The Importance of the Body

Sometimes the guys I support want to hold my hand or sit beside them while they lie on their bed.  Sometimes they want me to massage their neck or arms.  I feel a bit awkward doing those things to be honest.  Maybe it is because of their honesty and forthrightness about what they want from me.  The fellows I work with can’t communicate very easily with words.  They don’t always seem to understand all the things I say to them, but I’m not sure since they don’t answer back usually.  Sometimes they do what I am asking sometimes not.

I wonder if hands reaching to hold mine is like God calling to Moses.  Here I am, I reply.  God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush.  God wasn’t just an idea or a concept.  God’s presence was in the bush.  Confounding and confusing.  When Moses asks what name he should call God by, God gives an even more confusing and mysterious name.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God co-eternal and con-substantial. He is confusing and confounding.  He is challenging and terrifying.  He is mysterious and beautiful.  When I am supporting people with intellectual disabilities I realize the truth and importance of orthodox Christian theology.  The Incarnation, The Cross and Passion and the Bodily Resurrection are Good NEWS, not just some good idea.  Rights and privileges are not Jesus’ main concern it doesn’t seem to me.  He heals the sick and lame.  He raises the dead.  He prevents a woman from being stoned to death.  He cares about people’s bodies.  If I can, at my job, show care and concern for the vulnerable men I support, for their bodies then perhaps even in my stumbling weakness, I am sharing the Good News.  Not a good idea about their rights or a good idea about a better funding formula but the Good News that God is with us right here in our bodies.  Even if our bodies don’t do what we wish they would do, or look how we wish they looked or even do what we don’t want them to do… God is present with us.

It is Holy Week now, and we are journeying towards The Crucifixion, the torture and death of Jesus’ body.  His Holy and broken body hanging on a cross of wood for all to see and mock and pity and stare at in horror and sorrow.  That is God holding our hand.  He is asking where we are.

Let us bless the Lord

Thanks be to God

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Good News to the Poor Always Seems Crazy

Often, good news is something like you got the job, won the lottery, get a day off from work with pay, car repairs cost less than you thought and so on.  So I suppose it follows that the Good News of Jesus Christ, and especially to the poor, would be things get better.  Maybe the poor get a good job!  If we cut taxes to rich corporations they will create jobs and that will be good news to the poor!  Hallelujah!  We are doing God’s will, the supreme benefactor. Or if we set up a food bank or have a rally protesting the reality of poverty people will suddenly “get it” and things will change and that will be good news for the poor.  Hallelujah!  We are doing the will of God the master activist.  Or something like if we get the Church back together in communion with the See of Saint Peter or drop the Filioque or cure all the gay people or liberate and accept all gay people or forbid abortion or allow access to family planning all these things will be bringing the “Good News”.

I have no doubt that many people are totally sincere in their efforts to bring good news to people throughout the world.  I just wonder if it is time to have another look at what the Good News of Jesus Christ is.  I think we as the divided Church need to go to the Bible, and use the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed to meditate on them.  To me, the Creeds are a lens that focuses our vision and sharpens our thoughts after reading the Bible.  We can think about the words in our day to day lives.  Someone gives us the finger while driving, remember the Creeds; someone really praises us up for a job well done, before we get too high on that remember the Creeds; we find out a loved one is seriously ill, remember the Creeds and so on.

In these days of secularization and cynicism it’s hard to believe that there can be any good news.  It’s hard for me, anyways. It’s easy to think “If Jesus came to sort everything out, why are things still so screwed up?”  I deeply feel that the Good News of Jesus Christ is there.  It doesn’t necessarily  mean that I will get a good job or that my family will never get sick or that my son’s beloved lost cat will come home.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that all the world’s ills will be solved.  I guess I wish it did.  Good things do happen, and we should give thanks for them, but when they don’t happen it doesn’t mean that God isn’t with us.  I feel that it means that at some point, we will see Jesus, cooking breakfast for us on the shore.  Maybe then, after all our big plans and dreams have backfired and gone down in flames, after we have suffered pain and loss and live with sorrow daily, perhaps then we can recognize that God has been waiting to welcome us all this time. Image

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The Good News of Lent

What are you giving up for Lent? It’s a question that is becoming less common these days. The most sarcastic answer I heard was from an atheist who said they were giving up religion.

To me, Lent is close to the heart of the mystery of Christianity. We may give up eating meat, drinking alcohol, eating sweets etc, but we also need to take on something. More prayer!

I think we need to give things up to lighten our load, to leave some room inside us for the extra prayer. We have to shake up our routines and remember the reason we pray, go to church, give alms and call ourselves Christians.

Lent is close to the heart, but the heart is the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is like the vein that brings the oxygen depleted blood back to the heart so it can be given new oxygen and new life.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” St. John 1:1-5

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Good News to the Cynical

I notice a lot of cynicism in others and in myself.  I often wonder if this cynicism is a way of dealing with the despair or anguish that may be part of our lives.  Often, I notice myself becoming cynical about politics or “society” in general.  I admit that when I watch American television shows, and the accompanying advertisements it depresses me a bit.  I won’t exempt Canadian television, however, it’s just that there isn’t nearly as much of it!

Many people I know wouldn’t consider for a minute the Good News.  I think that often folks are sensitive to phoniness, to hokey-ness and cynical about the motivations of clergy and other religious people.  A good number of people I know have a deep prejudice against Roman Catholic priests, often coming from the child abuse cases that have been uncovered in recent years in Canada.  We have been so converted by the market culture that we can’t imagine what free giving is.  Everyone must be out to get more for themselves.

