The Perfectionist Son

Then the man said,

“There was once a couple, they had twelve children. The middle child said to them, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m leaving your community.’
With sadness, they said, ‘Alright son.’ And he left. After leaving he burnt down the inner world they had built for him. He wasted everything he had. As a consequence, his inner world became devastated by famine. And he felt alone. At a deep, deep level. And he wished, he prayed, for it all to come back. To get back to the good old days. Any stimulation. So he drowned himself in it.
After long last, he came to his senses. He said, ‘Everyone else is in close(d) communities. Here I am starving to death. I’m going to create my own party. In this party I’m going to bring together individuals from the various close(d) communities. And I’m going to invite my parents. I’ll say to them, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m throwing a party and I’d love for you to come.’ He messaged them right away.
Instantly they respond, “YES! YES!”

Excitedly he went right to work. First he cleaned the house. Polished the silver. Cleaned the toilet. Even wiped down the mirrors. Then he sprang to work in the rest of the house. Dusting places that hadn’t been touched for years. Finally, after hours, he breathed a breath of contentment and relief. Then stopped. The task was complete. Now to the next job.
Quickly he rushed to the grocery store and bought bags and bags of food. Carefully picking through the produce for the optimum quality. This was to be a party of parties. A time for kings. Finally he got back to the kitchen. For the final phase. The party was almost ready. He smiled.
Then the calls started to come in.
“Sorry, something came up,” then “Sorry, next time,” and also “Sorry I’m really tired.”


But he shook it off. It’s ok. The rest of us will not be held back by their reluctance he thought. This will be the best party! And back to work he went.
Then he dropped the bowl of pudding. Quickly he scooped it up. And wiped it down. Then he realised he forgot the cumin. Back to the store he ran. When he finally got his hands deep into a batch of dough, his phone started to ring. With a grunt he quickly wiped his hands and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Where are you?”
With dismay he glanced at the time. Oh no! It’s the time!
“Sorry. I’m behind time. Can you entertain the guests?”
Then he dropped the phone. Right into the dough. “Oh Please!” Slowly coming to terms with reality he dug it out and tossed it aside. “It’ll be fine!” he consoled himself, and went back to mixing. Finally with a breath of satisfaction he put the rolls into the oven.
“Now we wait.” “And we should be eating.” “But we’re waiting!” “They’re gonna be pissed.” “And I’m justing sitting here.”
Then he noticed the flashing “missed messages” light on his phone, with some reluctance he picked it up. ‘Almost ready.’ he responded to all. Then flung the phone across the room;

Twenty minutes later he arrived at the party, furious. When he reached the door he breathed a couple breathes to calm himself. Then opened the door. “Sorry” he whispered to everyone. “Ya’ll ready to eat?” he asked in jest. Everyone laughted politely. And they had a merry time. Until it happened.
Halfway into his burrito he suddenly picked it up, flung it across the room, and stormed out. Jumped into his car and sped off. “They won’t ever want to see me again,” he thought. “I don’t want to be seem like this by anyone,” is what he meant. And “Nobody wants a piece of shit like me around,” is what he meant by what he thought that he meant.
Then his phone started to ring. Ignore.
Again it rang. Ignore
And a third time it rang. Ignore.
The next day it rang again. And the next day. And the next. For months this went on. Then years. Still ever single day the phone would ring. And he would swipe left.
Eventually the calls slowed down. Then stopped. And his heart broke. Because he knew, he knew that he was beyond repair. That he had missed the boat.

Forty years passed.
As he was nearing his seventy-fifth birthday he suddenly realized, “Well I guess it’s now or never.” Slowly he hobbled over to his car. And drove back along that long dusty trail. I’m coming home.
Half an hour later he started recognizing pieces of his childhood. A crooked tree here. Enlarged. A few somewhat familiar building peppered the landscape. Then he arrived. Seeing the house he choked back a sob. Slowly he made his way out of the car. As a pack of children came running out of the house. They danced around him shouting, “It’s Uncle Barth!” In confusion he stared at all those children shouting his name. Finally he choked out, “How do you know who I am? Why are you excited? I’m not a nice person.
“Sure you are.” The tall freckled girl said with a grin, “You’re Uncle Barth! Grandpa told us all about you! About how you make the best parties. And how you care about people. He told us all about you. He thought you were the coolest! And he said that one day you would come back, and then, then you could teach us as well. Teach us please. Please!”
He couldn’t take it anymore and he began to weep. And as he wept he threw his arms around her. As his shoulders shook he felt numerous little arms wrapping around him.
Then he laughted, the first time in decades, “What do you wanna know?”


