(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Holy Saturday #2

This blog was originally published
July 21, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Part #1: Holy Saturday

Since last week’s initial exploration of Holy Saturday, I have been trying to figure out where to go next. It is not so much that I do not know what I want to offer for reflection, as much as it is that the general length of a blog often requires focus and attentive intention. In other words, there’s way more that I can talk about than the space this medium might allow. So I thought I might try to do two things:

  1. Briefly review the history of Holy Saturday; and,
  2. Connect Holy Saturday with privilege and trauma.

Let’s see if that’s possible …

Witness: Lament's Tears

Witness: Lament’s Tears

In the Christian calendar, the most important time of year is the Lenten season, which ends with the celebration of Easter. The weekend that culminates in this 40-day journey (in late winter-early spring) begins with Good Friday. Good Friday is the day we remember that Jesus was tortured and executed by the Roman Empire. The Sunday that follows – Easter – is the story of resurrection and hope in the midst of odds that are too long to count. What many – especially mainstream Protestant – often gloss over(look) is the day in between: Holy Saturday.

Often, what happens, is that somewhere on a continuum people either focus on the torture and suffering (Good Friday) or the joyful celebration of new life (Easter). Not that these are bad or inappropriate responses to this very old and sacred story. There is an aspect to the tradition, however, that I would suggest helps us in this discussion that began with reflecting on #BlackLivesMatter & Steinbach Pride last week.

For those of us who benefit from a history of privilege, in my Christian context The United Church of Canada, Holy Saturday offers a place to pause and reflect. According to 1 Peter 3:19–20, this day is ripe with meaning as it falls between lament and jubilation. It is the day in which Jesus was not only dead, but in fact found himself on a fast track straight to Hell! And – in that place of myth and story, truth and metaphor – he saw and endured the pains of those lost and suffering. He saw truths and torment better left to the imagination and which often we would rather avoid …

What I think this Holy Saturday offers the church, as it wrestles with its own history, is an opportunity to witness, truly see and hear the suffering we have caused. For some, this has already begun with our denomination’s apology in 1986 and our ongoing support and journey with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is indeed faithful work, but I think it is misses something because we still would rather not witness in respect to our complicity as settlers and colonisers.

Witness: Joy Dawns

Witness: Joy Dawns

One of the realities, I feel, we must confront from our position of privilege is whether we are looking for solutions and healing simply from our heads. Do we want to experience resolution through logic, where mind and body are divided? And though there are indeed those in our midst who have bravely and courageously witnessed the stories of survivors, I think as a denomination we stand in a place of critical reflection: have we rationalised that reconciliation is an intellectual journey in which words and position papers, apologies and sermons allow us to claim that we have lived into Right Relations? To what extent have the several thousand worshipping communities across Canada truly engaged in witnessing our past by walking with and engaging with First Nations survivors, Elders and communities, who are willing to actually trust that we long for reconciliation?

For those who work with people who have experienced trauma – and I would say that certainly applies to people who have endured oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, racial, religious and linguistic marginalisation – you can find some connexion with Christian theology, doctrine or world view. For those who experience trauma it is not logical or confined to space and time. It is embodied, deeply entrenched and there is no ‘fix,’ that can allow those who witness and journey with to acquiesce or rationalise that ‘enough has been done.’ In fact, that response – I would gently though directly offer – is simply one example of our privilege and reticence to recognise where we have been and what we have done … As such, engaging in a practice suggested by Holy Saturday, therefore, might open our hearts and eyes …

This two-part blog began in the paradox of joy and horror coexisting. There is not easy answer to systemic racism or marginalisation. There can indeed be trite explanations that allow us (the privileged) some sense of not looking into the mirror, that we have done all we can. This is hard work, journeying in the model that Jesus invites us to embrace as disciples will demand of us to see things horrible and glorious.

