Tag Archive: bible study


 

Lectionary Reading

Romans 12:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

I know nothing

(to the tune of Frere Jacques, Kinsler Institute)

I know nothing
I know nothing
Not a thing
Not a thing
Nothing about anything
Nothing about anything
This is good
This is good

 

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Begin, Begin

(words Talitha Fraser, melody Samara Pitt)

begin
begin
begin anywhere
set out
step out
that is where to start
one day you do it
different than yesterday
ever so slightly
and it changes the world

 

Let it go

Leunig

Let it go,
Let it out,
Let it all unravel,
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel.

 

4 – 5 August 2017, the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies curated a symposium to explore feminist theological perspectives on dialogue, disagreement and conflict, as well as the intersections of theology with ethnicity, race, and cultural “norms”. Welcoming international keynote speakers M. Shawn Copeland (Boston College, Boston), Ruth Duck and Cynthia Wilson (both Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago). 

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Elizabeth Boase

Came up with the topic of this session/panel through an open process of listening… counter-cultural and subversive. How can our medium be our message?

Katherine Massam

“If you persist in your efforts to influence the official church, to become part of its decision-making, you will only break your heart and lose hope. What you must do is go around to the back and CREATE A GARDEN. Some day they will look out and see its beauty and marvel at its life.” – Anne Thurston

See the reality. Patriarchy is real. We can become socialised and complicit. Benefit ourselves from the patriarchal system. It is a personal (individual) and systemic (collective) task to change this. Need to create a new ecosystem that’s collaborative. The top-down systems are easier, faster, feel more efficient… than being collaborative, must choose not to want to replicate or reinforce existing structures.

God comes to us disguised as our lives. #mystics #incarnation.

We must reflect on our experience.  While this can be seen as “pooling our ignorance” or becoming “stuck”. Transformative education should see everyone in the room learning. Teachers and student.

Ref: Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire

Ref: “Aint I a Woman?” speech by Sojourner Truth

4 touchstones:

  • experience, shared
  • reflection, deepended
  • faith, expressed
  • insights, reinforced

Stand and stretch: Open posture = strength and confidence, closed posture = stress.

Tania Wittwer

As a member of committees or commissions work to have more female members.  Not merely top-down leadership but appeal and create opportunities for mediation and consensus decision-making. Create sub/small working groups as an opportunity to develop trust. Coach and support up and sideways. Whiteboard ALL the ideas, then ask: What’s worth fighting over? Headship/submission >> connection to domestic violence.

Deidre Palmer

As a young adult participated in life-giving community and unjust structures.

Ref: In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins – Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Ref: The Church and the Power of the Spirit – Jurgen Moltmann

Church as a liberation community. Non-hierarchal. Acknowledge. Affirm. Name power balances. Job titles reflect the role your play, NOT status.

Changes forged out of pain.Movement of the Holy Spirit, moves toward equality. Apart from and despite the church. Need to partner, be active learners and work with God to mend Creation. Justice is integral to the gospel.  The political is personal. We must raise up those whose voices have been silenced or diminished.

In the Uniting Church, the power is shaped by Councils – not individual but collective.  Rotating and reviewed leadership.  There has been a resistance to structures… making decisions as ‘synods’ and ‘assemblies’ instead of small groups, power-concentrated and speaking for others. There is a commitment to keep our foundations broad and have full participation. Individual voices and gifts are affirmed within the collective.

Look around and ask: where are the places and spaces where things are working well now? What makes them different? How do you resist? What does formation look like there?

In-table discussions: We extend the metaphor – first woman makes a garden (outside patriarchal systems), second woman dwells in the house trying to renovate it while it’s inhabited (working within patriarchal systems) third woman describes open-plan design with indoor/outdoor flow (something that combines both elements)… sometimes easier to know what your role is, to resist/advocate/speak-up when working within the patriarchal system.

 

Poem: I put my piece of truth – Talitha Fraser

 

People of Colour @ Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies – Seforosa Carroll

Yesterday there was a separate gathering for Aboriginal and those identifying as People of Colour.  Acknowledge the paradox of this: the need to have a gathering separate from this one (not participating) and being allowed to gather separately (so valued that this is resourced however is needed).

Last year was the inaugural gathering of this group and there were perhaps 3 POK here. This year that is more like 20. Want to acknowledge what has gone into that increase. While there is interest in our theologies and our feminist theologies – this is not the platform where we can discern what that is for us – we want other space.  We want to encourage and mentor POK women to do papers.  We think our creativity and cultural epistemology have something to contribute. We want to do our own work to grow, to develop our confidence and voice… down the track we hope to then be able to share that in this space. To come together and find comfort en masse.

We each have a uniqueness in God – that uniqueness celebrates and glorifies God. We don’t meet separately to ‘keep ourselves apart’ but to move from what is common to what we can say about our difference – in this way we can learn from each other and keep our identity – Adele Ventris

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Africana Womanist Theology: A Hermeneutic of Suspicion and Hope – Rev. Cynthia Wilson

The marginalised bring their hermeneutic to their marginalised space.

Born in New Orleans: black, woman, pastors kid, one of six children (only girl). Had to figure it out for myself.  This was in some ways insulated because my brothers and father were protective but I feared for the men’s lives daily in the bayou and cypress trees where black bodies swung.  I sang because I wanted to cry out for life for my brothers.  The dark cloud hanging overhead was overcome through song… Holy Ghost will not descend without a song.  African proverb: When you sing, you pray twice.

