Saturday, April 30, 2022

Nympha & Women in Church Leadership


Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 

                                      Colossians 4: 14-15

I have written about the apostle Paul's greeting to a number of women in the book of the New Testament we call Romans. In chapter 16 he gives a shout-out to several women, including Junia. Because it seems that Junia is identified as an apostle her gender was changed to male in various translations through the centuries, although in the New Revised Standard Version she's allowed to be female again. 

I've known about Junia for decades but I'll confess here that I had totally missed a similar kerfuffle about another woman named Nympha who is greeted in Colossians. When Nympha was masculinized she was described by scholars as a person of importance in her congregation, with a role in hosting worship. Yet, once again, Paul seems to be regarding a woman as worthy and commendable for a leadership position in the early church. What we find in this one verse is really all we know about her existence. 

I won't claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of scripture by any stretch, but I tend to know more than the average bear. I am a little surprised that I had never heard of Nympha until a few days ago -- how did I miss her through the years? 

There are still males who lose their...composure at the thought of women in these roles, but too bad. If women were respected as leaders by Paul, why are so many intent on relegating women to "complementary" roles in today's church? 

I do love this response by Susan Harris Howell to one of the misogynists for Jesus which I happened upon this morning: 

I think this weekend I'll malfunction a little then destroy a civilization. Oh Puh-lease.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Remembering Israel's Holocaust Remembrance


                                           Motorists Pausing for Holocaust Remembrance in Israel

In a matter of a few years several decades ago I visited Israel three times and figured I'd return. Sadly, the ongoing conflicts within the country and resulting danger meant that I wasn't willing to take groups there. I went only once in April, which like Canada is Springtime. The wildflowers were astonishing, not at all what I expected in a supposedly arid land. We also happened to be there for Holocaust Remembrance Day and at the designated time for silence our touring coach pulled to the side of the road along with all the other vehicles on the highway. Here is a description of yesterday's event in The Times of Israel: 

Israel came to a standstill at 10 a.m. on Thursday as sirens wailed throughout the country in memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. 

The annual Holocaust Remembrance Day is one of the most solemn days on Israel’s national calendar, with much of the country all but shutting down for those two minutes to honor those who suffered under the Nazi killing machine. 

The siren halts Israeli outdoor life — pedestrians stand in place, buses stop on busy streets and cars pull over on major highways, with drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed. The siren also heralds the start of the main daytime ceremonies for the somber day that began the night before with an official opening event at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

Ceremonies are also held in schools, public institutions, and army bases. At 11 a.m. the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony begins at the Knesset, an official annual event during which lawmakers read out the names of Holocaust victims.

During each of our tours we visited Yad Vashem which was so moving, so solemn. I am aware that through the centuries Jews have been shunned, harassed, persecuted, and murdered as "the other", sometimes by Christians who've made false claims that they are the murderers of Jesus, along with many conspiracy theories. We heard this week that anti-Jewish vandalism and agression, including physical attacks, have been on the rise in Canada during the past few years. Hatried is rarely rational and the internet is a breeding ground for falsehood. 

I wish I'd taken a few moments to stop and remember yesterday but I didn't become aware until later in the day. I suppose this blog entry is a way of paying my respects and renewing my commitment to a just and safe society. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 27, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Budget for "the least of these"?


Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

                          Matthew 25:37-40

When is a provincial budget not really a budget? When an election is only a few weeks away, of course. There is a long tradition in this country of parties in power at both the provincial and federal levels getting out the firehose and spraying cash and promises on prospective voters. Often the largesse is scheduled for the months and years after reelection. Does this work? The Liberals in Ontario discovered that a bunch of  initiatives wasn't enough to keep them in power in the last election and while we should be cynical about what the bright, shiny promises of the Conservatives this time around they appear headed toward forming government once again. Argh!

One segment of society watching today's budget-which-isn't-really-a-budget is those living with disabilities and dependent on a range of social supports to live. The majority of people in this category are living on a pittance which really doesn't pay for basic necessities, let alone provide any quality of life. Many are forced to rely on food programs to supplement their Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) stipends. Some are supported by family in various ways to make ends meet. 

There is a fellow I see at the gym most mornings I go who is in his 70's. Not long ago he told me that he was heading to see a provincial politician asking that the government increase these payments because he has a son who is struggling to get by at what he currently receives. The son was gainfully employed for years in a well-paying trade but health issues put him on the slippery slope to poverty. Eventually a portion of a leg was amputated and now he awaits funding for a decent wheelchair.

