/11

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Cacophony of Sound Dea. Richard explores the tension of this time of year that is filled with noise & distractions, while the Christian Advent Season encourages us to reflect from a vantage of waiting.

2012
Nov 29/12

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Poetry Dea. Richard blogs using poetry as we begin to walk into this season of Advent Waiting.

Dec 8/12

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Peace Dea. Richard blogs about some of his experiences during Sabbatical & how it connects with Peace!

Dec 14/12

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Joy Dea. Richard explores Advent Joy within a poetry-slam genre/performance approach. If you’re reading this – maybe try speaking it to see if the spoken cadence translates from the written word.

Dec 21/12

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Love In this final 2012 Advent blog, Dea. Richard reflects on love through the lens of Tina Turner & Christian Anarchism!

2014
Dec 5/14

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Poetry Dea. Richard blogs using poetry the season of Advent Waiting to the arrival of the Christmas moment.

2016
Nov 25/16

Icon: LinkA Deacon’s Musing: Advent: Vignette|Shepherd Dea. Richard explores Advent through a Vignette from the perspective of a Shepherd from first century Judea.

 

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Love

This blog was originally published December 21, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
̶ Martin Luther King Jr.,
A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Okay I admit it … though some of you may already know this, I’m a Gen X-er through and through. I unfortunately fit into a lot of the truisms about my generation: I distrust institutions, I’d rather discern the worth of a person by what they do, not what they say, I’m resistant to committing for fear of disappointment and – when I do – I’m in, all in! Oh yeah, I also grew up listening to big haired ‘80s stars belt our ballads and wear pastel colours a lot, like a lot! And, as I prepared this final blog on Love in Advent, Tina Turner came rushing into my head!

Oh whats love got to do, got to do with it
What`s love but a second hand emotion
What`s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken
̶ Tina Turner, What’s Love Got to do With It?

http://youtu.be/TCBttS_y7lE

With Tina singing in my inner monologue, I’ve also been reading Geez recently and – in particular – their edition about Christian Anarchism. And, if that does not muddle this blog even more, I was also bravely challenged by a recent twitter discussion by – and I think most appropriately issued – the following:

“Jesus was your king. Shut up.”
Intrigued, I asked,
“Say more … I’m currently reading about Christian Anarchists … any connexion?”
To which the reply was,
“I suppose you could say that it has something to do with christians (not all)
putting blind faith in a man they’ve never met.”

I knew a few things in that twitter conversation: 1) there was material for a blog; and, 2) what a succinct challenge for Christians who endeavour to understand what it means to be disciples! The following – hmmm rambling? Muse? – I hope will offer some (awkward) ways to navigate through this Love thing …

Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

Okay, first of all, this Love thing is not some sentimentalised emotion – check out last year’s blog for more about that, Advent & Waiting for Crackpot Jesus. There might be aspects of sentiment that are emotional and make up this Love, but it’s much more than the neuro-chemicals that our brain releases. It’s more than lust or other ‘second hand emotions’ that can be experienced from a spectrum from caring for something to inappropriate obsession.

Second, the twitter discussion was absolutely right: blind faith, faith that removes reason from the equation, must always be challenged. One discipline that must be part of any faith journey is the comfort to ask awkward questions. Central to discipleship is the practice to sit in the truths that are difficult to speak and – here’s one of the kickers – to be comfortable in ambiguity or, as sometimes articulated from a Christian context, paradox.

Continuing with the twitter challenge in this in Advent Love blog following Jesus as King, Messiah, Rabbi, Friend, and any innumerable descriptors is in the doing, not the saying. What you believe about Jesus must translate into action in the world, in real life and not simply a place from which to pontificate and proselytise. Without the doing Jesus ends up simply becoming another idol, a symbol that no longer points beyond itself to a larger universal truth. For Christian this is sometimes articulated as the Trinity, but regardless of the words, without an actual response in the world, I’d echo, “Jesus was your king. Shut up.”

Finally, for this year’s set of Advent blogs, I’d suggest that the four themes of Advent can be considered a formula of sorts:

Hope -> faith in the possibility of something better. But this is more than simply an intellectual exercise, it is engaging in Hope as a discipline that leads to being Peace.