  1. Womanist Theology confronts the demons of race, womanhood, and political capital that ravage the lives and spaces of Black women. At the same time, it vigorously affirms their God-likeness.
  2. Womanist Theology acknowledges, affirms and critiques the attributes of their faith community, the church and beyond.
  3. Womanist Theology seeks to call into question forces that suppress Black women’s voices while investigating certain epistemological presuppositions.
  4. Womanist Theology interrogates the theology of Black males, replacing it with more inclusive, liberating reconstruction of knowledge and authority.
  5. Womanist Theology utilizes an anthropological and dialogical method utilizing the following sources: personal narratives, domestic violence, psychological trauma, womanist ethnography, and syncretistic religiosity, real life stories of poor/Africana women, and other women of colour throughout the world.
  6. Womanist Theology turns up the volume of voices that are illiterate, economically deprived, that hold the environment in high regard, and that are typically ignored by this 21st century capitalist world.
  7. Womanist Theology re-kindles AND validates Africana women ancestors through Ritual “Re”-membrance.

UBUNTU “I am because you are.”

SAWABONO “I see you.”

Personal pronouns don’t function he/she, me/you but are grounded in the universal “we”.

Eschatological hope, although sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened, “my heart says yes and my feet say Go!“…someday we will be the free people we were created to be.

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Veiled Resistance: The Cognitive Dissonance of Vision in Genesis 38 – Carolyn Alsen

Helpful if you read Psalm 38 for context

Wearing a veil is seen as touching on two issues gender domination/headship and ethnicity. Wearing a veil is carrying these dual layers and wearers are doubly ‘colonised’. Who is the ‘ideal reader’ that Genesis 38 is written for? …white, Israelite, male?

Tamar, through choosing her clothes, can identify as “foreign woman” or “Israelite woman” and as widowed or prostitute.  There are social and cultural norms about how she is seen and not seen according to what she is wearing. Reading through the passage: who sees and doesn’t see her? In this story Tamar employs the conforming veil as an act of resistance.

Woman using perceptions of the veil as a weapons is still happening now > suicide bombers in Nigeria.

To wear a veil meant you were upper-class and married. If you wore them when you weren’t these things > punishable offence.

The Bible mistranslates “temple officiates” as “temple prostitutes”

zonar (gendered) social position of women (or subordinated men) when they sell sex.

hatas’if, veil (non-gendered) take off, wrap up, cover, put on.

Is it to be punished for the wrong use? Or is it normative use?
Licit – accepted socially but not morally vs. deviant.

        Remove widows garments :: have meeting in veil :: put on widows garments again.
could get in trouble
(tribe)

what is seen and not seen?
‘gaze’ and ‘identity’

– what is going on between how others see Tamar and how she sees herself?

Law-keeping ?          Law-breaking?
Israelite?                    Canaanite?
Solidarity/priest       Othering “zonah” fetishcised

Unresolvable.  Ambiguity of identity contrasted with public visibility.

Hera and Judah have different opinions of Tamar – who’s right or who’s wrong? Is Tamar both?

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“Because of the Angels”: The Unveiling of Women and the Body Politic – Sally Douglas

Helpful if you read 1 Cor 11:1-10 for context

Paul gives three reasons why women should have their heads covered:

  • inferiority
  • cultural norms
  • “because of the angels”

“The angels” refers here to those evil angels fallen from the Heavenly Court who rape and wreak havoc. (Gal 1:8) Enochian angels fell from heaven for women “going to them”. The consequences of this rape ruined men, women and the earth… > gave birth to giants >responsible for evil in the world. Killed in the Flood but spirits stay on the earth. Rise up against women and children because they come from them >>climate change.

Veiling is a source of conflict.

Try saying it’s down to individual choice but that seems insufficient. Still perceived that it stops a woman’s flourishing and personhood. The “malevolent constructed male gaze” exists to the detriment of women AND men. As objects of male desire we can reduce the risk from male gaze by altering our dress/wearing veil.

Irony – genital mutilation – advocate in the east but it’s happening in the west.

Commodity either way.  A woman might well feel liberated by wearing a veil or genital mutilation, not arguing that, but dehumanising malevolent constructed male gaze needs to be named and called out. What might safe-guard women now?

If the gaze of Christ is given precedence. Not the white skin, blue eyed, blond, pretty Jesus but the One, Cosmic, Sophia… that nourishes. 2 Cor 3: Veiling and unveiling of Moses. Collective language, shared experience and ongoing.

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3)

2 Cor 4: Mystical gaze of Jesus, we are gazed upon, encounter Divine, are changed.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ…. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The same lens through which we see God, each other and ourselves can give us freedom. In this gaze we can be liberated from the power of all other gazes. There is an invitation and provocation in that.
We are given a choice – not controlled or influenced by nor in resistance to. We are all beloved subjects of the Divine.

Exorcism is for victims.  Not much about evil spirits in the Old Testament but then in the New Testament – boom!

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Hillary, Shame and Psalm 71 – Michelle Eastwood

Hillary Rodham Clinton 1975 m. Bill Clinton, 1980 had daughter Chelsea, 1993 First Lady.
BA and Yale Law.  Awarded “Most Admired Woman” 20 times altogether and 14 years in a row.

Moses vs. Aaron and Miriam – cloud makes, only, Miriam leprous. Only woman is affected. Author trying to minimise her leadership.