When I asked how the conversation went to shook his head and admitted tht he wasn't surprised by the respectful but vague response to his concerns. A couple of weeks later I saw an article in a local news source about someone who looked 50-ish and is struggling on ODSP. I realized that this is the son, who noted that he is grateful to his parents for help with basics.

There is no dignity or fairness in this. Why did this guy have to go through the humiliation of making his case in public? I wonder why I'm getting a rebate on my license plate sticker, a regular cost I grumble about but can well afford, when people are choosing between buying food and paying the rent. Where is the justice in any of this for our most vulnerable? 

I think of the meal ministries offered through churches in Belleville and Trenton which are tangible efforts of compassion, knowing that they shouldn't have to exist in our society. 

We can all pay attention to what unfolds today, and we can consider the platforms of all the parties as we approach the Ontario election in June. The ballot box can be a form of active prayer. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Prayers for Reconciliation and Change

 It was a momentous few days in late March and early April for an Indigenous delegation from across what we call Canada to the Vatican in Rome. During that time Pope Francis listened as the 32 representatives spoke about the terrible impact of the Residential School System which was run by different Christian denominations but particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Francis apologized to individuals and the delegation as a whole. He also promised to make a visit to Canada this year to offer apologies. 

After all the media attention of that week there has been less coverage but we are still hearing about the repercussions. Those who travelled to Rome have been criticized by some for making the trip. Others are angered by the wording of the apology, feeling that it lays blame on individual abusers but lets the church as an institution off the hook. Sadly, a number of individuals have been the target of anger for suggesting that the apology was heartfelt and that they accepted it. No one should be surprised by the range of response, but many of the delegates are elderly and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. 

We now know that Pope Francis plans to be in Canada in July and will likely make stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit during what is scheduled to be about a four-day trip to the country. There is concern that Canadian bishops haven't been negotiating adequately with Indigenous leaders about the trip or agenda, which is discouraging, to say the least.

All this serves as reminder to pray for those who made the trip to the Vatican so that they feel safe and that the outcome of their courageous choice to meet with Francis will lead to honest, respectful reconciliation and change. And that paying attention to the news about this trip is a form of prayer in itself. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Ben Franklin, Electricity, & the Wrath of God

“Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a way for the thunderbolt,
26 to bring rain on a land where no one lives,
    on the desert, which is empty of human life,
27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
    and to make the ground put forth grass?

                               Job 38: 25-27 NRSV

2 O tell of God's might, O sing of God's grace,

whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,

whose chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,

and broad is God's path on the wings of the storm.

                                               Voice United 235

 There are times when I wonder "did I write about....?" Of course there are subjects to which I have returned a multitude of times over the past nearly 16 years of this blog. The seasons of the church year, areas of ongoing interest from a faith perspective, stories that remain open wounds, are all reasons to write about them again.

Then there are the ones I just can't recall getting to because...because. Three weeks ago I watched a two-part, four-hour exploration of the life of Benjamin Franklin on PBS -- Ken Burns strikes again. Ruth got about ten minutes in, said some encouraging words, then departed for a good book. I didn't think I'd hang in with it, but I did in the end. I realized that without Franklin there may not have been a United States of America because of his persuasive diplomacy to enlist the considerable support of France. While he received virtually no formal education he was celebrated in Europe as a man of letters, he was the definition of a polymath, a scientist and inventor who was revered for his rather risky experiments with electricity. 

Three things stood out among many insights from the programs. One was that the strongest opposition to his work in understanding lightning as electricity came from the religious community. Lightning was regarded as the wrath and justice of God, so explaining it secularized a powerful threat of punishment. In the face of criticism Franklin observed:“Surely the thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the rain, hail, or sunshine of Heaven, against the inconvenience of which we guard by roofs and shades without scruple.” The irony was that thousands of churches, usually the tallest buildings in communities, were saved by his invention of the lightning rod. 

A second was that while Franklin owned enslaved persons, as did so many of his peers, he came to realize that this was morally wrong. When the colonies were coming together as uniting  states the most significant compromise was on slavery to ensure the participation of the South. Franklin, the pragmatist, was not happy with this, and worked to amend the Constitution in the years after, to no avail. 

The third thing was that Franklin was "spiritual but not religious" in a strikingly modern way. While he seemed to be wary of Christian denominationalism he was convinced that there was a Creator to whom humans would answer, regardless of religion or creed, and that we are all called to do our utmost for the benefit of humanity. 

I am glad I watched and I will be grateful to my last breath for his invention of bifocal eyeglasses.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Shakers and Simple Gifts

                                                                  Vintage Shaker Furniture

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be, 

and when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed;

to turn, turn will be our delight

'til by turning, turning, we come round right.

