(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Faith & Dying

This blog was originally published
March 11, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

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

Faith & Permanence

Faith & Permanence
Image: Meena Kadri

“For what are you willing to die?”

I think that’s one of the central questions that dances in and amongst a discernment of the Christian faith. Where is the line in the sand, where is the place when you say ‘too much’ and stand, knowing – let’s be clear that this means literally – in the way of danger?

This central tension often helps people discern what it means to follow as a disciple of Christ. I also think (too often) it is sensationalised to a point that makes sacrifice look mandatory. I think that is an interesting debate and I offer that I do not think it is mandated. I feel, however, it is the inevitable outcome of embracing a love so radical that injustice and inequity become evidently apparent. It is in that clarity that it becomes a ‘no brainer’ to help others, because love – not that romanticised-Hallmark-five-dollar-card-kind – makes us radical, it makes us mavericks!

At one time, these are the one-on-one conversation I would have when I was in pastoral ministry. What is an individual or the community’s call? Where in the neighbourhood are the marginalised suffering and how does walking into solidarity affect everyone? Another interesting question in this context was: what are you willing to sacrifice? Of what do you need to let go, in order to be that radical love?

Not easy questions, certainly often without trite or simple answers, but the excitement that they create engenders discussions of Jesus among us, the Kingdom now and fully living in freedom, for which I believe we all long. And – getting to that place – is grounded both in trust and vulnerability: another difficult dance, though well worth the commitment. But – of course – I am biased …

twilight near!

twilight near!
Image: Nick Kenrick

My context – in the last few years – has shifted from the pastoral to one that is more structural or administrative in nature. In turn, as I began this year’s Lenten blogs, I was again wondering how would these musings translate into this new experience.? As I was sitting at a recent monthly gathering of church in Winnipeg, it became clear that the questions are just as appropriate individually, as they are collectively.

Let’s not sugar-coat the discussion and – as we are in Lent – wrestling seems appropriate. Whether as an individual or collective, which endeavours to follow Jesus, faith and dying are companions with whom we must walk. There is no doubt there is beauty in this ministry we have inherited. It often it comes in the awakening to the dream and an awareness of another person’s intrinsic beauty as a fellow Beloved of God. But this beautiful dream confronts – and likely always will – a dominant story of brokenness, inequity and oppression. As such, choosing to help others inevitably places a person of faith in direct tension with this ubiquitous story. If Jesus left us with anything, it is that faith and dying are intimate partners and in shadowed times, resurrection seems like a pipe dream of milk and honey that will remain a fairy-tale.

In the midst of this Lenten journey, therefore, how we – as The United Church of Canada – respond to such questions, may illuminate how we might describe our mission in the world as we await Light’s dawning:

• For what are you willing to die?
• What is our Call?
• Where in our neighbourhoods are the marginalised suffering and how does walking into solidarity affect everyone?
• What are we willing to sacrifice?
• Of what do we need to let go, in order to be radical love?

Blog links:

 Image: twilight near
 Image: Faith & Permanence
 Wikipedia: Lent

 Wikipedia: The United Church of Canada
 YouTube: Dream (Priscilla Ahn)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|#GoJetsGo

This really isn’t anything new – in fact it stretches all the way back to Jesus’ ministry and even further into our long Judaic tradition. The Disciples had to wrestle with it, after them the Apostles and a long line of struggling has ensued. In fact, as an idealistic 17 year old, enamoured and impassioned with my identity as a Canadian, I had my own challenges. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, as I suspect I have gotten ahead of myself, here’s one way it’s been described by those of us who live our faith through a Christian lens:

be in the world, not of the world

Being in the world allows us to see Creation’s beauty and also the role and impact we have as a species on one another and our environment. Being of the world does not – necessarily – afford that ability to critique, challenge and reframe. Being in the world invites us to care for all with whom we encounter … of the world might lead us to care only for those for whom we identify to the exclusion of others … It’s not necessarily easy and it’s certainly not a binary of either/or.