Abortion reduces both maternal and infant mortality. Hillary grilled for her position. Evangelical Christian Right’s perception is that bible gender roles are under attack (by feminists for their own power and glory), values compromised, slippery slope to decline of the world as we know it.

Bill’s infidelity held against Hillary… didn’t handle it well, misogyny, sexism…

Helpful if you read Psalm 71 for context

Psalm 71 is a song of lament and a cry for justice.  Women are shamed a lot in the Bible.  In this passage shame is shifted to dealers. v7 I have been a portent (faithfulness) v18 grey hairs (Hillary still stands, a testament to those who have tried to shame her). The shame is not destroyed but displaced. Evangelical Christian Right their own undoing > Trump. In the gospels Jesus is shamed – a sense we become more godly through experiencing shame.

4 – 5 August 2017, the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies curated a symposium to explore feminist theological perspectives on dialogue, disagreement and conflict, as well as the intersections of theology with ethnicity, race, and cultural “norms”. Welcoming international keynote speakers M. Shawn Copeland (Boston College, Boston), Ruth Duck and Cynthia Wilson (both Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago). 

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Questions, Connections and Stories – Ruth Duck

Womb of life, and source of being, home of every restless heart,
in your arms the world’s awakened; you have loved us from the start.
We, you children, gather ’round you, at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories, tears and laughter, we are nurtured by your care.

(Chalice Hymnal, 1995 Ruth Duck)

Many women clergy are part time – is that our of necessity or by choice?

Invited to share our gifts with the church but not invited into leadership and planning.

Sugar-coated feminism unites people by choosing to ignore our differences. Are woman respecting one another in their diversity? How can we share a position on issues without marginalising one another?

Been re-writing hymns since 1974, need to be wary of use of language e.g. using light (good) and dark (bad) > this language reinforces racial stereotypes.  Need to be using accessible and expansive language.  Not just male or female but neither like living water, bread, vine….

Galatians:  27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Lead on, O cloud of Presence, the exodus is come,
in wilderness and desert our tribe shall make its home.
Our slavery left behind us, new hopes within us grow.
We seek the land of promise where milk and honey flow.

(The Faith We Sing Hymnal, Ruth Duck ref: Exod. 13:21-22)

 

“Being ordained and finding a job are two different things”
– Bryan Cones

“A woman in leadership is not necessarily a feminist in leadership”
– Stephen Burns

 

At the table of Christa – Nicola Slee

The women do not serve
but are served

The children are not silent
but chatter

The menfolk do not dominate
but co-operate

The animals are not shussed away
but are welcomed

At the table of Christa

There is no seat of honour
for all are honoured

There is no etiquette
except for the performance of grace

There is no dress code
except the garments of honesty

There is no fine cuisine
other than the bread of justice…. (cont.)

WELCOME TO HER TABLE

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“Why don’t you call him your husband?” Negotiating the Heteronorm – Bryan Cones

In a parallel reading of the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant (same-sex civil union) and the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage  in the Episcopal tradition we see differences in the rubrics (instructional notes), spoken words, and bible readings selected.

  • erasing gender from language also erases hierarchy
  • same-sex couple recognised as arriving as a couple/unit rather than starting the liturgy as individuals who are brought together but the rite e.g. compare: do you take this man/woman to be your husband/wife vs. I [name] take you [name]
  • taking or giving language? e.g. compare “do you take…” language vs. “I [name] give myself to you [name]”
  • Hetero weddings use Genesis or Mark reading; Covenant Blessing uses Ruth or Samuel.

What are some of the implications of the differences?

Wedding symbolising Christ with Church.  Return to Creation – brought together by God, made by God, seen as “good” by God. None of that in the Covenant Blessing but instead Trinity readings – work in the world and perfect communion.

Is this version equivalency or equality? Relationship not treated the same by theology or text.  Changes to the gendered language has impacted the liturgical theology.  Different, competing (?!) theological accounts.

Biblically “covenant” not helpful language as it has usually followed some punishment/ judgement (Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…).

A relationship is already present and active – church ritual recognises and affirms what’s already there.

Missed an opportunity to have one liturgy.  A liturgy should be written recognising all types of households and relationships and families that are currently being erased.

Like the Catholic approach of couple marrying themselves to each other but others witness… helpful to have resources to offer but not to impose them I think.

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‘You don’t understand me’: Serena Williams, Christology, and non-identity – Janice McRandal

Between tennis, race, her gender… we don’t see Serena in the fullness of her humanity. We hold her up to an ideal of personhood and she becomes a series of failures of conform.

Born 6 September 1981 in Compton, Serena has 23 Grand Slam titles and is one of the greatest sportsman of all time. She is seen as both hypersexual and hypermuscular.

People of colour are seen to have “natural ability” whereas white people are considered as being intelligent and working hard.

Serena disrupts narrative. A commentator calls her a “crusader” and she responds:

“Nah, I’m just doing me.”

Another interview ends…

“You don’t understand me.”

Theology is trying to understand (perhaps proscribe?) the personhood of Christ… but we need to let Jesus move not be locked in. Jesus can, and does, say: “You do not understand me.” e.g. WWJD bracelets lock in ‘rules’ about what that looks like with non-normative standards… this creates exclusion.  This is a commodification of Jesus. Which Jesus do you buy/sell? Once you make something a commodity you will want to measure it’s productivity and see a return on investment.

Disciple-driven sublimation          vs.          Christology of non-identity

Not a timeless call but relationality… Knowing here and now.  This gives us multiplicity instead of a single discourse. We need to de-economise theology from capitalism.

