Posts Tagged 'Jesus'

The Damascus Carol: What Really Happened to St. Paul during that Flash of Light (it gets weird)

This was written for my “Who is Jesus?” class at Wycliffe College, an Anglican seminary in Toronto where I’m studying to be a priest. The assignment was to write a fictional story about Jesus based on what we know of him from a New Testament booking of our choosing (not a Gospel). Because I like to torture myself, I chose Romans. Insane task, and it got crazy fast. (9 min read)

“They deserve death,” said Saul to the Roman soldier, “and THAT is why we are going to Damascus today. There is a group that meets in a freed Jewish slave’s home tomorrow night. Rumours are there will also be Gentiles there too, with other Jewish traitors, eating what they believe is the ACTUAL body of Jesus, who they are calling Lord and Messiah. Cannibalism and blasphemy!”

The Roman soldier straightens and nods, and turns to gather the supplies they will need for the long journey ahead.

“We leave immediately,” says Saul. “Bring with you several other Roman guards. We want to put the fear of Adonai in them.”

Continue reading ‘The Damascus Carol: What Really Happened to St. Paul during that Flash of Light (it gets weird)’

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God Doesn’t Promise Us a Rose Garden (But Flowers Will Bloom Through the Cracks)

Being woke is exhausting.

As a sexual assault survivor, who also suffers from chronic insomnia, the online debates this week about Aziz Ansari’s alleged sexual assault felt particularly depleting.

It’s exhausting to endure misogyny, sexism, and disrespect on a daily basis. It’s exhausting to take on the emotional labour of educating those in power about their privilege.

It’s exhausting to be re-traumatized every time you find out that another seemingly woke person you looked up to is really just another man who does not respect women or understand consent.

It’s exhausting to have to explain to people who just don’t get it, why them defending this man hurts you.

Continue reading ‘God Doesn’t Promise Us a Rose Garden (But Flowers Will Bloom Through the Cracks)’

Life, Death, Resurrection, Hope: An Epiphany Sermon

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.       For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;                                    but the Lord will arise upon you,                                                                                              and his glory will appear over you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Change is hard.

Not to mention disorienting, sad and fearful. So often in life we think we some things are unquestionably constant, and certain, and it never even occurs to us that it can be different than they are, and then a piece of news can hit you, seemingly out of nowhere, like a bus, and suddenly, the world seems different and you don’t recognize your life anymore, and so you might as well go dye your hair purple! If you can’t fight it, might as well embrace it with something that makes you inexplicably happy, right? [I had dyed my hair lilac purple]

This is literally what happened to me over the Christmas break. So, I am no stranger to these feelings. About a week before Christmas, a relationship that was very significant to me, and that I was very grateful for, and certain it was heading in a particular direction, suddenly ended. I did not see it coming, and was in shock, and was instantly propelled into a very deep and devastatingly painful place of darkness.

And in that darkness I had a choice to make. I could do what I have done in the past in moments of relational grief, which was stay in bed for a week with a tub of ice cream and a bottle of wine, re-watching Love Actually a million times, or, I could do what I’ve done at other times and become bitter and angry and write very nasty emails to this person and rant to my friends about what a horrible person this is.

Believe me, these are the things that I wanted to do, but I know from experience that those choices for me, only makes things worse. I’ve heard it said that in moments of pain, you can turn bitter or better. And if you turn bitter, you are wasting the pain. So, I decided this time, not to waste the pain. But to face it, and sit in it, and allow Jesus to carry me through it, and give my friends and family the opportunity to love and care for me, in a way that they did and has brought us closer together.

So this time, I followed the path that the Magi took, towards the Light, which always leads to God’s Very Real Presence, to God With Us, otherwise known as the baby Jesus.

So, at the advice of our dear Curate Philip Josseyln-Hamilton, I went to Saint John the Divine’s convent, for prayer, reflection, and to meet with a Sister, a nun, for spiritual direction and guidance. (OK actually, I spent ONE day in bed with Netflix and icecream, but THEN I got outta bed!)

The convent was a very nourishing and healing experience. The Sister looked into my eyes and said to me gently, “I know this is hard, and you are confused and scared and angry, but you won’t always feel this way. Everything will be ok. God loves you so dearly. And God is closer to you than the tears on your check. Let him carry you now, imagine him holding you in his warm and loving embrace.”