John's Book

John’s Book

The both/and – however – gets tricky. It’s even trickier as Christian inheritors of a western democratic way of looking at life. This ideological and philosophical point of view is difficult to acknowledge because Christianity has been intimately involved, even in complicit in its creation. Though some may frame Thomas’ doubting as a negative, I have always believed he best illustrates the need to embrace critical thinking, in order not to be lulled or deceived by the claims of faith or political agenda, dogma or doctrine. And – his model – leads to an uncomfortable acknowledgement that nationalism, patriotism, colonialism, and consumerism have (in many ways) both co-opted and implicated Christianity in ways that are very uncomfortable …

be in the world, not of the world …

It’s funny – therefore – how sport itself has often been at the centre of this struggle. For many cultures – the Greeks, Aztec, Mayan, Maasai (to mention only a few) – sport has allowed for an opportunity to explore non-violent ways to address political tensions that might lead, otherwise, to conflict and war. Pride in the grace of movement, the strategy of bodies entwining in intimate sport can even be found in the intention that is our current Olympic movement.

Unfortunately – as is the want when we are of the world – sport has been used to propagate division, oppress and judge. Sport has been used to distract – think of the Roman Coliseum and the power of the gladiator to divert attention – from the realities of politics bent on the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. And – in our own time – some would contend that sport has become a way to reinforce an unsustainable economic system, in which consuming overshadows an exploration of sustainability …

And so yesterday, as my heart ached for the Winnipeg Jets – a team that has done so much in four years – I realised I have once again found myself in this tension. This wee team in the larger NHL ocean of wealth and salaries that seem inconceivable, has experienced pain, hurt, internal division and a sense of renewal in the midst of turmoil. As all we do can be considered metaphor, the Jets’ journey can be explored as life’s reflection. Struggle and turmoil and moments of grace and beauty. Life in its many moments sometimes seems to glorify the individual, but then the sublime strength and coordination of a community can rise well above what its individual part might allow.

be in the world, not of the world …

Winnipeg Jets' Away Logo 1980s

Winnipeg Jets’ Away Logo 1980s
Image: James Joel

I also realise I may be rationalising my rediscovery of hometown pride. Even in loss, this team has reminded me that we can choose what success means in our lives – as the standing ovation in the midst of failure illustrates. The end of this NHL season for the Jets seems a helpful reminder that being in the world offers many faithful images and parallels. As a people of faith, we know that we are stronger when the circle is drawn wide. In a moment when sport is itself life’s metaphor – acknowledging that fickle cynicism always hovers – this team has created space for the individuals that inhabit this geography called Winnipeg and Manitoba to see themselves as connected. And – in this moment – I am reminded that the Gospel offers this particular in the world experience a universal invitation …

#GoJetsGo!

Blog links:

 Image: Winnipeg Jets Away Logo 1980s
 NRSV: John 17.14-17
 UCC: Winnipeg Presbytery (Twitter)
 Wikipedia: Doubting Thomas

 Wikipedia: Sport
 Wikipedia: Winnipeg Jets
 YouTube: Winnipeg Jets Whiteout 2015

(Blog) Everyday Brogues: Walking into Lent

Do other creatures have the physiological  need to swear?

Do other creatures
have the physiological
need to swear?

When I decided within the last few days that I would try to ‘give up’ swearing for Lent, I had no idea that it actually has a physiological function; cultural, I knew, but helpful? Really?! Apparently yes. Swearing can help release tension, it is described as a built-in anger management technique and according to one writer certain words, ‘can help wash away stress and anger. In some settings, the free flow of foul language may signal not hostility or social pathology, but harmony and tranquillity.”*

First, when I read this I thought I had better try to figure out what actually qualifies as a ‘swear’ word – just in case I really might need to use one! English speakers know that the words that are best used as expletive and are helpful for releasing pain, tend to be scatological or religious – or even better, some combination of the two (‘holy s@#!’ comes to mind). But what about words that have replaced so called swear words precisely because they are not censored (as the symbols in the above word are a type of censoring). And in almost all English-speaking countries the ‘f-word’ is censored on tv and radio. But apparently it IS ok to say, live on air, words such as ‘friggin,’ ‘frickin’ ‘shoot’ or ‘darn,’ and many religious-based terms are not censored at all. And what about ‘ass’ or words that refer to certain parts of the anatomy as though they are ‘lesser members’ as the apostle Paul suggested? Or may be a name for a type of animal in other usage? And this is just a brief first look!