Peace -> that sense of groundedness in a human world that sometimes seems off-kilter, addicted to violence and dehumanises people. Peace that allows you to be fully present to the suffering around you without being overwhelmed by it. And in such places and moments there is Joy

Joy -> being Peace opens you to a sense of infinite gratitude. In this place of gratitude, you realise that the potentiality of Hope is not just otherworldly or metaphysical, but actually possible! In every experience, person, place and thing you see God and that this reality is filled with abundance!

Hope + Peace + Joy = Love

If these three themes can be considered as disciplines, practices with which to engage in our everyday lives, we become Love. We become the very life-giving force that inspires dreamers and emboldens prophetesses. We live into the spark of the Divine that we are and, as the pending arrival of a child promises, anything is possible even in the midst of the tragedies that human perpetuate against one another. As you question, wrestle, celebrate & challenge, may this Advent season lead you to places by which you might awaken to the Love that you are.

Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor;
act as if you did.
As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.
When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him
̶ C.S. Lewis

Blog links:

Wikipedia: Peace
Wikipedia: Tina Turner
YouTube: What’s Love Got to do With It?

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Joy

This blog was originally published December 14, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

 

If Gratitude is fractured happiness made whole,
then Joy is the outward expression of your Being
̶ UCiM-isms (Dec 12/2012)

Words are funny things – they get misused, overused, weaponised and trivialised. The words of Advent – Hope, Peace, Joy & Love are no different. In fact, recently I have heard such challenges raised in respect to each of these words. And – truth be told – that’s rather hard to hear since they have an explicit connexion with our journey as Christians and, in particular, during the Advent Season!

So what, they’re nice words … right?
They’ve got some fluff to them
and sure they might remind us of some intangible feel-good emotions,
but what’s the big deal about words?

Well … words have power … they literally define reality and the when we wake up to this reality, we realise we have choices. It’d be easy to acquiesce the ‘watering down’ of the Advent words and sort of move on … but then here’s a parallel of what happens.

Let’s take the word pretty … it’s innocuous enough. It’s got that flowery softish-ness to it, right? Well according to Katie Makkai, in this poetry-slam in which language sharpens her challenge, we better take notice because without (re)claiming words and knowing their imbued power, we are basically allowing others to create it for us!

 So what, Joy’s a nice word … right?
It’s got some fluff and sure it might remind us of some intangible feel-good emotion,
but what’s the big deal?

Well here’s the point friends, Brothers & Sisters, doubters & questioners: Joy possesses the power to change not only your world, but those with whom you interact. Joy possesses the potential to face life’s struggles, horrors, celebrations and ultimately its transient nature with embodying in action an internal sense of gratitude. It may be simple to write these words, but it’s not easy to do … and that’s what Advent waiting forces us to confront.

We may like the quaintness of some story about a wee babe en route to change the world, heck transform it! But … yep there’s that nefarious conjunction … the reality is that transformation is not passive! It’s not simply bound to some historical moment in a narrative that some doubt – perhaps even appropriately so. It’s active, it occurs now. It does not occur in isolation, it takes work, it takes you to wrestle with these words, not just intellectually but in your life … what do they mean?

In this case, what does Joy mean to you?
What does it mean to Be Joy?

What does it mean to aspire to discipleship when the world seems,
at times,
bent on tearing itself apart,
objectifying women,
debasing anyone whose sexual orientation does not fit
into a binary of ‘boy’ and ‘girl?’

What does it mean to aspire to discipleship when
people are judged based on the melatonin level of their skin,
the God(s) to whom they owe allegiance,
and which part of the city in which you were born?

Question … that’s what we are called to do in Advent and the answer(s), in this case what it means to Be Joy, determines the trajectory of our discipleship. The answer determines the degree to which we live into the Kingdom to Come now. The answer determines the extent to which the pending arrival of a child is simply some disembodied story or a myth that lives in us to such an extent that it leads us into action …

In this case, what does Joy mean to you?
What does it mean to Be Joy?