Rose Coloured Glasses, Grace and the Apocalyptic

A strange man walks into the bar. Orders a drink. After waiting a tremendous amount of time, it arrives. Upon inspection though, the man takes note of some sort of sludge ambling about amidst the alcohol. Quick as a flash, before his stomach has a chance to respond, he reaches into his pocket and flicks out a pair of glasses. Then proceeds to place them on the bridge of his nose. Slowly a smile crosses his face. The sludge is gone.

This is what a lot us have been taught to do. When things are not going well, put on your rose coloured glasses. And consequently our defense mechanisms run amuck.

One of the ways that we hide from our anxieties is by denial. “If I don’t acknowledge that person who is making me feel like a really tiny piece of ant shit, maybe he’ll go away. Maybe he’s not there.”
Another example of when we wear the rose tinted glasses is by diluting now and emphasizing later. Working in this coal mine is really terrible. Coughing up black substances all night may not be great, but one day I’ll have lots of money. Or at least my kids will. Sometimes we forget about the wonder of this moment because “what really matters” is what will happen in the sweet bye and bye. Sometimes we forget to love each other, because we’re too busy trying to impress our Gods.
In my opinion all these can be means of cutting yourself off of the beauty that this life contains. Feel it. (I should warn you, however, that in order to deeply experience the highs you may have to get in touch with the lows as well.)

Now having discussed our need to constantly see the glass as half full and the potential fallout from that, I need to talk about grace.

It’s easy to become quite judgemental when we begin to take note more and more of our intricacies. This, however, is not helpful. We need to learn to not take ourselves too seriously. To laugh. To embrace the beauty of silence. To push back against those things which distract us so easily. Breath.

Because, you see, though the increasing awareness of our, potentially odd and embarressing, characteristics may reduce the level of embarressment. It may also turn on your obssessivness and make things worse.

And also, I fear, we don’t change that much once our basic self identity is constructed.

To close off I’ll leave you with two thoughts.
#1. Apocalypse. That event after which everything has changed. There are moments in our lives where everything changes. A sort of traumatic explosion of excess and we have to start again. Reconfigure. These moments have the capacity to either make or break you. Breath.
#2. Grace. Undeserved acceptance. The second closer that I believe has the capacity to change your life is grace. This sense that you are accepted. (Or giving somebody else the realization that they are accepted.) This realization or gifting of unconditional acceptance. Breath.

Grace and Chaos friends. Take care.

Shifting Tides

In the beginning was the spirit, the stirring. And the spirit was the word, the interaction. And the spirit was the almighty, the source of all things

Slowly I amble my way down the path. I’ve been called on. There is this tradition in our galaxy, and it goes something like this. You are born. Then, when your own offspring is born. Eventually your own offspring splits off and have their own offspring. Well, around this time. Whenever the offspring of your offspring have lived to see twelve complete cycles of the seasons, either parent of the parent of said offspring must send out “the call.” And that offspring must then, drop whatever they are engaged with, and immediately, with haste, prepare themselves and pay the caller a visit. To hear of the mystery. This mystery that is passed down over and over and over again, forever and ever. And tonight. Now it’s my turn. I’ve been called. And I’m dreadfully nervous. A shiver spikes down my back. I don’t know how to relate, to be honest. But I must do it properly. Okay, I’m at the door now.
I reach and ring the bell. Immediately I am swept into the house with shrieks of laughter and delight. My speculations and fears of a hunched over fragile figure are immediately shattered as I am rushed into the kitchen for a cup of the great and amazing beverage of welcome into adulthood. I take and she begins.

“In the beginning was the spirit, the stirring. And the spirit was the word, the interaction. And the spirit was the almighty, the source of all things.”

I’m instantly taken in deep as this world begins to shrivel and I enter into the other. The beginning. And the end. And everything in between.

From nothing, everything burst into bloom. Over an extended period of time everything takes shape. Ignited by a voice. Bellowed from a mysterious source. Eventually consciousness emerges. And the voice says, ‘That’s pretty cool. They’re like me.’ Soon, however, these conscious beings began to misbehave and scream and curse and kill each other. With a sigh, the voice shouted ‘STOP!’ And everyone stopped. They ran into their caves in terror. A day or so later, out they came again. And they were back at it again. The killing and cursing and the massacres. Stumped, the voice began to wonder, ‘What to do. This is not working. These acts of power and rage do something. Fear has a way of bringing quite and solice to me. But is that the best I can do?’

Then the world went black

I open my eyes. I’m in some sort of animal shelter. The smell makes this clear. And the sounds. But wait, that sound doesn’t belong in a barn. I amble over toward the sound. A couple people are huddled around a feeding trough. A tiny offspring is lying inside. There’s something that strikes me as familiar here. But what is it? Is that?