Unknowing is a dispossessing that remembers and forgets.

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Poem: Listen (I lost my voice again today) – Talitha Fraser

“Why the Body Matters: Feminism and Christian Faith” – Shawn Copeland

Theology is worrying about what God worries about – God worries about the world that is broken.

The terms body, feminist, and Christian have many diverse meanings and understandings.  Also, imperatives, involved in a period and a context. Symbols that point to what is visible and invisible. Gender, race, sexuality become concrete in the body. The body is us but there is more to you and more to me. SImilar but different. SPirit and body are not separate but one. We need embodiment and engagement and communion with other embodied selves.

There are physical and social layers of meaning to gender, sex and sexuality.  Meaning and worth are allocated externally to our bodies through sex, gender, sexuality. The transcendence of men is an ideology.  God makes the earth… Creature. ALL created matter very good. This is contextual theology.

Jesus had gender, sex, race… existed within the social morays of his time and transcends these. Feminism is not monolithic but pluralist. Where bodies matter… eucharist matters.

We need to live in a humble praxis of solidarity
with the bodies piled up.

Race

Statements such as “racism did not exist in the US before Obama” silences and makes invisible.

Having no race then can also therefore mean no identity > race matters SO much.  When race is considered an objective condition intelligence is seen as fixed and hereditary.  When one is equal to one’s race your identity becomes “fixed”. This tramples on personhood and experience. Racial formation (or deform-ation) is organised around a society of oppression.  Knowing race becomes crucial to “knowing” relationships – how to relate to and treat people. Are you black or brown? Chinese or Vietnamese? Once I can categorise your identity I will know how to treat and talk to you.

Sex and Gender

There is a disconnect between our body and our identity. Became medical.  Sex is biological and our gender is subject to socio-normative treatment/behaviour.  There are differences amongst women… what about class, race, sexual orientation…?  You can be dually discriminated.  Plurality of discourse can be disruptive.

Ref: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Eucharist

Love forms one body with our body. Joined with the eternal transcendent. Solidarity is the incarnation of Christian love. Standing with the other in their otherness.

Owe the wealth and privilege we have to exploitation, massacre, death, slavery… we need to acknowledge the humanness of the other. Even if we suffer rejection or loss.

Solidarity must always affirm life.

Christianity

Stand beside/join with others. Because you are the body of Christ. It is your mystery that lies behind the altar. Our gendered, raced, sexed bodies are one in eucharist. Our ceremonies – we must give as as well as receive.

Be what you receive.

Incarnation means loving others.

political theology > systemic theology. What does it look like to do communion in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri (#blacklivesmatter). Not just “All that we have” but “ALL that we have” How can I express myself without my hands, my voice, my body…?! My body is not an illusion. Our body has to be part of our spirituality. It’s what sops us being all-spirit.  Ordinary and extraordinary that.  We are given and embodied example (enfleshed) of what that looks like lived out. [Christ].

Ref: Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her

Q+A

Latin ‘procure’ meant ‘care for’ NOT ‘acquire’

Multiculturalism – honour diversity and richness without “smushedness”. Individuality and interculturality – no domination/subjugation to make alike.

How? Engage, encounter, serious conversation, humility… not acquire or appropriate.  Can’t pick up the cultural mores but you can learn. The Word is being made flesh now.  It’s about being filled with divine breath and living that out.

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This week The Carmelite Centre has hosted a Symposium called: The Once and Future Reformation: The Way of the Spirit.  The Symposium, 500 years on from Luther event, offers an opportunity to talk about the current need for renewal and reformation today, in the churches and in the world. The Symposium was diverse, ecumenical, and imaginative. Three days of lectures, reflections and discussion on ways of learning from the past, of living in the present and of looking to the future.

I was invited to present a paper, it was titled: Streets, Seminary and Sacred: Expressions of Theological Animation and Activism in Victoria –  Thirty years on from the publication of Ched Myers’ Mark-as-manifesto text ‘Binding The Strongman’ this session will introduce some local current and legacy-influenced expressions of alternative radical discipleship and explore what this model has already and could yet offer for personal discipleship and broader church renewal through photos, stories, liturgy and lectionary.


 

 

I’d like to start by acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians since immemorial – sharing and hearing stories of the Creator Spirit in this place.  We acknowledge our elders past, present and future.

Thank you for inviting me to share today out of the radical discipleship expression.  Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer said: “discipleship is the only form in which faith in Jesus can exist.” Schweizers Australian student, Athol Gill’s, praxis-linked theological teaching, including Mark as a Manifesto for discipleship, animated church renewal movements across Australia in the 1970-80s – many here may have heard of the House of Freedom and the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

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A young Ched Myers carries this teaching back to the US and it influences his own community at Berkeley and presumably the study that produces the book “Binding the Strong Man” in 1988.  Although I have now read it myself I was fortunate enough to first be exposed to this idea of Mark as Manifesto by Marcus Curnow who managed, with Dave Fagg and drawing on the tradition of Quaker queries and advices to synthesise Myers 560-paged book into a single A4 page (there’s a copy here if anyone wants to have a look)

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I moved to Melbourne from Wellington, NZ in 2006 and started to attend an evening church service called Seeds based on this charism.  We met in a space called The Den on Little Collins St – which was and is still where the Youth & Schools team of Urban Seed operate from.

slide 4Urban Seed is an organisation that works with those who are homeless in Melbourne’s CBD –an outcome of discernment and response to Collins Street Baptist Church finding homeless people sleeping on their steps and seeking to ask, and answer, the question: “Who is my neighbour?”.