This was very helpful, but in my grief I said, “But I want to know why. I am so confused. Why would he do this? And maybe it’s my fault?”

And she said, “There will come a time when it will be helpful to ask those questions, and see what it is you can learn. But now is not that time. Now is the time to allow Jesus to embrace you, and take comfort in his whisper, “Everything will be ok. I love you.”

And this I did. Every time since then I felt the urge to question, or to analyze, or to rage, I simply returned to the image of Jesus holding me, telling me, “I love you. Everything will be ok.

And then she said to remember the second greatest commandment, which is to continue to get out of yourself, and love thy neighbor as yourself. And so, she said, at this time of year, which so much need and pain, who can you serve and love?

So I called my friend at Romero House, the refugee welcoming community in the West End of Toronto, and asked if they had any practical needs I could meet. They did. And so my parents and I decided to forego the stocking stuffers this year and pool our money into buying 17 pairs of winter boots, snow pants, and mittens for newly arrived refugee children. So we went on a Value Village splurge, which was very fun and awesome especially because I racked up lots of VV points so I got 30% off!

It was absolute elation to shop for these, and to tell the staff at VV who they were for, and then to deliver it to the kids. And scientific studies have confirmed this truth, one secret of those who are happy is they volunteer. They help people who have been hurt in similar ways to them, and by giving, you receive so much more in return.

I decided the next day to make my mother’s birthday the best one that she’s had, so I planned a surprise for her. And the next day I offered to fold bulletins for the church. And on Christmas day we volunteered again with Romero House, for their Service of Peace, hanging out with the refugee kids, and it was awesome.

And I got to tell you, by no means did the pain and grief disappear. It was and it is a times, still difficult. But my focus on the Light, on being purposefully aware of God’s loving embrace of me, and then allowing my community the opportunity to embrace me, and then turning around and embracing those around me, God’s Presence became very real, and it was like wearing a new pair of glasses. Everything seemed just a little bit clearer, my problem was put into a wider perspective.

It didn’t mean that I was suddenly cured of grief, and I continue to grieve and I know in the midst of my confusion, more shall be revealed.

But that’s the thing about Light. So often we are not given a blazing Sun that Illuminates Everything We Want to See. More often, when we are on dark, winding paths, and we do not know where it is taking us, the Light God’s presence provides is more like headlights, illuminating just enough for us to drive around just the next corner.

As Anne Lamott says in her book Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, “we are not served by getting away from the grubbiness of suffering.” She continues,  “we have to stand in the middle of the horror, at the foot of the cross [like Mary], and wait out another’s suffering where that person can see us….To be honest, that sucks. It’s the worst, even if you are the mother of God.”

Presence and solidarity with those who are suffering, without any cute platitudes like “God’s plan is perfect” — which only makes things worse — is hard, but it’s so essential and a good place to start.

But then what? Lamott continues:

Most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it. We clean up beaches after oil spills. We rebuild towns after hurricanes and tornados. We return calls and library books. We get people water. Some of us even pray. Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice. The equation is: life, death, resurrection, hope. The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbour, organize an overseas clothing drive, and do your laundry…we live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky.”

And I’m reminded of the words of the iconic Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

And so, I encourage today friends, if you, or someone you know are in a place of shock, grief, confusion, sadness, or darkness, remember that “The Lord has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

Let us take our cue from the Magi, who followed the Light, and found that it led them to the Light of the World, God With Us, the One who can–and will–bring a sustaining and life-giving embrace of warmth, love, and hope.

Amen.

So this is Christmas (War is Not Over)

Today is one of the days in the church calendar that I most appreciate – the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. During the 12 days of  Christmas, there is a day to remember that the birth of the Prince of Peace threatened the Roman Empire so much that it resorted immediately to the tool that marks every empire – violence. With a lust for power and control, King Herod ushered a decree that baby boys under the age of two be massacred, in hopes of killing the one who was deemed to be the true King. It was a state-sponsored infanticide, thousands were murdered, and the Holy Family fled as refugees.