The world again goes black and a text flashes by, “30 years later.”

I open my eyes. I’m on a hillside. Amidst a crowd of people. A figure at the bottom of the hill has everyone’s attention. “Listen to this! Really! This is important. You think top down power is how to make a difference? No Way! I can say from personal experience, that doesn’t work.” He glances up. Notices me, and winks. Then continues. “True power is to love those who treat you like shit. True power is to listen, even when you don’t feel listened to. If you want to find true life, you have to give it up. Yes! If you think power changes the heart, and the world, for good, you have to die! If you want to live.”
Wow, that stings. Everything fades as I try to make sense of this shit. An incoming roar wakes me and I watch in horror and the man is lead away by the police.

Moments later I’m at home, flipping through channels. Blah, blah, blah. Until, “It’s just been confirmed! A man has been found, tortured and killed in a church basement.”
I gasp! It’s him. The camera zooms in. There’s a sign lying on his chest. “The man of ‘true power’. lol”

I’m. Shocked.

Eventually through the tears I fall asleep. As the drool begins to drip out of my half open mouth my dream world flashes to life. “Child.” It’s him. “I guess that didn’t work out well. But now I’m all around. And I’m nowhere. I’m always with you. Wherever you are, for love. In the depth of love. You’ll find me there. In the stranger. In the darkness. Welcome me. Spread the word. Power is not love. Love is found in the ‘giving up’ of power.”

Slowly I open my eyes. And there’s my parent’s parent. Smiling widely. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Confused I shake my head.
What a trip.
“What was in that tea?”
But she just smiles, and slowly disappears
With a shriek I sit up in my bed, stumble over to splash some water on my face.

Life as a Storm at Sea

Life is like a box of chocolates…

No wait, what?
Life is NOT like a box of chocolates!
It’s more like a, like a.
A ship at sea!

A sailboat. One of those big sailing ships of olden days. You’re sailing across the sea with a crew of diverse and eclectic individuals. When out of nowhere a horrific storm barrels up screaming bloody murder.

Yup, that’s it. Life is like a ship at sea, stuck in a torrent of wind and lightning.

So, what do I say about the sea?

Well, we’re at sea. All of us. Sailing. And the storm flings herself upon us. But, of course, we’re untouchable! We are tough and not afraid. We scream our courage at the sea.

Okay, okay, that’s probably not very accurate. I imagine we would all react in, less controlled, and very different ways, as seen in Rembrandt’s painting, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

The painting clues us into a good selection of reactions we may run into, when faced with this storm at sea. Which we call life. Some of us will aim to take over. To run the show, because we know, unless we do it, it won’t get done right. Some of us will hold onto something, anything, just to stay onboard the ship. Terrified to do anything. Or we may stare coolly into the sea. Doing our best to show an air of control. Some of us completely lose it. (Even the sense that we must continue to appear to be in control.) We scream in terror. Others will find their post and refuse to budge from that place. Refusing to lend a hand to those who also are needing a hand. We’re just doing our thing. Some of us will duck down. Hide our face and huddle in some dark corner, afraid even to stick our noses out. Some of us will sleep. And still others will throw ourselves at the feet of our god(s) and beg for mercy. Screaming for deliverance!

Now, the easy (and understandable) reaction to this is to attempt to extract which of these stances are the correct one? But to this I wanna push up against and say, “That’s not a very interesting question.” People are about to die here.

So what is a good question then? Thanks for asking. That’s a good question. But before I answer that, I wanna probe at the bad question first.

So which posture is the right one? None. None of these positions are right. I repeat, none of these stances get an automatic ‘good stance’ stamp. But also, ALL of these positions get a ‘potential’ stamp. What do I mean by that?

I’m suggesting that these are merely, for the most part, revealing the characters of the people in this story. And these are good. Diversity is great.

For instance, there is nothing inherently wrong with working hard. There is nothing inherently wrong with resting. There is nothing inherently wrong with “steering the boat.” And so on and so on.

However, my potential issue with ALL the above positions is that these can all be means of escape from the terror. Escaping from reality if you will. Each of these postures can be used as means of us creating our own salvation. Each one is a problem.

Take, again, the example of the man working so hard to keep the ship is shape. Unless he is able to watch himself closely he may well come to the conclusion that he is the answer. That if he tries really hard he can control his fate. This is a problem. And resting, we all need our rest, but if you refuse to engage with the suffering all around, this good thing becomes a problem. And when you feel that you need to be in control of every circumstance you will surely be dissappointed (or relieved) when you come face to face with some uncontrollable situation. (Not unlike the stormy sea.)