We will weep with joy and – yes most assuredly – with lament. If we do not take brave, though perhaps admittedly quivering steps into awful realities of human experience, then it is not solidarity that we endeavour toward. If we stay in what we know and entrench where we are, we perpetuate systems that will continue to exploit and leave us all less than we might be as One … certainly not simple, but it does beckon us toward what Christians call the Good News

Part #1: Holy Saturday

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Holy Saturday #1

This blog was originally published
July 14, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Part #2: Holy Saturday

• The last week has been, once again, difficult – to say the least …
• The last week has been, once again, joyful – to say the least …

We have, on the one hand, celebrated (as church) such faithful solidarity work by participating at Steinbach Pride. During this first Pride event in Steinbach, MB, over 4000 people showed up. In this context, in which secular faith-based allies marched, the ideal that human rights must and should confront discrimination, whether ideological or theological, was highlighted!

On the other hand, we have seen the horrible and tragic deaths of two African-American men a day apart by law enforcement. Then the shooting of seven officers and shocking death of five others in Dallas followed. All of this occurring in the swirl of #BlackLivesMatter and the challenge of systemic racism as a lived reality in the United States and Canada.

Peace on High

Peace on High

In these poles of blessing and horror, it is easy to feel somewhat removed in our Canadian context. As I was weeping and praying – joyfully and with lament – I felt the stirring of a blog that will likely need to be explored in more than one stage. I am hoping that this initial discussion, if you will, might set the stage for a conversation that the church, mainstream Protestantism in general and The United Church of Canada specifically, can explore as result of these recent events.

I thought, therefore, that the rest of this blog might name some of my assumptions as to the context of these events. Furthermore, I hope they might illustrate how these events connect with the church, as it finds itself today. The subsequent exploration, which will continue next week, will hopefully attempt to engage in some reflection that arises from both the following assumptions, as well as any subsequent conversations that might develop as a result.

Holy Saturday Assumptions:

      1. Though all lives matter, #BlackLivesMatter highlights and resists systemic racism;
      2. It is a false binary to pit #BlackLivesMatter against law enforcement;
      3. All racialized systems create tension for those who suffer oppression in respect to the agents who enforce cultural norms. In systems of inequality, First Responders are placed in a paradox in which stereotyping stands in contrast to the call to serve and protect;
      4. In most situations in which First Responders confront those who suffer oppression, the training often employed is grounded in force and coercion, when social service would be more generative to create a shared sense of commonality;
      5. Though #BlackLivesMatter is primarily a US movement, it does resonate with an African-Canadian racialized experience;
      6. #BlackLivesMatter serves to parallel and complement the Canadian endeavour to live into Right Relations as explored through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission & the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
      7. Oppression and marginalisation, according to Liberation Theology, can place those who experience repression in opposition/competition with one another. As a result, this serves to detract from civil discourse about systems of inequality (i.e. Toronto Pride vs. #BlackLivesMatter);
      8. In our North American context, one of the central frames in which to explore oppression is White Privilege;
Hope Abides

Hope Abides

    1. The church – in particular mainstream Protestantism – in North America is grounded in a context of colonialism. Some refer to this as a settler position and is grounded in White Privilege. The church has/is wrestling with its complicity in this reality;
    2. Previously, the church was one of the primary actors that moulded the Other to be ‘normal’ (i.e. White). As an institution, the church is now confronting a loss of authority and power;
    3. The church now finds itself wrestling with its complicity in creating doctrine(s) that have led to trauma (i.e. racialized and sexual identity theologies). This complicity has revealed a confusion of the Good News with cultural practice;
    4. These theologies – often used to validate settler White Privilege – have exposed a tension between a church of Empire and an earlier church separate from the state and living in a radically different and egalitarian way;
    5. As the church (perhaps reluctantly) lives into this tension, it finds itself waking up on Holy Saturday;
    6. In the Christian calendar, Holy Saturday is an in-between time, where death has occurred (Good Friday) and there is no guarantee of resurrection (Easter) to come;
    7. It is in this uncomfortable place in which the institutional church now finds itself. One that is lonely and desolate. In what some call the Harrowing of Hell, hope flounders and doubt arises; and,
    8. Here we are presented with the choice to witness, to truly experience the implications of choices we have made, to listen to the traumas and pain in which we have colluded, and – perhaps – something new might be resurrected with Spirit’s guidance …

Source: CNN

Part #2: Holy Saturday

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Be

This blog was originally published
April 29, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Be ...

Be …
Image: Thor

We’re always doing. Schedules and phone calls, meeting and gatherings. The constant ebb and flow of a world hard-wired, digitised, centralised and sanitised leaves little time to be. To stop, smell, notice, digest and savour.