How can we as Christians bring the Good News to people who are cynical, somewhat nihilistic and perhaps living with anguish and despair?  I’m not sure to be honest.  I just know that we have to at least acknowledge that life is unfair, painful and difficult.  We have to talk about the reality of our vast wealth here in North America and look at what it has done and is doing to our views of God and one another.  Perhaps our theologians could start by re-examining the idea of brokenness as it relates to sorrow and despair.

As the Church, can we pray together for God to guide us and in all humility bring our broken hearts to Him?

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The Falling Asleep of The Blessed Virgin Mary

God chose to be our mother in all things
And so made the foundation of his work,
Most humble and most pure,
in the Virgin’s womb.

God, the perfect wisdom of all,
arrayed Himself in this humble place.

Christ came in our poor flesh
to share a mother’s care.

Our mothers bear us for pain and for death;
our true mother, Jesus,
bears us for joy and endless life.

Christ carried us within him in love and travail,
until the full time of his passion.

And when all was completed
and he had carried us so for joy,
still all this could not satisfy
the power of his wonderful love.

All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God,
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

-Julian of Norwich

O God, who as on this day didst take to thyself the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of thy Son: Grant that we who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thy eternal kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, ever one God, world without end.

-Scottish Prayer Book 1929

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Commemorating Martyrs and The Eve of The Falling Asleep of The Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Today in the Anglican Church of Canada, we commemorate Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maximilian Kolbe.  These two men can give us some hope that even in the midst of such horrific inhumanity, it is possible to be faithful to the God of Love.  It almost seems impossible to have that sort of faith in such circumstances.  Where can a person find the strength to act as they did in the midst of such insanity and horror?  I don’t think that it comes from any sort of force of will, or particular character traits.  Not that these aren’t relevant to the various situations that we find ourselves in, but I don’t believe that they are the essence of holiness.  The example of these two men, and all of the saints, is their faithfulness and love.  This degree of faithfulness is reached, I now see, by repentance.  We don’t have to try and imitate saints, but we can be inspired and led to repent, to change and have faith in God.  Perhaps He won’t lead us all into glorious martyrdom, but through faith and love we can become a kind of martyr -a witness (the definition of martyr) for the Good News that we are loved by God regardless of our brokenness.  This is a very difficult task!

Tomorrow we celebrate Saint Mary the Virgin, or the Falling Asleep of The Blessed Virgin Mary.  After commemorating witnesses to God’s love for humanity, we move on the celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary, through whom God came to share our humanity.  What a wonderful celebration!   After she dies, God takes her to heaven in her whole person.  This is a wonderful affirmation of our humanity, the mystery and beauty of it.  Thanks be to God!

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The Transfiguration of Jesus

The Transfiguration of The Lord

I wanted to go to church today to celebrate the Transfiguration of The Lord, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find an Anglican Church nearby that was celebrating it.  Not even our cathedral appeared to have a service listed on their website.  I was sorry not to be able to go, but tried to keep the day holy in my own way with my family.

The Transfiguration is such a fantastic and bewildering scene in the Synoptic Gospels.  It opened up for me when I discovered Eastern Orthodox icons depicting the event. The Transfiguration is so unexpected for Peter, James and John.  They were probably very used to and comfortable with praying with Jesus, and then this bizarre thing happens and they suddenly see their beloved Teacher in whole new way.  No wonder they didn’t say anything to anyone.  No wonder that Peter said things that really didn’t quite fit with the situation!  I always find myself saying odd things in stressful times.

Last year, I read a very good and very short book called “The Dwelling of the Light” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams.  It is a book about praying with icons of Christ.     The cover is a picture of an icon of the Transfiguration from the Novogrod School.  The book is wonderful, and the Archbishop explores the theology of icons as well as individual icons.  He explores the icons of The Transfiguration, The Resurrection, The Hospitality of Abraham and Christ Pantocrator.

I was particularly struck by his words about the icon of the Transfiguration.  They were disturbing, in fact.  He writes about encountering the Truth of Jesus when praying with this icon:  “And what is true about Jesus is – if we really encounter it in its fullness – shocking, devastating:  that this human life is sustained from the depths of God without interruption and without obstacle, that it translates into human terms what and who God the Son eternally is.  The shock comes from realizing this means that God’s life is compatible with every bit of human life, including the inner terrors of Gethsemane (fear and doubt) and the outer terrors of Calvary (torment and death)…But the point of this image of the Transfiguration is to reinforce how the truth about Christ interrupts and overthrows our assumptions about God and about humanity.” – Dwelling of the Light, Rowan Williams pg. 12

When I read those words, I did indeed feel some kind of devastation.  I guess it’s easy to hold onto some kind of hope that somehow, God will spare us from pain, doubt and suffering.  At the time I was working at a job that I was disliking a great deal.  It was hard physical work with longs hours and the pay wasn’t good.  I felt disrespected a great deal of the time, and things were tough at home on the farm.  Realizing that God’s life is compatible with all that – and worse- really was a shock.

I think that many of us live with the sort of hope that things will somehow end up being okay somehow, whether by winning the lottery or meeting the right person or whatever.  I think that we are deeply afraid that things aren’t going to be all right.  It’s scary to feel that we live in a hostile world!  Maybe we don’t even really know what we mean when we think of  “all right”.  Maybe alright isn’t good enough!

It seems to me Jesus shows us that reality of God is something different and deeper than “alright”.  God may be mysterious and terrifying; but He is real, present and loving also.  That’s what touches me so deeply about Jesus, he at once affirms our humanity and shows us the incomprehensible nature of God.  Perhaps what is so terrifying about God revealed in Jesus, is that He loves us so much.  Because if the Creator of the Universe loves us that much and came to us as one of us, that means who we are and what we do really matters, and that He is there in our deepest despair as well as joy.  Hallelujah!

 

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