They invited young interns to move into the bslide 5uilding behind the church called Central House to engage these neighbours relationally. Jim Barr, Peter Chapman of Common Rule, Gordon Wild and Tim Costello ran various bible studies and seminar series reflecting on the work.

 

This radical model of hospitality and engagement is still practised now with Geoff and Sherry Maddock with their son Isaac who are currently living in.

 

 

Finding Seeds and Urban Seed slide 6was my first exposure to this lived expression of radical discipleship and the practice of the ideas of Street, Seminary and Sacred – that’s Ched’s language for the spheres of Christian expression: activism, education and church.

 

In Seeds we referred to these slide 7areas as Know, Grow and Go, they correlated to Urban Seeds areas of work: Street & Hospitality, Youth & Schools, Advocacy & Engagement

Jesus’ call to preach, heal and cast out…

and if I may presume perhaps the three threads of the Carmelites: stillness and silence, express and explore, embrace and act.

slide 8The bringing together of these ideas, or the power of what can happen in the space where these areas overlap is where I think radical discipleship happens.

 

 

 

The etymology of the word radical is from the Latin word radix meaning root. Ched refers to radical discipleship as an invitation to join the

“messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “way out of no way”

In his book “Does God need the Church?” Gerhard Lohfink suggests:

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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit LA twice – living with Ched and his lovely wife Elaine Enns for a three month internship in 2012 and returning again for the Kinsler Institute in 2015 for two weeks and I found myself fascinated.

Ched believes there is a deepening gulf between these areas of Street, Seminary and Sacred as a result of a few factors:

  • Credentialing systems for theology students are set by the accrediting institution not the church
  • Professionalization means students need paid work to pay off student loans etc. and don’t always have the time or get given encouragement to engage in practical service to the poor or social movements
  • Regular church goers can be insulated from the insights of academics and the challenges and causes of activists
  • Faith-based activists can neglect disciplines of critical reflection – theological and political – of why they’re trying to change the world.

Ched believes these spheres are impoverished for being insulated from one another and says theological animation is key “to re-integrating the competencies of these alienated worlds of Christian witness”, believing that our focus instead should be in community formation, conscientization and capacity building in order to rehabilitate the church as a faith based movement of personal and social transformation. To provide some examples of what a re-integrated model might look like, I’m going to do an overlay now of a bible study series Ched did each morning of the Institute with some praxis examples from here in Melbourne and across Victoria.

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“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan”

With this action Jesus was apprenticing himself to the peripheral, radical edge of his own tradition. The Jewish temple used water immersion for ritual purification after contact with the dead but this idea of baptism went beyond that.  Jesus could have walked three steps behind a rabbi, gone to a good school but instead he choose the camel hair and honey guy.

slide 12While integration might have been Collins Street Baptist Church’s original vision (I don’t know) by the time I arrived at Urban Seed both the evening Seeds church and Tuesday morning Credo Gathering spaces were operating as distinct faith-expression spaces for staff, volunteers and community members or “punters” to gather.

This work needed its own faith expression, it’s own language, it’s own liturgy… many songs, stories and prayers have come out of these spaces… the Seeds Sacred song, the Gospel of Vic (a version of Mark contextualised for the Australian context based on a work by Athol Gill and his students called “Fair Dinkum Mark”), the Credo Lord’s Prayer… which I invite you to say with me now: “as we were taught”.

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Illustration by Chris Booth https://ordinarytime.com.au

As residents moved out of Central House, some asked of themselves again:

“Who is my neighbour?”

People consciously decided to move into areas identified as among the lowest socio-economic/ disadvantaged: Norlane in Geelong, Long Gully in Bendigo and Footscray in the inner-west of the city.

Each of these areas had their own Seeds church community – usually having 10-12  members – and these separate communities came together a few times a year to covenant and retreat forming the Seeds network.

For many years, Urban Seed only started projects and had paid staff beyond the CBD in areas where Seeds Network groups were established.

 

Each of these groups elected to exist in marginalised areas. While each group discerned the expression of Know, Grow, Go in their area, responsive to the particular needs and context of their community and locality, all of them shared in common projects of neighbourhood hospitality whether community dinners, craft or breakfast clubs, wood fired pizzas…  all spaces like Urban Seed’s Credo cafe where people from all walks of life: lawyers and homeless, financial traders and addicts, Richmond and Collingwood supporters… preparing and sharing a meal around a common table… people of all faiths and none but for many of those “discipling” this eating and drinking together is their expression and practice of communion and church.

 

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slide 20Jesus isn’t just baptised in the Jordan but into the watershed.  We understand the Holy Spirit not to exist only in people but in creation and the land… the Holy Spirit descends like a dove into Jesus.  The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus uses the water as a pulpit forming a natural amphitheatre, he uses farming parables, living vine and living water metaphors and calls us to ‘consider’ (learn from) the lilies. What does the land and creation have to teach us?

What are the stories specific to the places we live and what are the justice issues affecting our neighbours that the good news can offer hope for? Last month in Footscray we ran a Stations of the Cross walk for Easter – we call it the way of the Southern Cross because Aunty Doreen Wandin re-named Spencer St station this, as an intersection for bus, train, tram lines it’s where many paths connect that lead us home much as people navigated by constellations. Uncle Wanta Jampijinpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body.  At the Kinsler Institute, Bill Wylie Kellerman, United Methodist pastor and member of the Detroit Catholic Worker, ran a session saying that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said:

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What does it mean for us as Christians or people of any faith – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a position of this belief? Myers says:

“We need to reclaim scripture as
our most powerful weapon of resistance.
Stories are the best weapon we have”.