In the Christian Scriptures we see this story, the story the Rembrandt is based on, according to the apostle Mark in Mark 4. Everyone seems to be screaming and Jesus is shaken awake by the disciples. “There’s a storm! Don’t you care that we about to drown?”

Not unlike how we often react. “Ahh! I’m suffering. I never thought I would suffer! What’s wrong?” But, may we realize that suffering is part of life, and stop being surprised when it comes our way.

And Jesus stops the storm, and turns to the disciples. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith.” Almost like he was saying, “Duh! This is a part of life. If you have faith, you can face these storms. This is life!”

So, may you, may we learn to stop running. May we find the courage to face reality, suffering and all and breath it in deep. Maybe we find the faith to be who we are, even while we see the incoming storm. And thereby our potential end. May we learn to enjoy the struggle. May we learn to laugh at danger. And stand together.

Faith and Love

Eyes that See

Mark 8:13-38 ERV
Then Jesus left them and went in the boat to the other side of the lake. The followers had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. They forgot to bring more bread.
Jesus warned them, “Be careful! Guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”
The followers discussed the meaning of this. They said, “He said this because we have no bread.”
Jesus knew that the followers were talking about this. So he asked them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are you not able to understand? Do you have eyes that can’t see? Do you have ears that can’t hear? Remember what I did before, when we did not have enough bread? I divided five loaves of bread for 5000 people. Remember how many baskets you filled with pieces of food that were not eaten?”
The followers answered, “We filled twelve baskets.“
“And when I divided seven loaves of bread for 4000 people, how many baskets did you fill with the leftover pieces?”
They answered, “We filled seven baskets.”
Then he said to them, “You remember these things I did, but you still don’t understand?”
Jesus and his followers came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch the man. So Jesus held the blind man’s hand and led him out of the village. Then he spit on the man’s eyes. He laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see now?”
The man looked up and said, “Yes, I see people. They look like trees walking around.”
Again Jesus laid his hands on the man’s eyes, and the man opened them wide. His eyes were healed, and he was able to see everything clearly. Jesus told him to go home. He said, “Don’t go into the town.”
Jesus and his followers went to the towns in the area of Caesarea Philippi. While they were traveling, Jesus asked the followers, “Who do people say I am?”
They answered, “Some people say you are John the Baptizer. Others say you are Elijah. And others say you are one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus told the followers, “Don’t tell anyone who I am.”
Then Jesus began to teach his followers that the Son of Man must suffer many things. He taught that the Son of Man would not be accepted by the older Jewish leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the law. He said that the Son of Man must be killed and then rise from death after three days. Jesus told them everything that would happen. He did not keep anything secret.
Peter took Jesus away from the other followers to talk to him alone. Peter criticized him for saying these things. But Jesus turned and looked at his followers. Then he criticized Peter. He said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You don’t care about the same things God does. You care only about things that people think are important.”
Then Jesus called the crowd and his followers to him. He said, “Any of you who want to be my follower must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me and for the Good News will save it. It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost. You could never pay enough to buy back your life. People today are so sinful. They have not been faithful to God. As you live among them, don’t be ashamed of me and my teaching. If that happens, I will be ashamed of you when I come with the glory of my Father and the holy angels.”
— — —
I want to focus on two characters from this reading.
-1. Peter, a chosen disciple of Jesus.
-2. The blind man lead by the hand to Jesus.
These are two characters whose perspectives are addressed in this reading, in quite contradictory ways.

First we have the man born blind. He is lead to Jesus by the hand. In humility. The man asks to have eyes that see. After leading him away from the fanfare Jesus “heals” the man. He performs the proper procedure to bring about the sight. But when asked how he’s doing, he has to admit that something didn’t go quite as expected. Yes he can see. But something’s not quite right. Something is… just a bit off.
He sees people, but they look like trees, walking trees.
Now how on earth does the man come up with that? Did he watch the Lord of the Rings movies? Not likely. I’m not too interested in that theory. However, I do see something very interesting in this story. What’s that?

I’m glad you asked!
So first, a question to ponder. “What’s the difference between a person and a tree?”
There are, of course, a myriad of differences. But I would suggest that the biggest difference is the level of consciousness. A tree is a tree. A bunch of wood, some bark, roots and leaves or fruit or pine needles or whatever. But, as far as I am aware, a tree does not have an internal world. A tree doesn’t seem to be aware.
Humans however. People are completely different. We are a huge, seemingly infinite, collection of self awareness. Consciousness. Our awareness is the result of a melting pot of history, memory, relationships, DNA, our bodies and on and on. Everything we do is related to this huge amount of data floating around. We are, if you will, like the Tartus. (For all you Dr Who fans.) We’re bigger on the inside. We will never fully know who we are. What we are capable of. And even more so, we can’t, its impossible to fully know “Why he did that,” “Why she did this,” or “Why they are like that.”