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Peace

This blog was originally published December 8, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

 

Peace:
It is not the outer display that brings about change,
it is the inner grounding in which ego sits lightly upon serenity

̶ UCiM-isms (Dec 5/2012)

For many who read this week’s blog, you will know that I have been away from UCiM and have just returned, as I have been journeying apart from the congregation during an intentional time of Sabbath. Some of the reasons for Sabbath, from a Christian perspective, are to explore one’s relationship with God and (hopefully) deepen that connexion with the Holy, to seek rejuvenation, to recharge and – in my case – to explore topics and practices, which I would not have be able to while actively involved in congregational life. One of the ways that I had intended to structure this time was through the beginning Doctoral studies, and that is indeed how Sabbath began …

Deep peace of the running wave to you …
̶ Traditional Celtic Blessings

The funny thing about life is, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” As the Fall academic year unfolded, I began to wonder whether this programme was the best place for me to accomplish that to which I have felt called. In another time, as another person, I admit that I would have found myself embraced by an energy that has often crippled me. Call it anger or frustration: I, however, have learned it is called rage.

This visceral emotion has been a long companion of mine and, as I have journeyed on, I have begun to learn from it rather than be swept away in its wake … as my intention for Doctoral work began to unravel I found myself digging deep. Not to blame, nor seek some sense of justice or retribution, but, instead I sought peace. I knew I needed to discover a sense of tranquility or serenity if I were to be able to choose ‘what next,’ as opposed to being controlled by the emotion that has – often in my past – controlled me. Rather than devolve into habitual responses, I knew intuitively I needed to transform or harness that emotion into placid clarity.

Make me a channel of your peace
̶ Prayer of St. Francis

And – as often happens with insight or an ‘aha,’ – clarity it hit me like a wave. I had not failed, nor did I have to fight a fight that was, ultimately, counterproductive. I am – as we all are – endeavouring to discern the path upon which we might tread: to walk in a manner that most authentically honours the child of God that you and I are. The work to which I have been called for more years than I have worn a ‘Christian’ hat remains the path upon which I still walk. The clarity was not that I had made a mistake, but that – in that moment of Grace – there was a more holistic way to live out, in a life-giving way, this work that I believe is part of my own Call. Without intentionally seeking, meditating and praying to be peace, however, no matter how my outward actions might be experienced, I would know the intent of them would be grounded in a place that dishonours my potential.

As Christians, we walk into the second week of Advent and often we discuss the idea of peace as our actions and choices that lead to a perceived lessening of war or where there is an absence of violence. Often there is a sense of (self-) righteousness in some quarters within our fold.

And though I appreciate the outward actions that aspire to peace,
I truly wonder,
from where does that passion derive?

Anger, Lust, Passion?
Pride, Deceit, Envy?
Avarice, Fear, Gluttony?

And – once more – have those energies been transformed
in such a way to help others awaken to real peace?

Innocence, Action, Serenity?
Humility, Authenticity, Equanimity?
Detachment, Courage, Sobriety?

Without knowing our motivations,
our triggers and habitual responses,
can we truly describe ourselves as serenely being peace?

Can we truly be humbled by gentle waves that remind us that the work we do,
in the end,
is not our own, but that of the Creator?

Until we awaken to the paradox that peace and conflict actually complement one another, in fact are intimately bound to one another, we will ironically seek to eliminate one without realising its dependence upon the other.

Peace be with you … and also with you
Traditional Christian Salutation

Blog links:

Wikiquote: John Lennon
YouTube: Deep Peace

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Control

This blog was originally published July 12, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood

I have been thinking a lot about control and what it means for communities of faith? What does it mean for Christianity as it enters a time and context when we are no longer at the ‘centre’ of it all? Some call this previous centre ‘Christendom:’ a time when the Christian faith was taken for granted and everyone was (by implication) Christian, even if they did not necessarily believe.

This Christendom phase, if you will, was particularly prevalent in the ‘western’ world. It has left many legacies that range from those which can be celebrated to those that continue to stand and implicate us. In particular, such implications have been expressed in the manner in which Christendom’s assumptions led to a misuse of privilege and power. What we thought was normal, and what we therefore tried to change if it was deemed abnormal, has caused harm. These injuries remain as open sores and scars, which are still present and continue to require healing.

Stop!

Stop!

