Concluding thoughts – or, now what?!

The book is finished. Our planned discussion times completed. We liked the book. We said we would leave it around for others to read – and intentionally pass it on to some who could benefit from it. We especially liked chapter 2, and the discussion about the Biblical passages and arguments. We loved that the whole thing was so easy to read and so accessible.

And then we wondered – now what? This issue matters. So many people have been so badly hurt by the Church on this issue, personally rejected and vilified.

We traded stories of feeling like the only Christianity that gets heard and seen is one that is all about rules and judgement, a faith that is rigid and seems to have very little to do with the messy business of loving our neighbour as ourself. We want the mainline churches, the faith we follow, to be louder; to include and be tolerant – but in a more obvious and overt manner!

And in the course of conversation, two possibilities emerged –

  1. Could we have a poster campaign?! (Might this even be a national church project?) Posters of people, with the caption “This is what a Christian/Anglican looks like”, with a quote or caption “Pro-gay”, or”Pro-choice”, or some such thing… and borrowing a little from the “This is what a feminist looks like” campaigns.
  2. A more local and immediate project (we are looking at you St Bede’s folks!) – during exams, use sidewalk chalks and write quotes/scripture passages all over campus. Quotes like “Judge not, lest ye be judged” or “If one of you says, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”, or “St. Therese of Lisieux “I choose all”, or Meister Eckhert “We are all called to be mothers of G-d, because G-d is always needing to be born”, or…Well, you get the idea!

What do you think? Want to be part of this? Got other suggestions?!

Chapter 3 “On the front line”

This chapter consists mainly of interviews Coren held with a variety of people who identify as LGBTQ, telling the pain and struggle with the church that they have experienced throughout their lifetimes. It is generally a direct re-telling of the interviews, often using their own words without further commentary. Coren does note that mainly those he interviewed are male. Several of them are former RC priests, and almost all the people interviewed are older.

So – questions for discussion tomorrow…Who is missing from these stories that Coren re-tells? In the context of campus, which stories do you know about people who have struggled with the church’s refusal to affirm and include all, regardless of sexuality? How do they differ (or not) from the stories Coren tells? For folks from the mainline churches, which have become much more liberal within recent times, how much is this still a struggle on campus? Why does this story about the struggle with the church matter?! Who needs to hear this?

Are there any good stories?!

And further – knowing that suicide/suicide attempt rates tend to much higher for the LGBTQ population, how should churches respond? (declaring my own position – this is not something we can move slowly on – for many of the young folks I work with, this is life and death stuff…) And what response can we in more mainline, liberal churches have to the ‘conversion therapy’ movement and it’s popularity within more conservative Christianity?

After the lunch-time ‘lecture’…!

So today’s discussion became more like a lecture as I tried to fill people in on contextual background and issues when we look at Biblical texts – and give my own version of why I interpret the Bible through a more liberal lens…

Some thoughts from today:

  • not everyone had seen the letter to Dr. Laura
  • a big theme of our conversation today was how different understandings of both marriage and sexuality are in our context, versus the various worlds in which the Bible was written
  • we did read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and concluded that it is a story about gang rape, and many of the group recalled that rape is about power not about sex… (helps to have several SDS folk in the circle!)
  • we had a WIDE variety of levels of Biblical literacy present today in the group – not sure where any of the virtual group are at? Makes me aware again of the need to do some general teaching around how you can take the Bible seriously but not literally. It may be time for a group on that again (each week so far we have ended up talking about the interpretation of other passages). I used to have a group to look at Bible passages (Re:verse) – would anyone be interested in that starting up again?

We didn’t get through all the passages, so next week we will continue to look at Biblical verses/stories/teachings and how they apply (or don’t!) to same-sex marriage. You can go ahead and keep reading the book, or simply continue to think about how the Bible is used both for and against acceptance of LGBTQ people & relationships. (Next week we will look at the story of Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s slave in more detail, as well as the ‘clobber’ texts in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy.)

Should the Good in Good Friday say something

Happy Good Friday everyone! This article on this special day explains why Good Friday should, and does, start with ‘good’. This day, roughly 1981 years ago, Jesus was put upon the cross to save us from our sins. I know it’s sad that he had to pass away, but he did if for a good cause. If God did not play for him to die then he would have lived for awhile, but most definitely our sins would have not been forgiven and we would be living a dreadful, sinful life.