There’s a joke about ancient civilizations. Historians and archeologists are digging up vast amounts of stuff to figure out the mysteries of the ancients. Trying to sorta look through their librarys in hopes that they will reveal their secrets to us. But, what if, what if they were also a mystery to themselves. Just like we are.
Paul kinda alludes to this in Romans 7:15 where he contemplates “Why do I do the very things that I hate? Why don’t I do the things that I want to?” We are a mystery unto ourselves.
So back to the blind then tree seein man. Three cheers to you good sir. Thanks for admitting that the miracle didn’t work. After this admittion Jesus prays for him again. And he sees.
Peter on the other hand. Peter doesn’t get it. And what does he do? He doesn’t say “I wish to see.” He says. “NO no no. You don’t have to die!” He doesn’t listen, but continues to push for the old way. What he is familiar with. With what’s normal.

So the obvious question then is, “How can we experience Jesus’ gift of eyes that see? That’s a great question! I’ll attempt to shed some light on one way through two stories. Two stories floating around a sort of practice of deconstruction. The first is from a cooking show. And the second is from the scriptures in the book of Ezekiel.

The show is called “The Chef’s Table. This particular episode comes from a runoff show that takes place in France. The episode stars french chef, Alain Passard. Alain Passard runs a 3 michelin star restaurant in Paris. In the documentary he notes how incredible it is as you slowly work your way up in the ranks. Eventually achieving your 1 star rating, then 2 stars and finally 3! He even ends up taking over the place his mentor and hero had run when he was in training. But, it is mentioned, even when you get there you have to remain on the tip of your toes. Constant innovation is a must if you intend to hold on to your ranking. And he succeeds stunningly. That is until one day, he recounts, his ambition just dissappeared. Maybe he was just too overworked, maybe constantly working with the blood and bones got to his head. Its hard to tell, but he knew that he had to step away. To catch his breath. To clear his head. So he did just that. While clearing his head he finds his attention is drawn to the variety of vegetables and ways that said vegetables could be prepared and his vision is reflooded with imagination and excitment. His ambition reascends and he heads back to work. But in a new way. With the declaration to remove all meat products from his menu. The very items that brought him his three stars. He gave it all up. Amidst the masses of naysayers he stood firm. And pushed through.
Disclaimer: He did later add some fish and a few other meats back onto his menu. But, I contend, the journey into the darkness was still transformative. It still made a shift, revolutionalized the way the industry saw vegetables, according to one commentator.

We see another example of this phenomenon in the book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 47:3-7 ERV
The man walked east with a tape measure in his hand. He measured 1000 cubits.Then he told me to walk through the water at that place. The water was only ankle deep. He measured another 1000 cubits. Then he told me to walk through the water at that place. There the water came up to my knees. Then he measured another 1000 cubits and told me to walk through the water at that place. There the water was waist deep. He measured another 1000 cubits, but there the water was too deep to cross. It had become a river. The water was deep enough to swim in. It was a river that was too deep to cross. Then the man said to me, “Son of man, did you pay close attention to the things you saw?”
Then the man led me back along the side of the river. As I walked back along the side of the river, I saw many trees on both sides of the water.

Barry Taylor gives us an interesting reading of this story in his book, “Entertainment Theology,” with a particular twist toward this journey to eyes that see. A journey of deconstruction.

“The prophet Ezekiel once had a vision in which he was led into water. As he followed the direction of his guide he found himself going through stages of increasing immersion: water to his ankles, then to his knees, and then to his waist, all the while going deeper and deeper into the currents of the river until he reached a point where he could no longer touch the bottom and had to swim in order not to drown (Ezek. 47:1–6). I think it is easy to play with God in the shallows where we can feel the current of the river but do not really face the current as it seeks to carry us away. It is much more difficult to move out into the force of the water and feel its almost relentless challenge, its invitation to be carried away by its current. Interestingly, in the Bible story I just mentioned, when the prophet left the shore to enter the waters, the ground around him was barren and desert-like, but when he returned after his deepwater experience, the land along the river had become lush and verdant. Sometimes what we hold on to prevents us from experiencing the blossoming of new life. I think there is new life for a faith like Christianity, but in order to discover it (we may have to let go of other things first and venture into the deep) and feel the current of the twenty-first century river.”