If time appears, it’s commodified, weighed, compared, quantified and qualified. What would we do with something to do that we call nothing? What would our overactive pituitary and amygdala process? What about the adrenaline laced addiction that keeps us in a constant state of ON. Flashing light, honking car, blaring music … the constant, pounding, rhythm in which being is drowned, overwhelmed and subsumed.

On mountain high-top, in watery pools, on beaches’ shore and multitudes’ press, he was able to be. Be what they wanted, be what they needed, but what did he want to be? Be this, anything but that, and even in that garden he still couldn’t be.

But he didn’t get caught up by their demands. He made space, took off, went up the mountain. And even there they followed. With their questions, their incredulity, their blasphemy and idolatry.

He wanted to be and they want to beatify.
He wanted to breathe and they wanted to freeze.
Make static that moment, that second, transcendence between body, mind and spirit.
When we shine we’re dancing waves and particles re-(e)merge, that embrace and laugh.
He went to be and they couldn’t exhale.

Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket
Image: Walt Disney

We’ve divided, parsed and binary’d bodies from community and needs from one another. We’re isolated, stigmatised, stereotype’d and flattened to be just one thing. Whether gender, sex, colour, language or race – what you see is what you get and what you get ain’t often what you be.

But then there he is … beckoning, modelling, inviting. Not separated or removed, not gone or waiting on tick tock to click the end. In me you might see him, in you I might see me, but we got ta look, we got ta listen … we got ta be. But do we want to be something we long for but let go of what is?

It ain’t easy – no simple quick fix, no red or blue pill, no Jiminy Cricket smiling to let us know not to follow the nose. Being ain’t easy – it takes time, it takes breath, commitment, and letting go of what you’ve been told in order to claim what ya know.

Maybe that’s wisdom
Maybe that’s awakening
Maybe that’s resurrection

It’s a promise – it’s constantly there and … in that mirror’s reflection … maybe we’ll see  …
we can’t
don’t
won’t
ever
never
no matter how clever
do it alone …

Blog links:

 Image: Be

 Image: Jiminy Cricket

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Politically Correct

This blog was originally published
April 15, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Only the chaste may enter

Only the chaste may enter
Image: Simon Harrod

In my pastoral experience of walking with others – through the traumas and hurts that do occur on life’s journey – words stereotype, pigeon-hole, typecast, flatten, and limit who we long to be, who we know we truly are. As well, in my academic endeavours, I am quite comfortable stating that what we say, how we say it and why we say it create the reality in which we live our lives.

When Jesus wrestles with the challenge that a ‘Samaritan’ woman throws in his way of certainty, she could just as well have been called a ‘whore.’ A harsh and most uncomfortable word we would rather not hear, which ironically still does not fully illustrate the vehemence with which being labelled ‘Samaritan’ carried some 2000 years ago.

We actually prefer ‘Samaritan,’ since it is so far removed from its connotative meaning, we can – in essence – sanitise scripture and insert whatever we want. Jesus – however – keeps us unsettled if we try to follow him as disciples. So, as Jesus himself experienced, those who follow are reminded that the Other will push and challenge us, especially when we might get complacent with what we think is the ‘right’ way to do things or assume we know what God ‘wants.’ In fact, throughout his ministry and the Gospels, which form a central tapestry of the Christian tradition, words are subversively utilised to undermine the power they hold in the dominant Roman culture, in order to create something new: The Kin(g)dom now!

This week, both in Winnipeg specifically and within the larger North American political discourse, the reality of words import and authority to tell our stories has been clearly evident. In the ongoing electoral process in the United States of America, the use of ‘whore’ has been used to silence and undermine political opponents. Here in Winnipeg, stereotyping of women (based on geographic locations within the bounds of the great city we call home) has been grounded in misogyny. The use of labels, which limits female agency, has ranged from sexual identity to sexual promiscuity.