We wanted to localise this idea  here in Australia, the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for working towards right relationship between people and with the land…

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slide 23This year’s walk visited seven sites from our shared history looking at issues we all grapple with:

What does it mean for us to stand outside the home of Sally Russell Cooper and talk about recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty – a thirst that has not been quenched we are given natives to take bear home with us and plant symbolic of the hyssop branch and our commitment to work for recognition and relationship in this land.

We stand outside Centrelink – “Woman, here is your son” who are we called to care for? As a parent to a child however could you count some cost of the the debt of raising up that is our privilege.

slide 24Standing under the Welcome Arch built by the grateful Vietnamese business community, we think of next-coming waves of refugees and asylum seekers setting out praying: Into your hands I commit my spirit…

There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.

As we hear the words of Christ on the cross, we ask what insight might his words spoken in pain tell us?

 

Continuing this idea of bible in one hand and newspaper in the other, Jon and Kim Cornfords work developing the Household Covenant bible study series, arising out of Ched’s book on Sabbath Economics and Matt Colwell’s followup Sabbath Economics: Household Practices, inspires minute incremental changes in the ways we consume that are based on biblical practices of stewardship and Sabbath and jubilee economics… from the way we see credit and debt, to growing, eating and preserving, seasonally and sustainably.

 

Introducing yourself as Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee is not dissimilar from saying “he’s a Yorta Yorta man from up Cummeragunja way”,  I’m living in Footscray by the Maribyrnong what does it mean for our discipleship to be placed within our locality and in relationship with the land?

 

 

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Urban Seed Credo Pain in the Arts program

“As it is written…” the land we live on is filled with stories – do you know them?

On the healing rites walk we told the story of deadly Aboriginal woman Sally Russell Cooper, of the transphobic attack on Starlady and her friends in Footscray, the tragic stories of Kirsty and Joan aliases used by a community lawyer talking about user-experiences at Centrelink for struggling families, the story of the Maria an asylum seeker from East Timor…

these stories aren’t ‘just’ political, they’re personal.  To be an active participant in restorative justice we need to know the problems of, and people directly experiencing, injustice.

What we know about Jesus birthplace is that it was a small village, about 4 miles (6.5kms) from Sepharus.   There was an uprising against the colonising occupation there and the Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone… Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened.   Jesus and his Dad were tektons (labourers/carpenters/ construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus… labouring under the bitterness of colonial occupation, this would shape your consciousness, this would have a huge impact… this is why context is so important. This is why story is so important. Jesus knows and quotes and draws on the history and experience of his people as relevant to speak into their current context and we need to do the same. The stories of Jordan, Israel and Egypt… for us might be the stories of a handful of dirt at Wave Hill, or the Franklin Dam that was never built…

slide 30People may well have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement of Christians engaging prayerfully and politically for the release, in particular of refugee and asylum seeking children, from detention.

What might be less known is that while some are participating in the action inside, others are participating outside: Keeping prayerful vigil, bearing witness, supplying snacks and singing.  There is a Love Makes a Way songbook – as this group was looking for inspiration they turned to the Freedom Songs of the civil rights movement.  Ched calls us to “sing about it until it can realised” and these songs call us into a place a freedom and hope that we will all “sit at the welcome table one of these days”  together.

This is a story we identified with and apprenticed ourselves to and “As I go down to the river to pray…” becomes “As I go down to Bill’s [Shortens] office to pray, welcome the refugee, let them stay” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” becomes “Were you there when they turned the boats away?”

Drawing on the style we progressed to writing our own  songs, and also asking ourselves whose are the local prophetic voices calling for change and Leunigs writing came to mind “Love is born… in the most unlikely place” (round), these are words we want to believe in these times.  Will you stand and sing them with me?

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Who are the writers in our context who are crying out for justice?  Whose stories do we make time to listen to? What stories and traditions will you apprentice yourself to?

-ooOoo-

Jesus was an apprentice, a disciple of kingdom, land and story… scripture study informed his political and theological practice. Our scripture study should inform our political and theological practice.

The Kinsler Institute in 2015 was called “40/60/100”: A celebration of radical discipleship – closely echoing the numbers of the surprising yield of seed in good soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:8). But for this particular Institute, they alluded to two milestones that we were celebrating: Ched Myers’ 60th birthday, and his 40 years in the radical discipleship movement, those two numbers add up to 100—which is how many folks they were hoping would show up to join the festivities…. there were more than that: activists, academics and preachers – yes – but artists, liturgists, poets, practitioners, organic farmers, the undocumented, money lenders, elders and babies, from across America and across a breadth of faith expressions… I can’t idealise these models of community  – The House of the Gentle Bunyip didn’t last, Ched’s community at Berkeley didn’t last, the Seeds Network has not lasted what can’t be denied is that some expressions of the radical discipleship model continue to spring up – and, I think, are producing a surprising yield of seed.