So may we. May we continue to keep going back like the blind-then-tree-seeing man. May we continue to admit that we dont see people, we things objects that we can manipulate. May we keep asking over and over and over again. “I wish to see. For eyes that really see.”

Outro: Audio of “Creed” by “Padraig O’Touma”

Jesus as “The Other”

Mark 15:1 As soon as it was morning, the head cohanim held a council meeting with the elders, the Torah-teachers and the whole Sanhedrin. Then they put Yeshua in chains, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate put this question to him: “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “The words are yours.” 3 The head cohanim too made accusations against him,4 and Pilate again inquired of him, “Aren’t you going to answer? Look how many charges they are making against you!” 5 But Yeshua made no further response, to Pilate’s amazement.
6 Now during a festival, Pilate used to set free one prisoner, whomever the crowd requested. 7 There was in prison among the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection a man called Bar-Abba. 8 When the crowd came up and began asking Pilate to do for them what he usually did, 9 he asked them, “Do you want me to set free for you the ‘King of the Jews’?” 10 For it was evident to him that it was out of jealousy that the headcohanim had handed him over. 11 But the head cohanim stirred up the crowd to have him release Bar-Abba for them instead. 12 Pilate again said to them, “Then what should I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Put him to death on the stake!” 14 He asked, “Why? What crime has he committed?” But they only shouted louder, “Put him to death on the stake!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the mob, set Bar-Abba free for them; but he had Yeshua whipped and then handed him over to be executed on the stake.
16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the headquarters building) and called together the whole battalion. 17 They dressed him in purple and wove thorn branches into a crown, which they put on him.18 Then they began to salute him, “Hail to the King of the Jews!” 19 They hit him on the head with a stick, spat on him and kneeled in mock worship of him. 20 When they had finished ridiculing him, they took off the purple robe, put his own clothes back on him and led him away to be nailed to the execution-stake.
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Shim‘on, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country; and they forced him to carry the stake. 22 They brought Yeshua to a place called Gulgolta (which means “place of a skull”), 23 and they gave him wine spiced with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. 24 Then they nailed him to the execution-stake; and they divided his clothes among themselves, throwing dice to determine what each man should get. 25 It was nine in the morning when they nailed him to the stake.26 Over his head, the written notice of the charge against him read,
27 On execution-stakes with him they placed two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 28 [a] 29 People passing by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! So you can destroy the Temple, can you, and rebuild it in three days? 30 Save yourself and come down from the stake!”31 Likewise, the head cohanim and the Torah-teachers made fun of him, saying to each other, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” 32 and, “So he’s the Messiah, is he? The King of Isra’el? Let him come down now from the stake! If we see that, then we’ll believe him!” Even the men nailed up with him insulted him.
33 At noon, darkness covered the whole Land until three o’clock in the afternoon. 34 At three, he uttered a loud cry, “Elohi! Elohi! L’mah sh’vaktani?”(which means, “My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?”)[b] 35 On hearing this, some of the bystanders said, “Look! He’s calling for Eliyahu!”36 One ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink.[c] “Wait!” he said, “Let’s see if Eliyahu will come and take him down.” 37 But Yeshua let out a loud cry and gave up his spirit. 38 And theparokhet in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw the way he gave up his spirit, he said, “This man really was a son of God!”
40 There were women looking on from a distance; among them were Miryam from Magdala, Miryam the mother of the younger Ya‘akov and of Yosi, and Shlomit. 41 These women had followed him and helped him when he was in the Galil. And many other women were there who had come up with him to Yerushalayim.
42 Since it was Preparation Day (that is, the day before a Shabbat), as evening approached, 43 Yosef of Ramatayim, a prominent member of theSanhedrin who himself was also looking forward to the Kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Yeshua’s body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead, so he summoned the officer and asked him if he had been dead awhile. 45 After he had gotten confirmation from the officer that Yeshua was dead, he granted Yosef the corpse. 46 Yosef purchased a linen sheet; and after taking Yeshua down, he wrapped him in the linen sheet, laid him in a tomb which had been cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Miryam of Magdala and Miryam the mother of Yosi saw where he had been laid.

Intro. I’m naming this talk, “Christ as the Other”

In the past I’ve made note of Christ’s “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” Today, however, I am going to explore another element of this chapter. The notion of ‘the other.’ And more specifically, our betrayal of the other.

So, what exactly to I mean when I talk about ‘the other?’ In short, when I speak of ‘the other’ I am talking “the not same.” To borrow a phrase from John Caputo. That person, idea, or thing that doesn’t “fit.” That position that we’ve been talk ought not. Those people that we tend to point the finger to in shock, because they’re not like us. Or at least, not like the us that we want others to see. Lets try to flesh this out.