                      Simple Gifts Voices United 353 

 The New York Times ran a piece a few days ago about a couple who've a "Shaker themed" eatery in NYC. I found this a bit curious because the Shakers (a derogatory term, initially, because of ecstatic expression) were always a small and unique group of Christians whose heyday (hay day?) was in the late 18th and 19th centuries in America. There were never more than a few thousand of these "shaking Quakers" who placed a significant emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ, as well as celibacy. It's a challenge to thrive as a religious group when you're not producing the next generation of believers! 

I'm tempted to look at this enterprise a bit cynically, as "Shaker Light", emulating the traditional Shakers in style with less 'ligion. The article does offer a lovely reminder of the Shaker ethos when it came to the goods they crafted for themselves and to sustain their communities: 

Craftsmanship as Worship 

Based on the tenets of communal living, celibacy and a life lived in the service of God, Shakerism flourished under the guidance of its charismatic founding leader, Mother Ann Lee, an illiterate visionary who preached of receiving messages from God that these principles were the only way to salvation. 

The religion’s tenets also include the belief that each object congregants put their hands to is a vessel of worship. Recognized for innovations including the circular saw, flat broom and seeds sold in packets, the Shakers, whose members call themselves sisters and brothers, developed a particular skill for woodworking and cabinetmaking. 

They first used pieces to furnish their growing communities, then as a way to support them by selling items to consumers, marketing their brand of “Shaker Made” as synonymous with well-made and durable.

In a throw-away world in which we're drowning in our own trash and filling the oceans with plastic we might heed this remarkable, tangible witness. Even though the Shakers are all but gone as a Christian community there are lots of their pieces which have endured, as well as the use of the simple but elegant designs. And there is the hymn in the United Church Voices United which has Shaker origins. Jesus said a lot more about simplicity than many of the topics Christians get wrapped up in these days. He modelled it as well, even though we tend to ignore his words and example.  

I have to admit that the Commerce Inn has a cool look to it!

                                                                           Commerce Inn, NYC

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Honest Thomas & Easter


                                                       The Incredulity of St. Thomas -- Caravaggio

But Thomas (who was called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  

                                John 20: 24-25 NRSV

Last week I chatted with a guy I met a few years back who at the time was curious about God. He wasn't a churchgoer but he'd had a profound spiritual experience after a bleak medical diagnosis and his simple faith, which included prayer, had been a source of comfort long after an unexpected recovery. 

When we got together recently it wasn't for the purpose of a spiritual check-in but during conversation he admitted to me that he'd been struggling with his relationship with God. It was related to what was happening in Ukraine and the suffering of innocent people, including children. I suggested to him that it is reasonable for any of us to wonder about a God of love and justice when we witness suffering or experience it ourselves. We had a broader discussion about doubt, which it turned out he found reassuring. 

This is "Doubt Sunday" in a way, with the passage from John's gospel in which Thomas expressed his reservations about what might have seemed to be a grief-striken claim by Mary about Jesus coming back to life. Most years when this story came around I spoke about our doubts and uncertainties, usually with a fair amount of response from those gathered. Even when we have a strong resurrection hope life's circumstances, whether on the world stage or our personal lives, can shake us to the core. 

There are plenty of wise people who've suggested that the opposite of faith isn't doubt -- doubt can be the most reasonable response to unfairness and tragedy -- it is the kind of certainty which doesn't allow for the honest questions which swirl through our hearts and minds when life doesn't make sense, as is so often the case. 

This morning I saw a video of Ukrainian Christians outside their church after the air raid sirens had ended. The priest went along a row of people who had brought their wicker Easter baskets to be blessed. It was touching to see these folk doing their best to affirm their hope in spite of circumstances which would shake anyone's faith to the foundations. 

It's important to realize that the gospel writer included the story of Thomas in the same chapter as the discovery of the empty tomb. Instead of Doubting Thomas we should call him Honest Thomas, which all of us can aspire to, God being our helper. 

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

                                    John 20: 26-29 NRSV

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Orthodox Easter in the Midst of Conflict


Leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Metropolitan Epifaniy blessing Easter baskets

 in the St. Michael's Monastery in Kyiv. 

This is Easter weekend for millions of Orthodox Christians around the world, including several hundred thousand Canadians. There are several streams of the Orthodox faith and the Russian and Ukrainian expressions are interwoven, with significant religious sites in Ukraine. With the current unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia the relationships have been strained to the breaking point, particularly because Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has supported this humanitarian disaster, a war which contravenes the gospel of Jesus Christ in every way imaginable.

 In Russia there are Orthodox priests who have bravely spoken out against the war despite Kirill's support. Russian Orthodox congregations around the world have disassociated themselves from the "mother church" because of what has transpired.

