Crossing the Law

I haven’t broken the law lately.

And apart from occasional speeding on the highway and a couple of shoplifted candy bars in my teens, I’ve been a pretty law abiding citizen. As a child I was that kid. You know, the one who cozied up to the teachers, put her hand up to answer the questions in class, and not only obeyed all the rules, but made sure that you all obeyed them as well. I loved the law, and I loved being on the right side of it.

However, I find Jesus the law breaker, a compelling figure.

The laws of the ruling religious elite of his day created inequity of power and the exclusion and marginalization of the vulnerable.

Jesus broke the law when he touched the leper.

When he fraternized with sinners and tax collectors.

When he permitted women of ill repute to anoint and to kiss him.

When he healed on the Sabbath.

When he confronted the big business of organized religion and literally turned the tables on it in the temple.

These infractions of the law were so grievous to the ruling class that they engineered his arrest, trial, and execution.

What does it look like for us to follow in His steps? To adopt His preferential treatment of those on the margins? To address the systems of the elite that rob the vulnerable of their voice and their power? To stand in the face of consumerism, productivity, classism and insularism? How can we live in resistance to the empire? How can we embrace Jesus’ path of nonviolent suffering love?

I love the irony at the end of the story.

Jesus is executed for breaking the law.

And, breathtakingly, in one final act of lawlessness, He breaks the law of the universe and rises from the grave in resurrection power.

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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“Where can she go?” More Notes from David Janzen, and Thoughts About the Wounds that Have Drawn me Into Community

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

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Here is the key question.

Where can she go?

She is marked as a sinful woman. An outcast from society. Even if she were to step away from her lifestyle, there is no way she would be enfolded back into the community around her.

The next section of scripture intimates an answer.

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases:Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Here we see a glimpse into Jesus’ community.

It’s likely she went with Jesus.  On the move, bearing witness of the kingdom of God.

He gathered people who because of their wounds were longing for community.

We had our monthly Community House meeting yesterday. I shared this story and then we talked with one a other about the wounds that have drawn us into community. It felt a bit risky, but I really wanted to draw us into deeper and more vulnerable sharing with each other.

Of course I’m not going to tell you their responses, but I can tell you a bit of mine.

What are my wounds? The ones that have drawn me into community life (living in an intentional community house)?

One of them is what I consider an almost pathological need to be competent. I need to be the strong one, the one who holds it all together. The one who can figure things out and find the way forward.

I had a revealing and difficult conversation with a friend the other day whose observation of my life was that I’ve created a neat little world around me where I can be in control.

Ouch.

I don’t know that I agree with their perspective fully, but I can see seeds of truth in it.

Maybe I got stuck at an early phase of development. I can hear the inner toddler in me cry “I can do it all by myself!”

And I can’t, of course. Life is too hard, too complex. With demands beyond my capacities.

So I need to be in community.

In one sense, it’s a very practical need. With six of us sharing responsibilities in the house, I only have to cook once a week and do 1/6 of home maintenance. That frees me up big time, for other responsibilities.

It also goes deeper. I need truth tellers, people who look beyond the public persona and see me, real and unvarnished. Who gently show me my blind spots. Who love me in my weakness. Where I can be safe and reveal my vulnerabilities.

To be the weak one.

I’m still absolutely terrible at it, but I know this is a good place for me to learn and grow.

My wounds brought me here, and I trust the presence of Jesus amongst us will heal us all, bit by bit.

Community: Notes from David Janzen Workshop Part 1 (Sorry, it’s long)

Here are my notes from the first bit of David’s workshop last Saturday. Any mistakes and lack of clarity are due to my bad note taking!
Some of it is in point form, but I hope you can get the idea…

Our first tendency is to try and look at the wounds of community, and look at the blessings, and examine the cost benefit ratio. This is a consumerist attitude.  Best buy for least cost.  We want to get away from wounded people.  The result is no community.

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Jacob wrestling an angel.  How is wound and blessing linked?
What had Jacob been up to?   Exile from his family.  Family betrayal.  He is coming back to meet his brother.  Coming home.  Re-entering community. He is successful in his personal endeavours, but is entering into the crisis of his life.

Wounds are nasty but they open us up

Wound is a lot more immediate that his blessing.  Long suffering.  Walk into the blessing by faith

Wound comes about because he is striving with God. God loves to wrestle with human beings.

Jacobs wound marks his change in identity

Jacob and Esau meet.  Esau comes with blessing and forgiveness.  To see your face is like seeing the face of God.  Work through the wounds.  Step into something more powerful that means something to the descendants.

David went on to share a story in his book about Olivia, a child who experiences a mishap/wound in the context of community.

In the story Olivia has processes her pain. There is comfort, care, good information, support from community.  Enough love in the moment to cover it. She told her story long enough and was listened to, so the love void is filled.
Then he contrasted it with the experience of so many others. Being berated, punished, in the place of their wounds, instead of finding healing, the wound becomes a place of trauma.