Sometimes it is AWE that inspires such a word … is it still blasphemy

Sometimes it is AWE
that inspires such a word
… is it still blasphemy

To ‘swear’ originally meant to make a promise, to vow or pledge. But, it seems, when those honourable words get used for dishonourable purposes, ‘swearing’ takes on a new meaning. Our scripture tells us that one of the guidelines of good living is to not take ‘the Lord’s’ name in vain. But saying or writing or texting OMG doesn’t even seem to get the least response anymore, and I have heard the names for the one I try to follow (Jesus Christ – as though ‘Christ’ was his last name) used more outside the church than inside! And while on the subject of ‘outside and inside’, this differentiation is where the word ‘profane’ comes from. Something not allowed in the temple, so literally ‘outside’ the temple was pro-fanus. We often use the term profane as representing the opposite of ‘sacred’. So, sacred names and words become profane or blasphemous when used in vain, when used as expletive or to curse someone else. The line between sacred and profane seems to be much closer than we think. Wikipedia even refers to such phrases and ‘holy s*&*%$t’ and ‘holy f*!@#k as ‘liturgical profanity’. Perhaps it is intention that is what it’s all about.

Tempted

Tempted

And this brings me back to my Lenten promise. I try, really hard, to make sure when I say ‘O my God’ that I am aware, that I am calling on Creator, the one who I believe surrounds and loves and desires me. And if I’m not sure I’m really, actually, seriously calling on God, maybe I say ‘O my gosh’. But it’s pretty obvious how that phrase came about….So my question remains does substituting another word for the swear “count” as swearing or cursing? And do I get a free pass if the expletive I choose is one that is allowed on air? Because if swearing actually has a purpose – then maybe I shouldn’t have picked this habit to ‘give up’ for Lent? And if I yell ‘dumpy buckets’ inside the car when someone cuts me off, is that getting me off the hook for saying bad words, but still do the physiological job of releasing my anger? I don’t actually know the answers, but I think I’m still going to try to stick to my plan. At the very least it might help me be more aware of the power of language, and perhaps help in my creativity. If it’s about a quick, helpful, colourful response then that should be a healthy new habit to develop, shouldn’t it?! Well, anyway, I’m going to try my best for the next 40 days or so. I swear.

Blog links:

 Wikipedia: Profanity

Everyday Brogues Blog

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Politic(al)s

Acquired apathy=acquiesced agency
Captives r not freed
Widows & children
r not loved
Strangers r not protected
w/o our intention & attention
(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

I had not realised that I was writing a blog trilogy – The Doing & Canadian Jesus – until it was pointed out to me that the last two were connected … at least thematically. With that connexion named – for which I am most grateful (It really is an amazing gift to share these blogs and to be able to interact, be challenged and share in a manner that is both respectful, but which often blows my mind) – it became clear that though they all stand alone, they have had a trajectory toward me naming a binary for myself: politics vs. political.

Elections Canada

Elections Canada

For readers of A Deacon’s Musing, it is likely not a surprise that I really do (most often) believe in a both/and world. In other words, a life lens in which paradox can co-exist. And this blog – on its surface – likely maintains that. I have also realised that – for me personally – I have actually discovered an either/or.

I have the gift to partake, read and learn from a group of Brothers & Sisters who call themselves Outlaw Preachers. Much of their context is VERY different than my Canadian denominational experience, yet their theology of embracing diversity and proudly evangelising both humbles me, inspires me and sometimes … well I get lost! But … and since I am tending toward an either/or, I’ll also embrace the ‘b’ conjunction … I am most struck by the comfort (I hear from their stories and blogs) of how politics and being political intermingle. I am inspired and also wary when one’s political action, as inspired by faith, can become/seem to be coopted by the instruments of politics. And I wonder whether the two can ever truly be balanced? I wonder if, at some point, engaging in our human instruments of politics lead to compromise? And, if so, it seems that must mean compromise of our values of faith …

Now I am not getting all judgemental or sanctimonious – I am just realising something for myself. I would never deny I am political:

  • My lens of faith forces me to name truths to (my own) power (even when uncomfortable);
  • My lens of faith forces me to wrestle with (my) privilege; and,
  • My lens of faith forces me to make choices to walk in solidarity in the realities of the many oppressions that have and do indoctrinate us to harm not just one another, but ourselves.
Political Machine

Political Machine

I cannot deny that my political nature is grounded in a faith that demands of me to be an active agent in a world lulled by acquired apathy to just get by. We are meant to shine and my faith inspires me to interact in a human world: hence being political …

The either/or – again for me – is what I realise is a temptation: politics. The illusory nature of human politics – governance of the many – is dangerous for me:

  • I can anticipate the lulls of whispers to let that go for the greater good;
  • I can anticipate having to choose which line in the sand is the line and then let the borders get … soft?