1. Take the example of Jesus. Why was He crucified? I’m suggesting that He was crucified because He refused to bend the knee to the then currant social constructs. He stood strong. Calling for unconditional love. Calling out the religious leaders in their hypocricy. Declaring that God is love, not obsessed with ritual. And when he found out some political leaders were hunting him down. He taunted them. Calling them powerless.

He embraced the position of “the other.”

And how did His contemperaries react? They reacted with fear. They realized that He was bringing change. And they were not comfortable with it. So what do they do? They decide, “We need to snuff him out.” “One must die for the many.” In the words of one of the high priests.

However, in their attempts at saving themselves, they killed God. In their infatuation with their notions of god, when He came to visit, they killed Him.

Are we doing the same? How quick are we to shut down, to mute the voices that question our perceived norms? Are we ready to listen? Are we ready to really listen, even to the “outsider?” I guess I’m asking, “What if salvation is found in “the other?”

For instance, Jesus’ contemperaries, again, were planning to rise up and destroy their oppressors, the Romans, kill them all. But Jesus came with an alternative idea.

“Love your enemies.”

Calling warnings that,

“Those who live by the sword, will perish by the sword.”

And did they listen? No, not really. And did He then stop? No, He was willing to pay the ultimate price. Death. And still they marched on their “Make Jerusalem Great Again” campaign, and were destroyed. Wrecked by the Romans.

Where are we headed? Are we listening to the outsiders? What pain could be saved if only we were to learn to ask,

“How do we look to you?”

Of those who we perceive as strange and ugly. Who is calling out warnings to us? Who are we shutting down? Where does your faith lie?

2. This takes us to level 2, concerning ‘the other’

So does this mean that any group, or person or thing should then define itself as ‘the other?’ Can I call myself ‘the other?’ No thats called complaining. ‘The Other’ is more like an unconscious placement of those/that which we don’t like, not a chosen position.

For example, I remember, when growing up that one of the focuses seemed to be our persecution. How we, the mennonites, used to be persecuted by the rest of the church. We were strange to “them.” And were tortured for it.

And on the opposite side of the coin. The end times would be here very soon and we would be tortured for our faith. So stand firm!

And honestly, I think that’s, at least partially, great. The choice to remember. To never forget the price that our ancestors were willing to pay to remain true to their convictions. That says something about courage available to us.

And on the stance of remaining aware of the fact that we’re on a dangerous path where pain and struggle may come at us at any time is also, I think, a good position to remain aware of.

However, the danger is also there, for us, to become so infatuated with the idea that ‘they’ are always coming for us. That we always are our guard and we forget to love. We believe we are ‘the other’ and therefore are constantly standing on alert with our swords in hand so that before we even become aware of it we’re running around hurting others. We become the predators, because we are so scared of losing out. I’m afraid we see a lot of this, especially in the north american church today. We’re loosing our religious empires, and we’re terrified.

Will we attack? Like Jesus’ contemperaries? Or will we learn to truly love? In the midst of struggle?

So again, the danger in naming ourselves ‘the other,’ the persecuted outsiders, is that we begin to fight back, not realizing that we are the empire attacking ‘the pesky other.’

We may do this by writing a “Nashville Statement,” while hurricanes cause real damage to people’s lives. Or in our attitudes toward single people or married people. The rich or poor people. People from other religions or those fundamentalist christians. People of other races or gamers or business people or the messy or the perfectly sparkly etc etc etc.

So what? What can we do?
Paul gives us a hint toward a better way in Galations 3

26 For in union with the Messiah, you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness; 27 because as many of you as were immersed into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah, in whom 28 there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one

Peter Rollins explores the radical implications of this verse in his book “Insurrection”
(read mid page 165- early 167)

So. How do we remain awake? How do we continue to live by love when the temptation to point fingers is so strong? How do we allow our connection in Christ to draw us together? I’ll close with a short story. And hopefully we talk about some of these questions after.

See “Betrayal” page 117 in the book ‘Unorthodox Heretic’ (by Peter Rollins)

-Love and peace

This is a journey


I was born on March 21, 1989. I grew up in a family of 8. Mom, Dad, four brothers and one sister. I’m about in the middle. Two older brothers and two younger brothers. My sister was born between my two younger brothers. We grew up 10 miles north of Arborg.

I grew up in church. It was a pretty conservative close knit community, quite set apart from the rest of the world.

Stage 1:

My first memory is sitting in my bed in the middle of the night, crying. Because you see its so dark. And I’m alone and its scary. I feel alone.