The wound has within it a longing for God.  How do we empower people with disabilities to be fully themselves.  Some wounds are transformed into blessings.

What wounds lead us to community?
– Loneliness.  We already love you, stop trying so hard
– Growing up in a family that didn’t honour feelings
– Growing up in a mixed race community where there are no people like us
– Rejection of difference.  Longing where self is loved and confirmed
– Seeing injustices of world.  Wanted to be a part of putting things right
– Longing for words of affirmation

In Community
– We are loved and that gives us courage
– The disparity between public and private persona is eliminated (or reduced)

What wounds happen in community?
– These wounds will drive us apart unless we become disciple of Jesus
– Love absorbs the pain around and within us
– We’ve tasted a little bit of healing we know there’s more
– Wounds cause us to act in ways that drive people away

Anger
– The logic of anger.  Wounded animal who turns on the anger to make sure others stay away so they can be safe.
– We will have angry people among us.  We will be angry
– By His wounds we are healed.

What about the introverts?  
– A smaller circle of relationships. 5-6, not 20-30.  
– Introverts are most drawn to communities.  
– We need those long term deep relationships

The secret of L’Arche.  
– Community gathers around the core of people with disabilities.
– Catholic workers around people who are homeless/addicted.  
– They embody the wounded ness and weakness of Christ.

There is a kind of wisdom that grows up in a community that keeps us wrestling with God and one another

Down Here

I’m reading Brian Walsh’s book Beyond Homelessness; Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement

And I came across this fragment of a poem by Bud Osborn

sunshine
on downtown east side sidewalks
glows fresh crimson
like rose petals fallen
From ransacked gardens of the broken hearted

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I visit the downtown east side of Vancouver every year, and spend time there with my urban monastic buddies from the 614 community (love you! Miss you!)

DTES is blocks by six blocks approximately, housing 10,000 addicts.

The poem rings true.

But it could also be speaking of Barton

Ferguson

Hess

Sherman

Pray for your street tonight. That God will draw near to the broken hearted…

Come, Lord Jesus

In the ancient Christian practice of centering prayer, one chooses a word or phrase and uses it to bring focus to the mind and heart. The monastics called these “breathing prayers” and are meant to span a breath. We sit quietly, breathe our prayer, and attune ourselves to the presence of Jesus within and around us.

I’ve used different breathing prayers in my practice. “Abba, I am Yours alone” is a favorite. “I am my beloved’s and He is mine” is another.

In this advent season, “Come, Lord Jesus” seems fitting.

I find it a very useful prayer to deal with mental distractions.

Worried about the day?

Come, Lord Jesus

Concerned about a friend?

Come, Lord Jesus

Today in the quietness my heart is reaching beyond the walls of our little community house.

To the working girls, shivering on street corners on Barton,

Come, Lord Jesus

To seniors trapped in powerless and heat less high rises in the GTA,

Come, Lord Jesus

To folks stuck in airports in the Maritimes, facing the prospect of Christmas without loved ones,

Come, Lord Jesus

For friends of mine who lost children this year and for whom grief threatens to swallow holiday joy,

Come, Lord Jesus

To those caught in the crossfire in South Sudan,

Come, Lord Jesus

To an earth full of groaning, awaiting His coming,

Amen, Come Lord Jesus!

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Groanings too Deep for Words

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Yesterday.

A funeral. Of a friends child.

Lost to us in circumstances unbearably tragic.

Words cannot express.

Later in the day.

A moment of solitude in the car.

The grief, the weight, the groaning, crowds in on me.

How to pray? There is no way to fix this, to soften death’s harsh blow.

So I sit

In the silence.

And in the groaning too deep for words.

Holding the unspeakable before God.

Crumpled there, crushed under its weight

Resting there, pressed by the weight of His His presence.

Grateful for the Holy Spirit

Who intercedes for us in our weakness.

With groanings too deep for words.

Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.

Celebrating Abraham Madrandele

Last Saturday we had a celebration at the Vine for our beloved Abraham. He was experiencing two major milestones in his life. Turning sixty, and finally acquiring his Canadian citizenship. The party was a Canadian theme, as you may guess from the pictures.

The other goal for our gathering was to raise funds for Abraham’s ongoing support as a urban missionary to Hamilton, and also his upcoming visit to South Africa to visit his son, Isaac, who he has not seen for 13 very long years.

The highlight of the evening was the open mic time, where person after person came up to the front and shared testimonies about how Abraham had welcomed and encouraged them, come alongside them, trained them in leadership, brought life and vitality to their various ministries. The scriptures say that we have many teachers, but not many fathers, and it was a beautiful thing to see Abrahams fathering grace on display as his children rose up and called him blessed.

Here is a video you can watch that shares more about Abraham’s life and ministry.

Pastor from Congo

If you didn’t get a chance to join us on Saturday and would like to support Abraham, you can donate online here.

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