It’s my Achilles’ Heel and I name that into the blogosphere … if for no other reason than to give voice to a temptation that is always present: bringing my political faith centred self into the mechanics of human ideological politics. I just do not think I stand a chance …

The communal nature of a blog – for me – is that it is about the dialogue, not the pontificating. The learning – for me – is most certainly one of the gifts that I derive each time I send one of these missives in to the cyber realm! So …I am not sure what this confessional moment is about except again to ask you – the Reader – some question, which I suspect might mutually help us both individual and in our shared journey on spaceship earth ….

  • Is this a tension for you as a person of faith?
  • How have you achieved balance yourself?
  • Is compromise inevitable? Is that even bad (my inkling is that it is, but then I like answers that aren’t my own to challenge me!)?

Blog links:

 Facebook: Outlaw Preachers
 UCC: WPG Tweets

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Scott

When tears fall & souls weep.
When grief strikes & questions abound.
May we (who r able) respond with care
& may those who need – be embraced
(Verses|May 2013)

15 years give or take a few solar revolutions … that’s how long I had the privilege to call Scott a friend. Though at first I knew him by the nickname he used in our online community as tarna, once we began to work with one another and then connect on the phone, PM, IM, and through various digital media our relationship matured from digital acquaintance to friendship. Scott was one of the bravest men I have ever known. He fought with an illness so aggressive that it required frequent surgery and caused such pain that I could sometimes hear it in his voice; and, every time I phoned him, not only was I humbled but I felt that his joie de vivre was a blessing. I will miss you Scott/tarna. And for those of you for whom relationships are grounded in the digital, never listen to that voice that says such connexions are ‘less than’ or not ‘real.’ The tears I have experienced at learning of the death of my friend have been most real and I know that Scott is now free of the pain with which he choose to live with dignity.

An Analogue World

An Analogue World

Perhaps the first paragraph is as much a testimonial of loss as it is a catalyst for reflection about my faith and what I might need to learn, to share with the church. Faith & church: they are intimately connected, how I live out individually what I understand to be a reflection of the Holy will obviously inform the way I walk into the human institution called church.

My relationship with Scott was grounded in a place and in a way that some see as ‘less than’ or ‘not real.’ I have been online for the better part of 2 decades and have friends from around the world, many of whom I only know digitally. These relationships are as valuable and life-giving to me as those which I have the gift to be able to embrace with physical touch. tarna’s illness did not define him, but it allowed him to model a generosity of spirit that I know affected others. His questions of concern for others in our online community not only speaks to his own compassion for others, but mirrors how such a place creates reciprocal relationships. Where mutuality in these democratic and sometimes frenetic places becomes an expectation grounded in freedom to be who we know we want to be. Sometimes, the most authentic person we long to be flourishes in these places that are free of the addictions, distractions, dysfunctions that are our lives in the ‘real world.’ Sometimes the ‘real world’ only shadows who we know we want to be – who we truly are – and an online community can embrace the ‘real’ you in ways that are life-giving and soul celebrating. As a person of faith, therefore, Scott modelled for me in this digital environment that it’s not what you believe that matters, it’s how you treat strangers: strangers in an online community are nameless and faceless at first. They might live next door or on the other side of the globe. How you treat the nameless are the seeds of friendship and that is just one way that I will honour this friendship.

A Digital World

A Digital World

What I take to the church is this: it’s not whether or not we should be testifying and evangelising the Good News in this environments – it’s the public commons of a new age and unless we’re there engaged, then we’re obsolete. For those who will follow, this is where we’ll meet them first. What we MUST ask, therefore, is ‘why.’ If our answer is about wanting to boost numbers or some double-speak agenda of conversion and coercion, not only do I want no part of such a reply, I believe it is theologically flawed. There is an entire generation, now almost two, who have no grounding in organised religion, for whom the rituals that mark death are few and far between and who are already– appropriately so –wary of those who peddle saccharine. Judgement laden and cheap faith. If our ‘why,’ however, is about wanting to help people shine, to help people transform from what the world tells them, that bullies into a conforming and controlling consumer mould where the common denominator must deny uniqueness, then I say let’s get to the business of sharing the Good News.