We can pray not only for the courageous and beleaguered people of Ukraine but for the Christians who are attempting to celebrate the Resurrection in the midst of a nightmarish, ongoing Good Friday. It sounds as though there will be no ceasefire tomorrow.  We can pray as well for Orthodox congregations in the diaspora which are attempting to provide humanitarian support for the people of Ukraine and those which will be welcoming refugees. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Is this a Happy Earth Day?


Do not fear, O soil;

   be glad and rejoice,
   for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
   for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
   the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 

Joel 2:21-27 NRSV

This morning I fumbled around to find my bicycle lock and dug out a water bottle, items I needed to cycle to the gym. I arrived to realize that I'd forgotten my backpack with workout clothes. Duh. As I turned around to retrieve the pack it occurred to me that this was a beautiful Earth Day morning, so why would head into an enclosed space with no windows? Instead I made my way to the waterfront trail which follows the Bay of Quinte here in Belleville. My ride was a modest one --14-15 kilometres -- because a certain part of my anatomy is tender as I resume cycling this Spring. 

Along the way I skirted the bike lanes because the city is so slow in cleaning them up --  unfortunately they are more of a bike lane placebo in this community. I included a new stretch of waterfront trail which should excite me except that they inexplicably clearcut a swath of stately willows to create it. At a boat launch a flotilla of single use water bottles bobbed on the surface. It was rather disheartening.

On the plus side, I rolled past our municipal recycling blue boxes as I left the driveway. As I peddled along the water I saw several species of ducks and two of our urban osprey nests are occupied once again. The dawn chorus was wonderful and there buds on trees. Many people were walking the trail and I started lots of them with a "happy Earth Day!"

Is it a happy Earth Day? Should we as Groundlings, children of the Creator, be "cup half empty" or "cup half full" people? The answer is...yes. The leaky cup is that every report by climate scientists and the United Nations warns us of dire consequences if we don't smarten up, yesterday. Governments at every level declare climate emergencies and strike green committees, only to continue with much of the same-old, same-old. It's little wonder that last week reputable climate scientists from around the world engaged in sit-ins, and civil disobedience events to draw attention to the climate crisis, only to be ignored, by and large, by the media. 

The partially full cup is that our awareness of the crisis grows, despite the half-heartedness on the part of governments and the "if it bleeds it leads" digressions by the media. And so many of us are realizing that if we love Creation and our human relationship within it we will find ways to cherish our time in the natural world and work diligently to preserve the vital ecosystems which sustain us all. We are nature, not just living alongside it. 

As Christians we can engage all our senses in humble appreciation and praise for Turtle Island even as we are resolute to make the changes to our lifestyles and outlooks on what it actually "the good life." I'm encouraged that there are more and more conversations with Indigenous peoples about co-managing ecosystems because along the way industrial cultures lost the ability to understand the sacredness of Creation, replacing reverence and stewardship with mindless extraction. Sadly, the Christian religion has been complicit in the latter, ignoring the biblical witness. 

Today I will savour being outside as much as possible as solace for my aging soul. At the same time I want to renew my commitment to passing on a livable world to our four marvelous grandchildren. All of them love time outdoors and we delight in being there with them. When we are gone and "pushing up daisies" I want there to be wildflowers for them to enjoy. 

I know we can do better as a society and as communities of faith -- we must.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Gratitude for Teilhard de Chardin

 When I was a young man I was warned away from reading the French Jesuit priest, theologian, and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was regarded as outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy by whoever sounded the concerns to me and this was certainly the view of the Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic Church. In recent years I've become curious about this devout Christian, born in the latter part of the 19th century who died in his early seventies in 1955. I realize now that Teilhard de Chardin's theological "crime" was offering a thoughtful exploration of the intersection between Christian faith and scientific exploration, particularly the developing theory of evolution. 

Theilhard's superiors were so intent on silencing him that they banned him from publishing his writings and effectively sent him into exile in China. Remarkably -- providentially -- he ended up in the region where extensive palentological excavations were underway which resulted in the discovery of the skull of Peking Man in the 1920's. Teilhard became part of the team which included a Canadian, Davidson Black. The skull of Peking Man was estimated to be hundreds of thousands of years old and a major find in the field of paleontology. 

Teilhard de Chardin spent the rest of his life being celebrated by the scientific community and censored by his Jesuit superiors. He was offered significant teaching posts which he was required to turn down and while he did lecture in America he wasn't allowed to return to his beloved France even as family members were dying. His books were only published posthumously when he was no longer under the discipline of the church. 