Don’t you think we should be rejoicing over his suffering instead of sulking in the shadows? He did it for us, God willingly put his son on the cross to sacrifice for us. That just reminds me about how generous and powerful God is. It certainly would not have been an easy thing to do but God knew Jesus was the only person who was special enough to do that.

We all wear dark colours on that day to honour Jesus’s life, but do you ever think that maybe he might like us to wear neon instead? He did it for us to live a happy and cheery life so by honouring him, he still might want us to thank him for all he has done for us. You might also be angry at this time of year. I suspect you might be furious at the people who put Jesus on the cross. You might feel like one of your friends is being bullied because Jesus is our friend.

So we also need to forgive. Let go all of our negative feelings so we can enjoy our sin-free day like Jesus meant us to.

Laura (11 years old)

Invitations to walk and pray

We are in the city now. Jerusalem. The crowds are changing their tone – we know what is coming…

In the midst of Holy week I am planning a prayer walk for Holy Saturday. You are invited to hear a story of our modern crucifixion of Jesus as life giving water – and pray with us for the Resurrection anew. Here is a modified excerpt from the planned liturgy for the Prayer walk.

“Dear Grand River life giver,

How can I begin writing to such an esteemed stranger? I do not know you as I wish I did. As such, I hope you will not take offense at this small, presumptuous, hopeful offering.

I know you are the lifeblood of this land and many peoples. Before this I know you are your own life, and a being unto yourself. How then should a small creature like me relate to you, who were before me and will remain after me? For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Yet my people are many, and we have done you many wrongs. We have usurped the inheritance of those named by the peoples’ treaty to be wardens of your shores and waters. We have compounded the pollution of our hearts and ways with the spilled blood of our sisters and brothers, who had sworn to safeguard the life that you sustain.

It is they whose forgiveness I must seek as I approach your holy waters. Deal gently with me, for I am filled with brave talk and small deeds.”

These pipelines under our feet connect us in so many ways. They are the veins of our society and lives. Just think.
This morning, we put on our clothes, made in a factory WITH OIL.
For breakfast we had fruit, shipped here from Central America WITH OIL.
We packed ourselves snacks in plastic containers, made WITH OIL.
We drove to church in cars WITH OIL.
The pipelines connect us to the global economy of oil, and we are complicit.”

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As we walk, wherever we find ourselves this Easter, may we remember the one who walks before us and leads the way towards the light.

-joshua

The Long Haul

Life with candles is work. Even as the days grow longer I find it harder to continue to not turn on electric lights when at home. It is tiring to always look for the matches, to hold the candle. Even once lit, candles and oil lanterns don’t bathe me in enough light to rouse me to my list of home tasks in the same way electric currents can. Lent is dragging on. I am ready for the flood of Light that comes with Easter – but Easter is not here yet. We must continue on, in dimly lit hallways, praying that we don’t trip on what lies in front of us in the shadows.

How are you holding the Light close this week? What illuminations and encounters with God flickers have you experienced or failed to recognize in the shadows? How are you avoiding stubbing your ‘toes’?

Praying.

Listening.

Working.

 

 

 God is.

God is in praying.

God is in listening.

God is in working.

 

developing consciousness of God

I AM makes the long haul possible.

 

The ark that bends towards justice.

towards light.

towards life.

 

Is as we are

where we are.

 

Patience

I know what you are all thinking, “This winter is driving me crazy” and “I wish spring could come sooner!” I have been there, but we all need patience. It is an important life lesson that we all have not fully learned yet. Even Jesus’ disciples have been impatient from time to time. We all want something right now! I want an iPhone but I am told I have to wait a year. I really want that device so I can communicate with my friends, but I have to wait and I have to live with it.

Even though Spring officially started a week ago, it does not feel like it, therefore we have to wait. I was feeling sick this week, with laryngitis and I have to wait for this affliction to disappear. Hopefully the sun will come out soon and heat up all the snow!

Laura Anthony (11 years old)

Walking Ten Thousand Miles

“Thank you for calling the personal credits information line, my name is Ethan, how may I help you?”