As is the wont of those who benefit from systems of power and oppression, privilege and gender, there has been a chorus of charges that range from ‘political correctness’ to such off-handed claims of being ‘too sensitive’ or people need to ‘lighten-up.’ I indeed wish that such challenges were helpful, I even confess I wish they could be true …

Queen of the Missions for its graceful beauty

Queen of the Missions for its graceful beauty
Image: Kevin Cole

I cannot deny that humour and satire can be used to point lights into shadowed places that sometimes are too difficult to tread. I admit that mirth and sarcasm can sometimes create spaces for political discussions that ideological entrenchment silences. I cannot and will not, however, broker when it comes to the use of stereotyping that uses coded humour to hurt and maim. Whether explicitly referenced – such as ‘whore’ – or in instance when women are diminished, denigrated and limited by such lyrics as, “passed around this great big town and they just don’t seem to care,” there comes a point when we must collectively realise there has been, and is, a shift in our public discourse.

If we stay idle and allow such language to remain unchallenged, then the silent remain complicit. I also think we need to be just as careful not to single out individuals as being culpable – responsible indeed – but we collectively must challenge the discourse that is utilised in our public and private conversations, otherwise we stand upon the precipice of tribalism and intolerance.

As a person who most certainly falls into the category of benefitting from the systems that define who is in and who is out, I also have sat with those who live with trying to actually claim this Easter promise, which Christian are called to share: that we are all loved, that diversity is the way in which we experience the Holy and that dignity is a God-given-blessing. We may establish and create human systems that deny this Holy decree, but it does not undo Creator’s mandate.

As an Easter people, the Christian journey in our Gospel stories constantly reference that Christ was present and in front of the disciples, yet was not recognised. When we flippantly and irresponsibly find ourselves using words as weapons, may we realise that it is to Christ to whom we may very well be speaking …

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Easter Mercy

This blog was originally published
April 01, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Mercy

Mercy

It’s funny how we anticipate that rising dawn sun 2000-and-change-years later: an event/time/story/experience that Christians call Easter. This Lent – the season before Easter –  has been a difficult, sad and weary making journey. We have seen violence used with intentional precision, experienced our own denomination wrestle with the reality of orthodoxy and its inherent temptations, and heard xenophobia and misogyny positioned as political platforms by some of the so called leaders of the ‘free world.” It has, indeed, been a shadowed season and the longed for arrival of light’s piercing clarity has been a blessing.

As I prepared for this week’s blog, knowing it might wander from one disconnected note to another, I was also aware that I recently returned from an Intercultural Ministry gathering, in which Sisters and Brothers from throughout The United Church of Canada gathered. In our time of play and pray, learning and sharing, there was the undercurrent of how to challenge privilege and name that racism remains embedded in our structures, regardless of the narrative to which we long to cleave.

  • How do those who so often carry difficult messages of change, look, sound and behave differently than those to whom such missives such sharing is intended?
  • How do we help a church, which is grounded in Anglo-Saxon privilege that sees abundance as deficit, hear the Spirit’s call?
Easter's Dawn

Easter’s Dawn

I have also wondered how tired those first Disciples must have been. Perhaps they were even irritated on that first shock-inducing resurrection Easter-morn, when all they wanted to do was hide and grieve. Men and women, most likely assuming leadership roles for which their birth station should have denied them, whose dear Rabbuni had been cruelly – hell inhumanely –  tortured and executed. Yet upon death’s doorstep they were being summoned by invitation to bear Light into the very Empire and world from which they had and would (are and will) suffer …

As this musing moved to another note, I also continue(d) to hear a repeating song of mercy. A word for which I have always imagined that it is one of the few responses specific to those with privilege. We – the bearers of this institution – who can choose to dress in the garment of white are often resistant, perhaps even intentionally oblivious, to the power we actually have. Like Joseph of Arimathea, when he chose to use his authority to request the body of Jesus of Pilate, we must confront that letting go of our assumed influence often begins with one step: mercy.

  • Whether we hold onto the institutional structures and its explicit and implicit underpinnings will be telling to the extent to which we live into this theology of diversity toward which this denomination has been aimed for almost 100 years.
  • When those whom we have colonised, exploited, and dehumanised strike back at us, how we respond will be the plumb line upon which reconciliation is gauged as either an intentional commitment or simply lip service.