Jokingly referring to the Institute as a clusterfest in his closing remarks on the last day Ched noted that when the people are gathered it should always feel part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… I hope I’ve been able to give you some small sense of this today. I want to close by saying to all of you the benediction we used in my Seeds community:

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Rubem Alves tells a story of a spider, safe and happy over empty space – building her house – no hesitation and with precision. Fragile yet perfect, symmetrical, beautiful, fit to its purpose.     “…I did not see her first move, the move which was the beginning of the web, the leap into the void…” (p.3)

What the spider needs to fulfil her intention is within her body. “Her body knows, her body remembers. But we have forgotten it.” (p.4)

Rubem Alves tells a story of a boy who found the body of a dead man
washed up on the edge of a seaside village.

There is only one thing to do with the dead: they must be buried.

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial,
so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral.
As they did, the women began to talk and
ponder about the dead stranger.

He was tall… and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses.
His voice… was it like a whisper or like thunder.
His hands… they were big. Did they play with children
or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman’s body.

The women laughed
“and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection:
a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead,
returning… their bodies alive again”. (p.24)

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening,
became jealous of the drowned man
as they realised he had power which they did not have.

And they thought about the dreams they had never had…

Alves ends this part of the story by telling that they finally buried the dead man.
But the village was never the same again.

“The dead man did not say one single word.
He was full of silence.
And his silence was the space of remembrance.
His dead body was full of their lost memories…” (p.31)

“Hoc est corpus meum. This is the bit of my flesh which became alive again by the power of the silence of this dead man…

What are we without the help of that which does not exist? – Valerie”  (p.35)

Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

(NRSV)

Reading 1: (Read through twice) What word or passage touches/speaks to you?

Reading 2: How does this word/passage touch your life/experience?

Reading 3: How are we called into being/doing by this word/passage?

 

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I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll.
He said to me, ‘Take it, and eat it.’
Rev 10.9

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 8: Travelling light

We value the difference that can be made when we sacrifice personal gain, pouring out our rich resources in an act of worship.  Through simplicity, good stewardship and a common commitment to sharing our lives with others, we seek to lessen the power imbalance in Footscray.

Biblical basis: Luke 9:23-24


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

Basically the whole thing! Timing of this value feels significant when we are losing what has been our community home base and are working out what we can bring with us and what we can’t.

Giving out itself is worship

Don’t have a lot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small, pouring out of what we have is the act of worship.

“Power imbalance” good to name, not only our power but our desire to share it.


 

Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 NRSV


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

 

“deny themselves” is another way of saying “living simply”

“will not taste death” we experience the privilege of glimpsing the kingdom (heaven) right here, before dying –  we see it at our community dinners, John reading grace, all the different people who come together around that meal, seeing the kids grow up in this environment that includes so much diversity.

No division between people – lovely watching Balal and Alex together…

We all of us have a desire for appreciation. But what comes from your heart, the value of that is more e.g. Kim could buy a cake but instead takes the time to make one and personalise it thoughtfully.  She uses her own money to buy wool – makes things that take time and money to create… we choose to value/appreciate that more.

If you’re not giving something from you heart then you’re not giving for the right reasons.

I think it’s worth contextualising this passage and reading it again – the birth of John is foretold, the birth of Jesus is foretold, John is born, Jesus is born… Jesus speaks out in the temple at 12 years old, he gets baptised by John, he gets tested in the desert, then his ministry kicks off  – healing lepers, paralytics and possessed – he calls his disciples. He teaches and preaches, we’re given parable and beatitudes. The 12 are given their mission and Jesus feeds 5000 when it seems like there is not resource enough to do it… who do you say that I am?  The disciples want to lift him up, want to exalt him, put him on a pedestal and give him titles and Jesus says nah… that’s not what I’m about.

 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

We’re not in this for the titles, appreciation or recognition; or using power for our own gain, to gain a position of authority, or to act out of our own power instead of trusting God’s. Jesus says I’m not going to value those things the world values and invites us to make that choice too.

Taking this idea of “travelling light” – we are very directly in a place of needing to let go of some material things that have meant a lot to us: this house, its garden, the soccer pitch… a band called Invisible Boy out of Tasmania have a song “I’m going to hang your picture high” it’s about who and what you value  and hanging them high like photos of our family that are special or posters and pictures of what we like. If you look around the walls of this house you can see everywhere what and who we value in the pictures – who our family are and what we like. Let’s capture some of those ideas of what we want to “hang high”, of what we value that sometimes others don’t and capture it on bunting we make together – something light we can take with us!

 

 

Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 7: Doing the hard yards

We value servanthood in the big and the small – choosing to do the “crappy” stuff.  We want to be people of personal and spiritual maturity (enduring personal cost) in order that the vision is accomplished.

Biblical basis: James 5:7-11


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

“We value” – this is about making personal choices to value things differently than most of the rest of the world… not a flashy project, it doesn’t attract attention.

Trusting there is purpose in the crappy stuff.

 Need to acknowledge the way our current situation impacts my approach to this value, how would my/our interpretation differ if we weren’t crisis.

Is it ‘given’ that in order for the vision to be accomplished, it needs to cost me?




James 5: 7-10

My friends, be patient as you wait for the Lord to return. Be as patient as the farmers. Farmers sow their crops and then have to wait patiently, hoping for good seasonal rains, because the harvest that pays their bills ripens in its own good time. There is nothing they can do to hurry it up. You can’t hurry the Lord up either, so be patient. Stay focused though, and condition yourselves, because the arrival of the Lord is not far off.

My friends, don’t go whinging and putting each other down. If you do, you’ll find yourselves having to answer for it. The judge could reopen the case against you at any moment.