In places online – from chat groups, Skype, social media platforms and a plethora of real-time communication – people are gravitating to spaces and places that promise to offer community and change. And I believe that the church that longs to help people awaken to the gift they are has something to contribute in such spaces. Whether or not we’re ready, however, doesn’t matter. It’s already happening, we just need to ask ourselves ‘why’ … the rest will be what it will be …

RIP Scott/tarna

Faith is the unspoken confidence
in a threaded reality that defies word compartments.
Belief is the construction of compartments
(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

A Deacon’s Musing blog

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|A Path

This blog was originally published June 6, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: The Disciples Path

I was recently reading an interview with Douglas Todd in the United Church Observer. Todd is the religion reporter for the Vancouver Sun and some of what he had to say articulated well something that has been stewing for me as well:

Q To me, the point of church is that it offers connection with God. You’d think the superficial judgments some people make about the church would be overridden by the stronger desire to have that fundamental hunger met. What’s happened?

A I think people are afraid. You might learn some things about yourself that aren’t super pleasant at church, like maybe you’re imperfect and you’re not that open to things that are real. It’s so easy to be distracted by popular culture and your worries. So I actually find an almost bloody-minded kind of denial in people. They don’t want to know there’s an option.

And further on, he adds:

I’m not totally against simple faith, but I think this God stuff is quite complicated intellectually.

As I have been considering this interview, I was wrestling with my daily UCiM-ism and this was the result:

Spiritual/Religious. Choice/Commitment.
Are these heard as invitation or burden?
The path to relationship with the Holy begins as a Disciple

I was recently invited by some of the Young Adults at UCiM to consider offering a faith exploration opportunity during the summer. Now I’m a busy guy … my hours drop to halftime in the summer owing to the nature of my role in the faith-community and here comes people asking to learn, dig deep and explore their faith. I was not only blown away, I was … well … excited! What was and is exciting is that there is clearly a desire to dig into faith in a way that looks earnestly at a relationship with God, while not falling into the intellectual trap of literalism.

Page 39

Page 39

Biblical literacy – it’s lacking folks. Too often this literacy is equated with having to take the Sacred Texts as literally true, as opposed to engaging with them intentionally – seriously. How you hear these words gets to the heart – I think – of Todd’s challenge. For those not engaged in their faith, perhaps for whom the ritual of attendance is more important than the substance of the worship experience or those who have already painted all Christian communities as homophobic, gender-insensitive, judgemental and all around the last place you might actually find love, I’m likely heard as, well, reinforcing the stereotype. If I do not have a relationship with you, then you are going to have to fit me into your story somehow. Christianity has been taking a beating lately, especially for those – for lack of better language – who consider themselves egalitarian, progressive or liberal in respect to our relationship with Jesus.

Now, if I have a relationship with you or you are willing to extend me some trust, what I am trying to say is that without biblical literacy any sense of depth to faith becomes saccharine, watered-down, wishy-washy, happy feel good, cloud in the sky stuff. Jesus with the lollipop or Mary who just wants to hug everyone – imagine the Care Bears and that’s the place we end up. Without a grounding in the paradox, the contradictions, the out-right xenophobia and horrors that make up some of our Sacred Scripture, we have no capacity to offer an alternative voice in our sound-byte crazy, 35 second attention span Google-verse. And, if we do not do that work, follow that path of Discipleship, we get lost. When we finally need someone with whom to go deep, when the proverbial fan gets hit with the reality of the human condition, a Christian community is not going to be where you look for solace …

The rant isn’t that the negative stereotypes about Christian communities are actually wrong – in many (too many) ways they are, most unfortunately, right-on-the-mark. But if those who take this task seriously do not reflect back to those in our own contexts – faith communities, families, outreach ministries, friends – that we need to tread the path of knowing, exploring where we have been, then we simply lack credibility. This work allows us to claim the Christian language as one way through which someone can discuss the Divine. This stuff – life, the journey of knowing, of meeting the Holy in your neighbour – takes work.

If you want some tools and skills to articulate God in a world that hates analysis, critique or reflection, then demand it of those whom you respect. Ask for opportunities to explore your faith. And if you’re in a place, community, context of leadership in which apathy might be present, demand it as well. Discipleship is not a get-out-of-jail free card. It’s a path that leads to awakening, richness, and joy. This path hurts, you get banged up, confront control issues all the time – usually your own – but the other side of it is a discovery of humility. Of being present to the brokenness within and all around and, at the end of days, the possibility to say, ‘that’s okay. Life is a gift and I, for one, have enjoyed every moment of it.’