Easter mercy: for those who have and do benefit from the systems in which we live, it is a choice. One difficult and challenging. It is in the letting go, the emptying of the ego, that – perhaps – we begin to see ourselves for who we truly are: interconnected and beautiful. We begin to see – perhaps – that the illusions that separate us are infinitesimally inferior to the abundant rich threads that not only connect us to one another, but that speak to a Creation in which miracles happen in every moment if we but have eyes to see them and ears to listen to the harmony that is everywhere and everywhen …

Blog links:

 Wikipedia: Easter
Wikipedia: Lent
 Wikipedia: Mercy

 Wikipedia: The United Church of Canada
 Winnipeg Presbytery: Intercultural Ministry
 YouTube: Mercy (Dave Matthews Band)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Trap

It's a Trap

It’s a Trap
Image: Newtown grafitti

We live in a phenomenally vibrant, exciting, and emergent time in which change, technology and uncertainty dance an intimate movement. And this party shows no choreographed pattern of ending anytime soon. In this place, some of us thrive, some of us doubt and challenge, and some of us are anxious and threatened. None of these – on their own – are (in fact) bad things. Actually, likely a healthy balance of both/and is a useful response.

The challenge, however, is that there has been and is an evolving progression – in some quarters and areas – that seeks to simplify, minimise or detract this reality with binaries: right or wrong, us vs. them, black and white. I am suspicious this is not a healthy way toward balance: once you choose one, you find it necessary to lay traps, in order to draw a line in the sand over which the other may not pass.

As I write this blog, I find myself smack in the middle of this crazy paradox in the Christian calendar called Easter: it’s miracle time for half the world’s population and the trap is that people of faith are often implicitly (sometimes explicitly) challenged to choose: faith or science: proof or intuition; experience or a study. It’s all a bit nutty and … somewhat worrisome.

I have never seen science’s – one aspect of our human adventure by reason – exploration of the physical world with a rigorous methodology as existing in conflict with my faith. As with most of our pursuits – individually or collectively – it’s always in a state of refinement and subject to our own ‘stuff’ getting in the way. This way of answering questions, however, has provided us with technology, tools, insight and understanding that look a lot like miracles to history.

Faith – as that sense of something larger, binding and weaving everything together – when grounded in confidence (but not ego) is releasing and freeing. It can – in such places of liberation – shift an intellectual definition of miracles to actually perceivable and tangible events in our lives.

The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory
Image: Samuel Santos

C.S. Lewis has claimed that “Miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature.” He continues in the book Miracles: “In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.”

As a Christian who also has an affinity for science, I admit I can feel the pull of our culture of having to choose: I will always be loath to make an either/or choice. As such, I admit to not seeing a tension, paradox perhaps, but not a binary. It’s certainly also somewhat exciting to know that paradox and chaos find good company in our scientific pursuits.

Jesus – great teacher and Rabbi, justice seeker and prophet – was a lot of things in the mortal coil called life. But we’ve had lots of those and thank goodness we’re likely to have more. But there’s that Resurrection miracle thing – ask me to explain it and … well all I know is that with our current understanding of the (meta-) physical and quantum world, it’s certainly possible … just not probable. Ask me to get into the nitty-gritty of the debate and … I likely won’t. Faith emboldens me into conversations that awaken wonder mutually. Debates are binaries that lead to traps for one another.

So as I take a step into this season in which bunnies and chocolate abound, I’ll certainly look into the morning mirror. As I walk into the day, passing through my neighbourhood, I’ll look at the people, who are sometimes smiling, frowning, crying or laughing in my community. And, as I pull the office door open, I’ll be certain to remind myself … I’ve seen nothing but miracles since my day began …

Blog links:

 Image: It’s a Trap
 Wikipedia: Chaos Theory
 Wikipedia: C.S. Lewis (Miracles)

 Wikipedia: Easter
 Wikipedia: List of Paradoxes
 YouTube: Bono (Who is Jesus?)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Good Friday

Okay, before you starting scratching your head about the focus for this week’s blog, yes I know we are in the Easter Season and we have moved on from Lent. In other words, I’m not recycling an old blog 😉

I’ve spoken before about the Ministerial with which I have had the great pleasure to walk for seven years now. We are a group Sisters and Brothers from various denominations, who gather monthly for fellowship, sometimes solely to share stories and other times to study. This group has been – in many ways – one of the bright lights that shine the potential of what happens when we make community, which celebrates commonalities in our shared Christian hopes and dreams.