Take as your role models the prophets who brought us God’s message in the past. They really suffered for their stand, but they hung in there, never giving up, and their patience paid off.  11 That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

“This work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me”

Thomas Merton

 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

John Lennon


Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

Being patient sounds passive – I’m bad at that!

It’s not passive it’s active! “stay focused”… “condition yourselves”… farmers till, plant, fertilise, prepare the soil… still required to exercise what is within your ability to influence, power, control. There are things we can do but then there are things we can’t… we have to rely on God for those.

Begin work or make choices with an outcome in mind but often things don’t go as we plan, despite this things work out.

You have to do what you can and trust the other stuff to happen. 

Often in Christian circles the personal cost component can become competitive and be worn as a badge-of-honour.

Perspective makes a difference – choosing, for example, to work part time could be perceived as a ‘cost’ but for us, from our perspective it feels like an opportunity.

You can love different people if you put you mind to it. A lot of people don’t go out of their way… instead they love to put people down.

Standing up for someone when you notice the truth. When they can’t stand up for themselves.

 

Taking this idea of where our influence ends and God’s begins let’s write down on these “seeds” what we know and what we don’t know, doing what we can, planting them and leaving the growing to God remembering “we need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and imperfections”

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…all we can do is plant our seeds and trust that the outcomes that come, while not what we might imagine,  work toward the vision of God being accomplished.

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 6: Being honest about who we are

We value the humility and forgiveness required to live transparent lives in community.  We want to submit to each other in accountability and honesty, allowing Christ to use our weaknesses and failings.

Biblical basis: 2 Cor 12:9-10, 2 Cor 3:18



Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

All of those words – humility, forgiveness, transparency, submission, accountability, honesty elicit an emotional reaction – they’re strong words, they’re challenging words.

Not only are we often not rewarded  for being honest ,  we can be penalised for speaking up.  

It often requires vulnerability in the first place ‘weaknesses and failings’  are on display so then you’re open to a “hit”.

Once you start hating people it keeps going. Sometimes you have to forgive people and walk away.


 

 

2 Cor 12: 9-10

…there is no reason to think I’d end up with egg on my face if I did talk big about my own experiences. It would be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but don’t get me started! I’d rather let my actions do the talking for me. Let me be judged simply by the value of what I teach and what I do. Any spectacular revelations I may have experienced in the past should not inflate your opinion of me.

……..And believe me, God has seen to it that they haven’t given me an over inflated opinion of myself. To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift — a real thorn in the flesh, a condition that torments me and causes great anguish in my body. Satan used it to try to derail me, but it is probably what has kept me on track. Of course I couldn’t see that at first. Three times I put everything else aside and gave all my time and energy to seeking the Lord for healing and deliverance. But the Lord said to me, “My generous love is enough for you. Your weakness clears the deck and opens you to my strength.”

……..So then, if it means that Christ’s strength will be all the more active in me, I will gladly wear my weaknesses like a badge of honour. Indeed, given the opportunity to talk about them, you can’t shut me up! So nowadays, whatever comes my way — failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy —I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore. You see, it is when I am at my weakest that I find the greatest strength.

 

2 Cor 3.10-4.3

The people back then were as thick-headed as the people of our own day — they could hear the words of God’s law read out, but it never seemed to penetrate their hearts and minds. It’s as though the scarf has stayed in place ever since to prevent anyone from catching sight of the glory revealed by the words. Only Christ can uncover what is hidden. It’s the same for anyone who reads the scriptures without opening themselves to the Lord for insight: it is as though the wool has been pulled over their eyes and nothing gets through but the bare words. It all changes when we turn to the Lord, though, because the Lord is a real eye-opener. The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God. This experience is truly transfiguring! We are set ablaze by the Spirit — lit up like the Lord — so that more and more we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

……..We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve, for God has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work. We have sworn off any methods that we’d be ashamed to have brought to light. We don’t hide behind masks; we don’t do anything shifty or manipulative; and we don’t twist God’s word to promote our own agendas. Instead, we simply lay all our cards on the table and let our integrity speak for itself. By stating it plainly and living it openly in the sight of God, we give everyone the opportunity to make up their own minds about the truth.

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?  What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Being honest about who we are?

“We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve. for Go has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work…” in our current situation this feels like an important reminder – encouraging, challenging and comforting.

“To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift – a real thorn in the flesh…”  radical idea to reach for, being grateful for the thing that gives you pain and seeing it as a gift. Thanks… thanks SO much for this pain.

“…failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy – I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore” Paul was a bit smug wasn’t he?

Sometimes to try to please people we can try to be something we aren’t but we have to be true to ourselves.

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The reference in the passage to the scarf/wool being over our eyes and nothing being able to get through felt like a good excuse to pull out the veil I made – “…wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God… we are set ablaze… lit up… we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

These layers of the veil represent some of what I need to peel back (expectations, tradition, learned/taught behaviour, fear…) to be living as I was made to be.

What stops us from being able to be transparent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity: The People’s Mike

Drawing on the idea of being one body – what holds you back is what holds me back. The People’s Mike is an exercise in naming and holding together.  As people call out words (anyone can have a go), the rest of the people in the crowd repeat the word in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and confessing our own culpability because what harms you harms me – what is holding us back from being honest about who we are? What are we afraid of? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus.

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Similarly, what leads one of us to wholeness might lead us all,  what makes it easier to be transparent? What helps us to feel ok about being honest about who we are? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and calling ourselves into the community we seek to create.

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Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

 

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