I have also been thinking about control more particularly in my own ministry context. Shortly, I will begin holidays and then enter a time of Sabbatical. A time in which Christians endeavour to rejuvenate, reflect, relax and renew. Sabbath is a gift that is grounded in our Sacred Stories. It is a time in which God encourages people to let go of control and simply be, in order to experience the ever-present-whispering that is the Holy. In this place, we may learn, we may confront our own assumptions; we may very well be transformed …

Approaching this Sabbath, therefore, has me thinking of control. Personally, it means letting go of some stuff in my ministry at UCiM that might feel … well – challenging! Living out one’s faith means – often – that one’s identity can become connected with the ‘visible’ signs of our faithful and good works. Whether that is the social media aspect of UCiM’s ministry, technology components of worship, or the people with whom I have had the privilege to journey and share their stories, I will have to let go and trust that what will be, will be. Acquiescing is a choice and – hopefully – when done with intention – new things begin …

I have also been thinking about control in respect to UCiM’s choices and responses as I approach Sabbath. Part of me thinks there is a connexion (or parallel) with the idea of leadership. The areas in which I have offered ministry are models – I hope – of leadership. This does not mean that I have the answers or it’s my way or the highway. Rather – again with hope – ministry can be seen as the gift of claiming individual strengths and passions, in order to share what Christians call the Good News. The message, at its simplest, is the radical idea of love. Not love as a way to control, but love in the freedom that comes with recognising that we are all a gift, a blessing and waking to that reality means finding ways to share that with others who are at a point on their own journey to hear that. It’s not about forcing, converting or coercing. I wonder what leadership will look like as I begin to journey into Sabbath and what new things will be present when I arrive?

The model of Christendom grounded in hierarchy, patriarchy, and paternalism led to a skewed vision of colonialism. Perhaps there was some core intent that can be reclaimed, perhaps even redeemed, but the explicit damage that came with millennia of the illusion of having the right answers remains a testament to the challenge of what leadership looks like now as we embrace diversity and the potential freedom in letting go of control.

I do not know what a post-Christendom Christianity looks like. I do not know what UCiM might look like when I get back from Sabbatical, but I do know that letting go of control means people will have to make choices: Choices to continue this; stop that; and start that.

• It means choices where people of faith will have to decide whether or not this aspect of their ministry is important or not.
• It means UCiM and its leaders will have to claim their authority in sharing their faith that is not reliant upon someone who is Paid and Accountable.
• It means, that when I get back, I will have the gift to sit at Table with a group of men and women who have had the opportunity to choose what leadership means
and I, in turn, will walk into something completely new come Advent 2012 …

A Deacon’s Musing blog

Blog links:

Wikipedia: Sabbath
Wiktionary: Control

A Deacon’s Musing blog

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Hate

This blog was originally published February 2, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: ‘hate is all the world has ever seen lately’

There I am on my morning 10k run. Boomer at my side – enduring my slow, plodding bipedal gate – surrounded by the beauty of hoar frost embracing any and every surface upon which moisture might cling and above a brilliant robin’s blue sky pushing out the morning fog, when suddenly the lyric, “‘Cause hate is all the world has ever seen lately,” jarred me out of the longed-for-runner’s-high!

For me, my daily run is the time I set aside to try to reflect on the day that has been, what might lie before me and where I might be called to reflect. In essence, this is one of my spiritual disciplines … and with any ritual or practice, there’s always the potential that you get stopped in your tracks … this was one of those times …

Now I know this may not be a surprise to you, really it is not as such to me either – at least from a head space perspective. But something, today, was shocking … shocking because – I guess upon reflection – I was surrounded by beauty. And this lyric cut through all of that beyond my intellect into my body and my heart and there was this ‘duh aha’ moment.

Gallery: ADM (2012)

What Would Jesus not do?

It’s unequivocally true … lately likely being the entire course of human history is pocked, marked, scarred with hate. Have you read any of our Hebrew Scriptures lately? Not exactly a lot of egalitarian love going on in there – in fact quite the opposite: people rationalising murder, mayhem, genocide all in the name of ‘God.’ After all, we all know God is on our side, right? Well at least insofar as those who get to write the story are able to shift the narrative from hate to God’s preference, from oppression to protection, from selfishness to self-preservation, from offence to defence …

I have blogged – loosely – about this during Advent in A Deacon’s Musing: Advent & the Rattling of Swords, but there is more than simply being in a culture of war that I have not explored. A constant message of hate, which is so easy to internalise and with which then to paint everyone whom we meet, is insidious. It becomes a pattern that we repeat without knowing … in a text based environment, one of the revelations has been that ‘more offence is taken than is ever intended.’ This insight is born from the reality that most communication is non-verbal – so the words we use do not often necessarily mean what we are actually saying!