As I’m writing this my nieces and nephews are squealing with delight as they run around and play with each other. The two youngest are under two years of age, and I cannot imagine the horror of an army coming around and murdering them in cold blood. (Later,  at the dinner table, I was discussing this article, and my dad asked why the “Holy Innocents” are so “Holy”. My 9 year old nephew wondered if it was because being holy is being set apart for Continue reading ‘So this is Christmas (War is Not Over)’

Solidarity, Resistance, and Liberation: Why Christians Should Occupy

This article was originally written for the Et Cetera, the newspaper of the Christian graduate school I attend here in Vancouver, Regent College. I was responding to an article entitled “Why I Will Not Occupy Vancouver” written by a friend of mine, where her concerns about the movement were outlined: the protesters are costing taxpayers too much money, the movement is too complex and confusing, and those involved should do something more useful like “occupy a job” and/or volunteer at a soup kitchen or teach literacy to kids. This is my response.

I would like to begin by thanking my friend BJ Bruder for her article last week that outlined why she would not Occupy Vancouver. On one level, I can identify with her frustration that the movement seems to be so complex and confusing that it is hard to pinpoint the purpose and “effectiveness” of the protest. I can also understand her suspicion that some of the protesters seem to be members of a privileged class who have the luxury of not having to work in order to camp out downtown for days at a time. How would it be justifiable that a student of privilege would protest the economic system that benefited his or her own wealthy family? This is a good question worth considering.

Her article presents an opportunity to consider an answer to this and other good questions. What exactly is this movement about? What is the purpose of a Continue reading ‘Solidarity, Resistance, and Liberation: Why Christians Should Occupy’

Searching For Don Knows What: Former Hippie Sells Out

At the risk of sounding like a hipster, I liked Donald Miller before he was famous, and now––thanks to my friend Amy––I fear he’s selling out.

First, my true-blue-fan cred: I met him 3 years before Blue Like Jazz was published. Great guy. He came to speak at a Summit College reunion at my childhood camp in Huntsville, Ontario (Summit was a one year outdoor adventure/Bible/leadership program that I did after high school). I liked his talk so much––about how we carry around needless baggage like giant rocks in our hiking packs (a talk well suited for us outdoorsy folk)––that I bought his first book called Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance (later released as Through Painted Deserts). As I read though this journal about his road trip from Texas to Oregon in a broken-down VW van, I remember thinking this guy is wonderful. He had such a unique, laugh-out-loud funny, comforting voice, and told so many great stories, that I was sad when it was finished. I later I lent it to a boy I liked, trying to impress him with the fact that I read cool stuff, and never got it back. Which sucks because in addition to being a great story, that first cover was way better than the re-published one.

I was ecstatic when Blue Like Jazz came out 3 years later and gobbled down every delicious, witty, insightful morsel. Continue reading ‘Searching For Don Knows What: Former Hippie Sells Out’

God as Mother: Julian of Norwich and Our Language for God

The following is a paper that I wrote for my Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College. It was a challenging and rewarding topic to research. And my prof, Iain Provan, liked it – enough to give me an A! 🙂 Although he was not completely convinced by my argument. Hmmm, what do you think??

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‘Who is like Yahweh’…judge, king, warrior, father!
‘There is none like Yahweh’…artist, gardener, doctor, mother, shepherd!
There is none like Yahweh, who lives inside a rich, open, generative rhetoric, whose character arises from daily life, and who refers back to daily life in governing and sustaining ways. (1) -Walter Brueggemann

All language we use for God is analogous and inadequate; there is no perfect metaphor that would sufficiently capture all there is to know about the multi-faceted nature of our indescribable God. In addition, language is not static; it has morphed over time to reflect changing culture. Because God uses our own language to communicate something to us, God naturally accommodates God’s ways and ideas to use language and images that we are familiar with within the limits of our particular culture and place in history.(2)  In this paper I would like to focus on this latter aspect of the language we use for God: accommodation. I will argue that just as God chose to accommodate to a less-than-ideal patriarchal Hebrew society by revealing Godself using masculine imagery and language, God also chose to accommodate to certain 14th century medieval concepts of motherhood and medical physiology to reveal Godself, using maternal imagery and language, to the English mystic Julian of Norwich. Julian’s portrayal of God as Mother should then serve as an example to contemporary Christ-followers that as culture and language morphs over time, for better or worse, God will continue to accommodate to our own cultural perceptions in order to meet us where we are at. Some will argue that this issue raises several concerns, including whether or not we are permitted to ‘invent’ language for God, and while I am sympathetic to them, I believe they are unwarranted and can be eased by a deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of our language for God and its relationship to changing cultural contexts. Continue reading ‘God as Mother: Julian of Norwich and Our Language for God’


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