These words are spoken chirpily, with a mix of both dread and curiosity. Chirpy, because the client demands it; dread, because there’s always the possibility of receiving abuse directed at the client; and curiosity, because who wouldn’t be curious?

Most of my work is mundane and procedural: change of addresses, questions about deadlines, explanations about paperwork, and the like. But it’s the steady drip of personal stories which frankly will make someone as cold-hearted as Ioseb Jugashvili reflect on self-purpose and worth.

From the man who used four-letter words to describe incidents in residential schools and hurled them at me…to the couple who say they need money for renovations or else their home will be condemned…to the grandmother who plans to take a creative writing course to write a book about her fourteen years in (her words) “that hellhole”…to another grandmother who complained about “us real Indians” being ignored by “those people”. But why should I feel emotional about it? After all, it’s not like I can complain about my pay.

None of this comes as a surprise to anyone. But Zhuge Liang summed it up best when he said that reading ten thousand scrolls is not worth walking ten thousand miles. In his day, of course, walking literally meant walking.

As anyone who’s ever hiked back-country knows, those ten thousand miles will be riven with twists, turns, and obstacles. No one expects me to work on aboriginal issues for too long, but this is what I view from my location.

How has the view changed along your walk?

 

Ethan

Being present

This year for Lent, I did not want to remove something from my life as a devotion. Although it can be a helpful way to kick a habit, it has never helped me feel closer to God. Which is something I very much want to bring back into my life.

Which got me to thinking, what makes me feel closer to God? Being present in the moment is an important part of that for me. Most often this has happened when I’m out hiking in the woods. But how to cultivate being present in my day to day life? I spend a great deal of time either regretting the past or worrying about the future, and if I dedicated more time to simply being present in whatever moment I happen to be in, I can appreciate more of what is going on around me. So starting on Ash Wednesday, I decided that whenever I started to do that, I would re-direct my attention back to the current moment.

Then I realized, after being about a week into it- I was basically trying to give up worrying for Lent. Although I have not had a 100% success rate, or even a 90% success rate, being mindful of what I’m thinking about has significantly decreased the amount of worrying I do, and the duration of said worrying. I will certainly keep trying and seeing how it goes.

Dawn

Time in the Dark

“Was I seeing insanity or sanctity?” The bitumen flows under our long forgotten treaty feet. Spills of dishonesty in our blood line 9-1-1… The policeman, responding to the call, intimidates, and finally, leaves us to our dumpster diving saying, “Good hunting.” Pressurized oil feeds thousands, connecting us in our cities with energy surplus that is soon to be a thing of the past. I dig through the veins of backwards white male wealth each week on Sundays. Some days, I find Holy smiles in the disposable ash-less waste.

Image

Is God really this close to us? Is our society’s wealth and waste ash-less? Unlike the fertile fire purified palm ash that still marks my forehead from just over a week ago.

“To this day we go on reading desert spirituality for its sense of Godness, however bizarre some of its demonstrations …We study Celtic spirituality for its links to nature and struggle between pantheism and panentheism…We follow Orthodox spirituality for its use of image and its emphasis on the transcendence of the spiritual life and wonder at the distinction between images and idols…We look to Western spirituality for its awareness of the incarnational and worry about the loss of a sense of mystery there. In every realm of every spiritual tradition, we search for the secret to the Way.” (“Called to Question: a Spiritual Memoir”, Joan Chittister)

Again, this Lent I have given up electric light in my search for the Way. Why? To remind myself of how much I have that I don’t need and that  many others don’t have. To remind my body of the natural rhythms of daylight.To quiet my mind by candlelight. To help me create time in space to hear God in the dark places. To encounter God in the flickering shadows. It is in the margins, the dark places, the shadows, that Jesus spent his ministry. It is in darkness that Jesus died.

I am looking to cultivate awareness of God in every moment. To be given to growing in God. To grow in the “I am”- the “I am everything that is and more”.

In the midst of planning a lament prayer walk on the recent approval of the line 9 pipeline expansion and reversal, which will be and is transporting diluted bitumen across our grand river watershed, I slowly awaken to a sense of God. Like a fumbling candle flicker. In God, flickers of light take time, build slowly, and blossom towards resurrection.