So … can you hear me now? Does this sound like an invitation or a burden? And, if you’re still reading, maybe – at the very least – you’ll hear it as an honest challenge … choice is yours after all …

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Poetry & Remits

This blog was originally published March 16, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: Lent| Poetry & Remits

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

Awakening

Awakening

Our denomination, the United Church of Canada, is doing lots of exciting things and one of them – church-geek drumroll please – is revisiting of Basis of Union, discussing Doctrine and imagining how we might supplement, add or complement the work that has occurred over the intervening 85+ years! This process is formally known as Remit 6.

Doctrine, Basis of Union, and Sacred Scripture, can feel, well dry, overwhelming and boring. But – when approached not as words cemented in stone once written – but windows into a time and context, a flowering of imagining that attempts to use language to point beyond itself and paint an image of God understood in the moment, well it’s almost poetic!

At the most recent gathering of Winnipeg Presbytery, people shared their opinions about this Remit and what struck me most was the discussion about including the Song of Faith: a 10-page poetic expression that developed over several years and was finally approved as a Statement of Faith in 2006. One of the concerns raised was its poetic nature. To this concern, one Brother-in-the-Faith replied that, if we name Sacred Scripture as our textual authority and it is significantly grounded in poetry itself, including a contemporary expression in that same manner feels appropriate.

This got me to thinking during this Lenten journey. And so I thought I would share a piece of poetry that I wrote as my personal Credo in my last year of training as a Deacon. I offer this, therefore, as an expression of words that flow and dance and are open to nuance. Hopefully, in turn, doors are opened for further reflection, as opposed to a trajectory towards absolutes.

Who is God?

God exists pervasively, everywhere, every-when,
The Holy slips through thin places, our thin places
Places that are filled with agenda and distractions.

Yet,

in moments of Grace,
the ever present
trumpeting whisper of the Creator
can be heard.

The warm of whisper,

The inviting parting of lips,
Pulling apart in an image,
Speaks your, our, my name
With a sigh of Philia,
Agape,
Eros.

As the whisper leaves the symbol,

Another is afforded,
Another,
that inadequately attempts to illustrate,
what the art can never see,
never comprehend,
never wholly appreciate,
And in that moment,
Ruah,
Wind,
Sound,
Spirit is let go.

She dives without gender,

Embraces without question,
Plunges in and out of lives,
Mingling in our joys,
In our sorrows.

He speaks with timbre stillness,

With Soprano eloquence,
Within our horrors,
Perpetuated by choices bent on power,
Oppression,
Greed,
The Spirit is undeterred,
Vibrantly present,
Nurturing,
Supporting,
Waiting,
Grace is afoot.

And there,

In moments of revelation,
Epiphany,
Silent awakening,
Christos walks,
Among us,
Within us,
Illustrating the Circle,
The connexion,
Atoms swirl,
Molecules dance,
Interdependence.

You,

Me,
We,
Us,
Words of the First,
Second,
Third Person,
All inseparable at the moment of awakening.

Creation is a whole,

There is no division,
There is I,
There is Other,
A coin that mixes images,
One side embraces the other,
Within the dream of the Dreamer.

Who are we?

The Dreamer’s dream,

Those stuck in length, width, and depth,
X, Y, Z
Creatures seeking solace in space-time.
We are embodied beings seeking wholeness,
Struggling with intellect,
And flesh.

Harmony quivers,

As words attempt to articulate,
A reality unbound by syntax,
By grammar.

Language,

At first liberating,
Freeing,
Exciting,
Firing synapses to nerve,
Reality becomes larger,
Aw(e)ful.

Yet in the moment,

When boundaries seem limitless,
Vulnerability occurs,
Orthodoxy arises,
So symbols intent to free,
To inspire,
To imagine the Dreamer,
Become chains,
Barriers,
Idolatry,
Sin,
Distractions,
Agenda.

What is our task?

To free God,

To free ourselves,
To realise nothing is divisible by itself,
To acknowledge life,
Death,
The Quantum,
The Planck Scale,
All point beyond,
To the Infinite.

We are commanded through an open invitation,

We are expected to acknowledge from whence we come,
To appreciate context,
To analyse location,
To question,
To be obedient.

There are always temptations,

Strip down,
Start anew,
Judge,
Discard,
Revolution.

This one,

Not that one,
Will cleanse through fire,
And offer insight … truth.