What’s the point? In a culture inundated with various media that do not require interacting with another human being, it has become easier to ASSUME what people actually say before we even meet them. This race is like this, that person does that, their culture always responds this way, is a recording that becomes part of our ASSUMPTIONS when we finally meet someone new …

And, of course, into the fray comes Jesus – the one whom Christians use as a guide, gauge, mentor, teacher – that not only challenges those whom we have come to call the Disciples, but those of us who continue to endeavour to share his message! And, as is evident in the discomfort when you start to listen to him, hate is really not part of his vocabulary. A recent image from facebook seems to sum this up by using examples of what Jesus would NOT do:

• Harass Single Moms
• Beat Homosexuals
• Picket Their Funerals
• Shoot Doctors
• Shoot Anyone
• Join A Militia
• Run A Network
• Own A Weapon
• Run For President
• Burn A Cross
• Hate His Enemies
• Attack The Poor
• Side With The Rich
• Put His Name On Merchandise

Hate – it’s insidious! Until we confront how we ourselves are affected by it, it is likely we will be defensive when we are told we hate so & so or such & such … but if we take Jesus’ ministry seriously, if we aspire to be LOVE in the world, maybe we need to be jarred out of our assumptions. When we hear the challenge that ‘all the world has ever seen lately’ is hate, maybe we need to Take a Look Around. In turn, we might have to reflect on how we might be something different …

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|The Cacophony of Sound

This blog was originally published December 21, 2011
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: Advent & the Cacophony of Sound

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

We use too many words … we fill our spaces with loud sounds, the clanging of cymbals, blaring of MP3s intrude the silence … we have more distractions than we know what to do with & they numb … they numb us to the point that we forget our longings, our prayers, our hopes … Deep down, in those moments when suddenly the glaring of the screen or the ringing of the cell phone halts, can you hear it, can you hear the whisper, can you hear the calling, the beckoning?

Starfields

Too often, as Christians, we get stuck in thinking the work, the social justice, the giving & the doing are to what we are Called. Not that the digging & praying are not important, but Advent is an opportunity to reconnect with something central & core to our being & a recognition that it is by Grace that we are transformed & renewed. Grace, that gift freely offered to each of us without qualification, regardless of what we do …

Do you feel something missing? Does it feel as you walk into each day, through your routine that is perhaps more rote than choice that something is wrong? Do you turn on the news & see images of pain & suffering, sorrow & sadness & have an inkling that this is not right? That something is not quite fitting into what you imagine the ways things should be & the way we – as a culture – have fashioned our reality?

What does this Grace look like? Do we want to seek it? Do we want to be transformed from a person filled with doubts & questions, brokenness & addictions into something whole & new? Are we willing to let go … truly let go?

On that imagined, literal, mythologised Christmas Day whose truth transcends superficial discussions of ‘actuality,’ something happened to those present. This wee babe, surrounded by the poor, the marginalised, foreigners & the lowly, ushered in something radical. The men & women, the discarded gave themselves up & experienced the revelation of the Hope of this child & experienced Grace, which did not judge them according to their race, age, gender, wealth, ability, sexual identity or orientation. They awoke in this child’s presence to the core of their being, which defies words & remains dully defined even in poetry.

Are you ready? Do you really want to meet this child? Do you really want to awaken to a reality outside of reinforced self-focused individuality & confront our interconnectedness? Do you REALLY want to realise that all of Creation is your neighbour – that you are the rocks & leaves, the cats & dogs, the baying donkey & the crooning Mourning Dove? Are you prepared to embrace that what you do to another LITERALLY causes you harm or care depending on the choices you make?