Well this last week, I had the opportunity to host our gathering. Coffee was made, cookies were shared and – as with any gathering that includes food – we shared a moment of prayer and thanksgiving. Which, as the host, I offered.

Now I have to admit something, if we have not shared space where I have offered prayer: I really do not plan prayer time (I think one of the big words for this is extemporaneous). The best way I can frame it is that I sort of act like a conduit to whatever it is that needs to be offered. Of course there’s the grounding in thanks, recognising privilege and the choices we get to make about helping the Other and ourselves to heal, but the clothing in which the prayer is dressed always surprises me and this time was no different.

Bleak Day

Bleak Day
Photo: Marcus Ward

Some of the wording during that prayer went something like this:

“Oh Holy One,
In a world stuck in Good Friday,
May we offer Hope
as your Easter People.”

And this experience, the use of that phrase, at that time, has been bouncing around in my head since then! I have had inner monologues, I have had pub discussions, and I have used poetry to try to further explore that we live “In a world stuck in Good Friday.” What does that mean?

For the Disciples on Good Friday it all ended – there was no hope. The one whom they loved, for whom they had sacrificed everything had been brutally murdered. These men and women weren’t me – if I’m honest. I’m more like one of those Pharisees who really liked Jesus’ challenges, but snuck around late at night to be with him so no one would notice. I’m one of those haves who heard the message, but still could not give everything up … the Disciples, however, had done that and now – as that bleak day drew nigh – Jesus was tortured, shamed, and hanging lifeless. There was no hope …

We live in a world of deficits, constant war, terrorism, unemployment, environmental degradations, politicians who seems to separate morality from leadership, melting glaciers, oil laden water and calving ice. We are barraged with a message of fear, loathing, judgement and satisfaction garnered by the acquisition of goods. And we do not need the mirror to spy into to know that something is amiss. But the illusion of Good Friday is spell-binding and all encompassing.

Welcome New Light

Welcome New Light
Photo: Alice Popkorn

And yet, as those who have inherited a different message of abundance, of immense blessing and an invitation to walk toward awakening and wholeness, how do we share the Easter moment that is born anew every moment we perform a different action? How do we share we can become a different character? How do we model and offer something unexpected in a world of Good Friday?

  • Perhaps this parallel – of the human world as grounded in a Good Friday story – does not surprise you.
  • Perhaps Easter inspires you continually, not just the season in which we now walk as Christians.
  • Perhaps what feels like an epiphany to me already encourages you.

For me there’s something new in this realisation,

  • something that emboldens my steps since that prayer,
  • something that allows the flutter in my being to step every so lightly and confidently as I walk into a new day.

I’m not sure what I’ve touched … but maybe sharing it with you might help me – us – further explore this place we occupy, in a world addicted to tragedy, we can act as light-bringers, as disciples, as an Easter people who see the clouds part and sun shine after a long winter of preparation …

Change (Lyrics)

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Solidarity

This blog was originally published May 2, 2014
by KAIROS Canada

Solidarity Mural

Solidarity Mural
Photo: Terrence Faircloth 2006

Living and striving to change the world is no easy thing. Living and striving for the Kingdom can be humbling, frustrating, tear making and – let’s face it – exhausting! So, why bother?

Whether you’re reading this from a context of secularity, humanism, faith or agnosticism (perhaps somewhere in-between), social justice requires us to know who we are, why we do what we do. If we don’t, it’s likely that – at some point – your own stuff is going to get in the way. And when that happens, the best of intentions cannot stop the inevitable hurt that will result.

I am rather excited to be writing this blog for KAIROS and – when I was asked – I was uncertain what I might offer from my own vantage as a Diaconal Minister in the United Church of Canada. My particular stream of ministry is commissioned to several aspects of the life of a faith community, one being Service. The work that KAIROS does continues to excite me. As I was reflecting on this time of year, it occurred to me that this Easter Season, in which Christians now find themselves, was an appropriate place from which to muse.

In a previous blog, I explored the connexion between suffering, choice and solidarity as an Easter people. Since then, this opportunity feels like a fitting place in which to further explore the idea of solidarity.

Solidarity has a long and rich history. I think (as a church) the idea of solidarity can be understood as a shift from mission that was connected with conversion and making all people the same to a lens that sees the inherent wisdom and dignity in the Other. This shift, therefore, has allowed us to recognise our own failings and the danger that we now understand as colonialism. And – in looking into this mirror – when we are at our best, we might lament, but we should not be paralysed, whether by apathy and/or guilt.

Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle
Photo: Andrew Magill 2006

I think that the Easter moment and this season is so very helpful, therefore, in musing and wrestling with why we do what we do and how we might understand solidarity. In the blog about suffering, I found these three statements helpful in this regard:

  • Jesus CHOSE the path that led to enduring and suffering an execution that is unimaginable to me;
  • Jesus CHOSE to walk with those who do not, did not, and will not have privilege; and,
  • Jesus CHOSE suffering.

Privilege  is one of the key mixing ingredients for the recipe of colonialism and therefore is central to recognise in order to shift to walking with, not directing or leading, others. This reality of the disparity of have and have not is as old as the Christian Sacred Scriptures. There’s a reason that the camel and the needle do not thread well: we (with privilege) create a story or narrative that reinforces our sense of entitlement. But (always that conjunction shows up) Jesus’ ministry was and is founded in the recognition that by letting go of that sense of entitlement, joy and awakening can and do occur. Of course, that means seeing suffering in the world …

There is joy in the Holy. There is light incomprehensible that bathes each of us. And – when we see it, experience it – we cannot but respond. As an Easter people, however, that will and does lead us into difficult places. When we are grounded, that sense of being exhausted, which I mentioned at the beginning of this musing, becomes light to carry. But it is there in the paradox that leads us all to liberation: joy and suffering are connected by the choices to which we awaken and the steps we take in turn.

As a poet often articulates much more succinctly than prose, perhaps I will leave you with this question and let Mary Karr, say the rest: what choices lie before you in which you might be helped to awaken by nurturing another to stand with dignity?

Camel Crossing

Camel Crossing
Photo: Ifni95 2008

Peace, Solidarity

Peace, Solidarity
Photo: Glen Halog 2011

 

 

Descending Theology: The Resurrection
By Mary Karr

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

Source: Poetry (January 2006)

Solidarity (Lyrics)

Blog links:

A Deacon’s Musing blog

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(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Suffering

St. Ignatius Loyola (Plate 4)

St. Ignatius Loyola
Plate 4

I have to admit that I have been avoiding writing this blog for a long time. I’m not sure if this is a one-time exploration for this topic. Let’s face it, when we hear the word suffering connected with faith – specifically Christianity – people cringe: I know I do! Whether you’re a person of faith or not, when the word is uttered, we end up anticipating judgement or the use of a theological lens that is less than life-affirming is often the response.

And yet I keep returning to the topic almost every time I prepare to muse. This time, it seems that I have taken the plunge. So – please – be gentle with me if I stumble and do comment, email and/or tweet to continue the discussion. I am pretty certain what I have to offer is not authoritative, but I do think it might be an opportunity for conversation, which arises from our collective experience!

Here’s the stage for this blog: Easter!

We’re in the time and season of Easter. The central message of Christianity is the gift of awakening, of new life, of becoming that which the Universe knows we are: beautiful, holy and a blessing. This Easter message – for me – challenges us to commitment/discipleship, to discern where our energy goes and how/if we model the radicality of Jesus’ ministry. And – let’s face it – that ministry’s high point doesn’t fit triumphalism very well!

But, but, but … here’s the paradox: Jesus’ ministry, the Easter experience is brilliant, inspiring and has and will continue to embolden people to do crazy – some might even be so bold to say ‘stupid’ – things. Sacrifice and solidarity are not what most people would frame as a sellable message. And how this connects with suffering …

I think I will test three statements for the sake of the brevity of a blog. I may even revisit them in more detail as individual explorations. But I suspect this beginning may help me get some of my thoughts down to nurture our conversation …