The temptation of convention,

Whether Right or Left.
2000 years+
Genocides committed,
Salvation attained.

2000+ years,

Tears wept,
Celebration attained.

2000+ years,

Mistakes made,
Lessons learned.

Our task is to adapt and acknowledge,

Question and reflect,
Our task is too important to let go,
To acquiesce that which has come before.

Our task is to sit,

To listen,
To pray,
To love.

The rest are just words …

 

Lenten journeys are a gift and challenge. Our eyes can be opened if we are intentionally preparing ourselves …
What discipline might you consider to introduce during this central time that defines us as an Easter People?

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(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Tension

This blog was originally published January 19, 2012
by The United Church in Meadowood
& was entitled
A Deacon’s Musing: The Tension between Faith & Belief

These two words – Faith & Belief – have always been with me as I have journeyed along my path. How do they fit? Do they fit? Do they compete with one another? Are they complementary? Where do they reside in me?

This last week I have been able to do just one of the things that I find so very feeding in my ministry as a Deacon: I got to visit with no less than four Brothers and one Sister in the faith, who shared part of their stories and I, in turn, also shared a bit of my own. What is amazing in these places of trust, questions and most hopefully non-judgement is how deep people are willing to go, if given the opportunity to explore their journey as a Child of God.

Sometimes – though not always – these encounters are new for people. Sometime a person’s inner monologue may have glossed over some of the questions I ask – So where was God in that for you? Does it feel like you were alone? What does Jesus’ own ministry have to say to that experience? – but until given voice and life, it is easy to be distracted, to avoid those paths that might lead you down the rabbit hole …

A Million Years Later

A Million Years Later

One of the places we often arrive at in these conversations is what is Faith and what is Belief? At this point, I share what has been helpful for me and use my experience to frame where we might go next if there seems to be an impasse or a lack of language to proceed. For me, Faith resides in the body, whereas Belief is in the head. Sometimes there is another pause in the conversation and should it feel appropriate, I would share the following framework …

Faith is intrinsic to every person; it often defies articulation and is something that is simply known in one’s core. When words are applied to Faith or, perhaps more clearly, when one tries to translate Faith through words, it seems to me that poetry might be as close as one can come to transmit that truth. An experience that has been helpful me to describe this sense of Faith is the experience one has after diving a little too deep into the water of a cold, Canadian Shield lake. As one rises with kicking legs and pumping arms to the beckoning light just beyond the water’s edge, you know, you anticipate, your lungs are prepared to draw deeply of the fresh air for which your body longs. And as you break the barrier, there is a pause, your head suddenly warmer than the rest of your still submerged body, and then you draw in what you knew was there to replenish, purify and cleanse your oxygen deprived being … Faith is the trust that drawing in that longed for breath is literally life-giving …

Surfacing

Surfacing

Faith – that intrinsic sense of the Other, something bigger, larger, and yet implying a deep interconnection that defies initial experience – often requires, in a human culture of words, the scientific-method, and the need to qualify and quantify, an explanation! Unfortunately, the human condition is often uncomfortable with ambiguity and, as such, Faith moves from the body into the head as an exercise to explain what that means: Belief. Belief and the systems that arise are simply the language, the coding, the matrix, the framework upon which a collective experience attempts to explain Faith.

Now I can already hear those Orthodox voices – right opinion/true thinking – that would and will reject this critique. Though that might be an interesting and intellectually stimulating conversation, the fact is that most people – especially those who are exploring the Christian experience/language for the first time – would and do not appreciate a nuance that feels more akin to judgement than exploration and dialogue.

This tension between Faith and Belief has become clearly evident since my last blog – A Deacon’s Musing: Christian by Culture or Christian by Choice. The video – Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – which I used at the end and has now been viewed on YouTube millions of times, has proven challenging because of the poet’s use of ‘religious.’ What I understand by the poet’s use of ‘religious’ speaks to the institutionalised aspect that often occurs as Belief systems evolve. What happens in this development of a system is that the intrinsic aspect – Faith – must be superseded, in order to ensure the clarity espoused by the institutional expression. And it is this tension, when trust is present, in which I get to muck about. When Brothers and Sisters, who are trying to reclaim a sense of Jesus’ ministry in their lives, experience his words being mocked by the institutions that claim to speak on his behalf, it is here that a conversation about Faith and Belief has proven an interesting stepping point …

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