2000 years ago, people – men & women – began to give up their lives for renewal & rebirth into a family that was not segregated or stratified. A family that was egalitarian in nature, open to the gifts that we all possess as the Children of God & as a result they went out into the world, with a star announcing the child’s birth knowing that their very lives had been gained & that losing them no longer mattered.

Should you find yourself in worship during this Holy Season, should an offering plate come your way, should you hold it in your hands with quivering expectation, know that should you be prepared to let go & seek Grace freely offered, a response is no longer an obligation or expectation, but simply one way that you begin to live a life of gratitude & action. The Christ is coming: do you really want to meet him?

Blog links:

A Deacon’s Musing blog

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Advent|Rattling of Swords

This blog was originally published December 8, 2011
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: Advent & the Rattling of Swords

An Advent Collection

An Advent Collection

Advent: It’s time to wait.
For whom are we waiting?

As Christians, we say that is Jesus! This is a Holy Time in our Christian calendar when we might make space for reflection, silence and – hopefully – confront some of the import of the choices that lay before us.

An Advent Collection

 

Rattling of Swords

Can you hear it? Metal being drawn from scabbards? The puffing of chests? The pomp? Sort of like the schoolyard, except the outcome of the rattling of swords has much more dire implications once the schoolyard becomes global, interconnected politics.

The most recent and apparent rattling of swords seems to have entered the media’s narrative at the end of November, when the British government expelled Iranian diplomats following attacks on its embassy. Shortly thereafter, France removed its own diplomats from Iran. Following this rattling, President Obama asked for the US’ military drone back. And, recently, former Vice President Cheney has called for a quick airstrike against Iran.

 

Within our own context is Canada’s geopolitical choices around Kyoto. Our choices to withdraw from collective agreements that endeavour to seek balance with our footprint upon Creation certainly sounds like rattling. Another recent Canadian example, to consider, is our government’s refusal to allow some women freedom of choice and religious expression in citizenship ceremonies.

My point is not to contextualise, critique, defend or challenge these realities – rather it is to acknowledge that, as Christians walking through Advent, we have ALWAYS been surrounded by Empire. And one of the most significant tools that is utilised to enforce power is the making of war, regardless of whether that is expressed with arms, propaganda or terror.

Those who endeavour into discipleship of the Christ are confronted with the humble arriving of a child that was born into the midst of violence, quickly shepherded away from his birthplace during his early years because he was such a threat – according to our Sacred Stories – that an entire generation of baby boys were executed. And what was his threat to those in power that they utilised the tools of terror?

The Red Pill or the Blue One?

One of adages that I often quote, and I apologise if you have heard me say this too often, is that ‘you will always get, what you have always got, if you keeping doing what you’ve always done.’ What we – as a species – have always done is create systems of inequity, systems that create illusions of freedom, but which are always built on the backs of those with the least. And the tools of war, with too much irony, are often carried by the young men and women of Empire who do not benefit from the illusion of freedom: to be more direct, wars are fought by the have-nots on behalf of the haves.

And into this repeated pattern comes this child that will model that the tools of war do not work! More pointedly, they do not work in leading to actual freedom: a freedom that nurtures the realisation that life is sacred, that we are all interconnected and when one harms another human being, one is actually perpetuating hurt upon oneself! But that realisation – in Christian-language revelation – carries with it a burden. You can’t go back – there’s no Blue Pill … and with this awakening comes both gift and choice: do you help birth change, again in Christian-language, do you choose to begin to bring about the Kingdom to Come?

As I continue these Advent blogs, it occurs to me that it would be easy to say, “but Richard, you’re being too naïve,” or “the situation is too complex, your glossing over the threat that X is.” And, I realise that might be and likely is an initial reaction, and all I can say is that is part of the distraction, that’s part of the challenge of our letting go that we are a part of this Empire. Empire is not us and them. It’s not the American or Roman Empire vs. the oppressed people from X. The ENTIRE human construct is Empire. It’s what we have fashioned to make sense of our day-to-day live: it is the illusion that we are in control and it does not easily let go of us, nor we of it. And it is this time of year for Christians that we must face our own choices and whether we are prepared to go to the manger to welcome this boy and lay down our own gifts or whether we will pass by this radical birth and continue to be comfortable in the illusion, even though there is always that constant whisper that something is wrong, that another world is possible, that there is real freedom …

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