The Joy of Life

The Joy of Life

  1. Suffering: Is not our natural state. We are not ‘meant’ or designed to endure trials. However you understand the Holy, suffering is not a test, a gift or an inevitably designed plan. Someone’s suffering is not another person’s teacher;
  2. Suffering: Is part of the complicated reality of life; it is connected with the realities and unpredictable nature of life. There will be suffering. All of us will endure the inevitable pain that arises as our bodies travel in a linear line. Whether that’s connected with aging; experiences of loss and hurt; and/or the challenges of finding dignity in contexts of have and have not; and,
  3. Suffering: Has been and will be misused by those who have privilege. And – dear reader – that’s me and most of you who have access to the internet. Those who have had an opportunity to benefit from education, who can read, have access to health care and are nurtured by stable cultures and families. We create the lens through which we see another’s ‘suffering.’ In turn, we can rationalise another’s ‘suffering’ and – in turn – distance ourselves from the Other

Back to Easter …

  • Jesus CHOSE the path that led to enduring and suffering an execution that is unimaginable to me;
  • Jesus CHOSE to walk with those who do not, did not, and will not have privilege; and,
  • Jesus CHOSE suffering.

I am not implying or trying to celebrate suffering as a choice. I feel – I intuit – that these three inklings about Jesus are key for me as I wrestle with the nature of suffering.

Choice implies a path: Jesus’ own awakening, which I see unfolding up to the Easter moment, meant he walked with solidarity with those who suffered (See #3). It was inevitable that by embracing solidarity, he would experience suffering himself (Let’s face it, we just need to read about the Disciples concerns’ and challenges’ in the Gospels: they knew he and they were turning a nest that most just let lie). And – if the story ended on Good Friday – it’d be a hard sell in a consumer culture that equates bang for the buck!

But it didn’t … and so here I am feeling touched by the joy of Easter – it’s rather palpable truth be told. And I also feel a deep awareness of this thing called suffering. I’m not sure if I’ve arrived any closer to clarity, but I do feel like a conversation I may have been avoiding, might finally unfold …

If I Rise (Lyrics)

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|The Promise

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

The Lenten journey is long … it can be challenging. We get tripped sometimes, we see things we’ve done, been part of and – truth be told – we would rather not look into the mirror, as we might really see ourselves. Fear of what we might find can be daunting, paralysing and most certainly fear making.

I Came Like I Promised

I Came Like I Promised

What will we see if we look deep? What will we hear if we deeply listen? How will we respond as a tear long held begins as a trickle, picking up momentum until our soul heaves with release? Lent is a time of exile, a time of preparation to see suffering, name suffering, perhaps choose suffering … but why?

The Promise … Easter … it makes even my typing these words seem facile, trite …

How do I share something that moves within me at a fundamental level? That emboldens me to make choices that stretch beyond words, perhaps even the rationalising tendency of our human intellect? How do I impart to another that

though The Promise calls us into places of human brokenness, crafted by us, structured by us, they are also redeemable by letting go of ourselves? How do I share with you that you have the ability to change the world? Not by buying this nor trading that, but by a simple choice to offer tenderness to another, to speak truth to yourself, by claiming solidarity with those who are marginalised and learning that in community – even when difficult – we all shine?

Word Lists

Word Lists

In the world of blogging, one of the traditions is to use one’s own story, one’s own questions to invite engagement, perhaps even reflection. I wish I could share just one pithy story from this last week that would so hook you that we would begin a conversation. To explore The Promise – the beckoning light that calls everyone – to see in that mirror not something broken or corrupt, but beautiful. I wish I could talk about a faith community that takes steps to spend radically to support ministries in a time when there is no way to determine where scattered seeds will bloom or describe a child who chooses for a birthday an invitation for those who want to give, to give to someone else other than her. I wish I could paint a story of friends, family, Sisters and Brothers who put themselves in the way of harm to care for those who are just beginning to stand. I so would love to be able to point to the places where the earth bleeds and where our own hands can and do heal. But words fail … I stumble … tears of joy come with the dawn’s break, so I will leave it to the Bards in our midst … the music-makers and artists … where my words are inadequate to impart import, the gift of harmony and a tune can open the mind to hear the body and – in turn – the Spirit becomes connected.

The Promise began in the choices of the one in whom I commit myself. The mystery of Resurrection is … incomprehensible … the paradox is that each choice since then in the name of a Rabbi named Yeshua changes lives, transforms stories, humbles and encourages me to hold another’s hand … what’s The Promise mean to you?

The Promise
Tracy Chapman

Blog links:

Resurrection @ Wikipedia Wikipedia: Resurrection
The Promise (Tracy Chapman) YouTube: The Promise (Tracy Chapman)

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