At age 12 my guilt get the better of me and I knelt by my bed and said “the prayer,” the sinner’s prayer. It eased my guilt. For a while anyway.

A few years later, I imagine, I found myself once again reading from “The Scriptures.” I just wanted to please God.

Anyway, I found myself reading these words of Jesus,

“You can be forgiven for any sin, except one. If you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven.”

I didn’t really know what that meant, but to my horror I noticed the words slither through my mind.

“I blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I blaspheme…”

-over and over and over-

And the more I tried to stop thinking it, the stronger the thought coursed through my mind. Terrified I rushed for the stairs to find my dad. Halfway to the stairway I again flung myself down onto my knees, “Please God, please God, please God.”

But I knew that it was probably too late. My soul was doomed to follow the devil’s bidding, straight into hell.

“You’re ok. Dont worry.” My parents consoled me, “If the Holy Spirit had left you, you wouldn’t be feeling this desire. He’s still here.”

I still remember the music I was listening to as I slowly drifted off to sleep. It was some kids music called “Psaltys.” Starting with the letter ‘P.’ Like Psalms. I could never enjoy that album again. And the horror of that night haunted me, for years.

I was baptised a few years later at about age 17 and became a member of the church.

Stage 2:

I started questioning.

Should we always be nonresistent? Surely there is a just cause for war, sometimes. Is rock and roll really of the devil? Always?

I quit my church, moved to a new church. A church that didn’t remain silent about the supernatural, the miraculous, the demonic. A church that didn’t demonize the rock n roll. Surely now I would feel at home.

I did, for a bit. But quite often, I still felt alone. Alone as the people danced around me in joy. What’s wrong with me? Why so reserved?

“Is this it?”

A pastor told me, you won’t always be alone. That was nice.

But I still felt alone.

“Maybe the focus on the supernatural is not the answer. Maybe violence is never the answer.”

I prayed.

While reading a book, now unknown to me, the author challenged me to pray.

“God, do whatever it takes. Have your way in me. Wreck me.”

So, I did. And God did. Bit by bit.

“Please God,” I prayed

Then I came to the conclusion. Maybe big church and explosive shows and explosive growth are not the cure. I quit my “Signs and Wonders” church, and joined a smaller conversationist church.

A small group, that will aid in feeling connected, right?

A while later I distinctly remember realizing, “I don’t trust God.”

Stage 3:

Shortly after, I was introduced to the work of Irish philosopher and radical theologian Peter Rollins, and the concept of deconstruction.

Then I decided, I’m gonna move away.

So I did.

In Alberta I remember a friend mentioning to me that sometimes she doubted God’s love. To this I responded with “great wisdom.” I noted that though I had questioned just about everything, but, God’s love to me had always remained a constant. An almost prophetic statement of what was to come.

Shortly after, I moved back into Arborg. But something had shifted. The radical deconstruction had begun.

“Who am I?”

“What is this?”

“Where are we going?”

“Who is God?”

It began by reading a rereading of the crucifixion. Brought it into a fresh light. It exposed me to my sense of alienation. Allowed me to acknowledge it. Jesus’ cry,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This opened me up to a new understanding. Jesus didn’t repeat the phrase, “I believe, I believe.” He didn’t pretend. Or attempt to put on a mask. Rather he openly acknowledged his sense of betrayal.

“Do I trust God enough to acknowledge that I feel like God has betrayed me? Or is my God too small?”

I chose to no longer run. Rather i choose to face the pain. The fear. The loneliness. The ‘what if.’ Slowly nihilism crept up to me.

“What is there’s no afterlife?”

“That means nothing matters.”

“If nothing matters why do anything?”

This was hard.

“Accept that you’re accepted, accepted by that which is bigger then you and the name of which you do not know” -Paul Tillich

Slowly some things came together.

“Even if you live in a meaningful world, but dont love, you will experience it as meaningless. But even if you live in a meaningless world, but love, you will experience it as meaningful.” -Peter Rollins

So maybe, “If we learn to love You think what you want is to get to “that thing”

But what if what you WANT is something else

To connect with other “sinners”
Those outside the status quo

“You were not made to remain in the walls
The walls were supposed to protect you thenin each moment. Even if it were the last moment of our existence it would be meaningful. And if it goes on forever, but you live by love, it will be meaningful.”

This gave me great hope.

I still feel the loneliness from time to time. But slowly I’m learning to enjoy the unknown. The incoming unknown. And as I’m learning to experience both the highs and the lows. I’m experiencing a deep joy.


I’m learning to breath. In the letting go.

I call this faith.

-Love and peace