I have finally finished The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard De Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man, which was really worthwhile reading. The past four popes have all offered theological endorsement of the theory of evolution and have quoted Teilhard de Chardin. Just the same, a caution about the writings of Teilhard was issued by the Vatican in 1962, years after his death, and has never been formally cancelled. A Pontifical Council for Culture which includes scientists and theologians has asked Pope Francis to lift the "monitum" citing Teilhard's "prophetic vision."

Teilhard commented along the way that he wanted to die on Resurrection Day, and remarkably that it is what transpired. After years of fragile health he died on April 10, 1955, which was Easter Sunday. 

During Earth Month there is a marvellous installation in the nave of Britain's historic Ely Cathedral. Take a look in today's Groundling blog

The Jesuit and the Skull, Book

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Bruce Cockburn, Unconventional Christian

 Next week we'll be attending the Bruce Cockburn concert here in Belleville. We bought our tickets months ago, crossing our fingers that COVID would be on the wane. Well...we'll go and hope that this won't be a singalong at the old folks home which turns into a super-spreader event. We're getting longer in the tooth but Bruce will be turning 77 next month -- yikes! It was close to 50 years ago that we attended first Cockburn concerts and we've each heard him in different cities across Ontario. He was a member of the audience at a coffee house featuring one of my sisters-in-law's band because Fergus Marsh, a long-time musical collaborator was in the group. He's garnered just about every musical award Canada has to offer, including 13 Junos,  and had success in the United States as well. 

Cockburn became a Christian all those decades ago and included spiritual themes in his music even when he moved away from the evangelical community of those days. In recent years he began attending a small congregation in San Francisco with his wife, on her prompting, and younger daughter. He enjoys the social justice commitment of the eclectic congregation and the preacher. Now he is a part of the worship team with musicians who'd never heard of him. 

Last week Bruce was interviewed by TVOntario's The Agenda and he has a white beard, not unlike that of a certain blogger. He was refreshingly open about his Christian faith and I commend the interviewer, Nam Kiwanuka, for asking about it in a respectful and genuinely curious way.

In another interview he mused: "It’s a continuing journey, I don’t feel I have the corner on understanding anything. I just have a desire to have a relationship with God, a day-to-day thing … I’ve always believed a relationship with God should be central to everyone’s life, and I’ve tried to keep it the center of mine."

Please pray for all of us attending the Cockburn concerts next week. We'll wear our masks and won't take lighters because that could be dangerous. 

Here is The Agenda interview link:

And here are the lyrics for a song called "Orders"he wrote for a church fundraiser:

The just the merciful the cruel
The stumbling well-intentioned fool
The deft the oaf the witless pawn
The golden one life smiles upon
The squalling infant in mid-squall
The neighbors fighting down the hall
The list is long; as I recall
Our orders said to love them all

The cynic and the crooked priest
The woman wise the sullen beast
The enemy outside the gate
The friend who leaves it all to fate
The drunk who tags the bathroom stall
The proud boy rushing to his fall,
The list is long; as I recall
Our orders said to love them all

The pastor preaching shades of hate
The self-inflating head of state
The black the blue the starved for bread
The dread the red the better dead
The sweet the vile the small the tall
The one who rises to the call
The list is long but as I recall
Our orders said to love them all

The one who lets his demons win
The one we think we’re better than
A challenge great—but as I recall
Our orders said to love them all

Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn is one of my favourite "grizzled groundlings" and I write about that in today's Groundling blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Politics of Easter Morning

Did you see that Archbishop Justin Welby, the leader of the world-wide Anglican community created a stir on Easter morning? In his messages at different services he both affirmed the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, and called for justice and compassion in ways that made people in power uncomfortable. 

Not only did Welby decry the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he directly challenged the British government's recent, awful decision to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, clearly as a deterrent to these people who are desperately seeking a new life. In one of his sermon's at Canterbury Cathedral he said that the UK has a national responsibility to not sub-contract responsibilities. 

Predictably, some Tory MP's immediately criticized Welby's remarks, saying that his outlook is clumsy and naive and that he should stay out of politics. This is curious because in the odd British parliamentary system the Archbishop is one of the "lords spiritual" appointments. And the reality is that engaged religion is always political in that it addresses the needs of the people, particularly the marginalized, even if it isn't partisan. Jesus was perceived as political even though his reign was misunderstood (ask Pilate) and he was executed as a result. 

I am impressed by Welby's boldness, and on Easter Sunday, no lessI'm glad that he ruffled feathers, speaking truth to power. Here are some of his thoughts from his early Easter message: 

The resurrection of Jesus is not a magic wand that makes the world perfect.

But the resurrection of Christ is the tectonic shift in the way the cosmos works. It is the conquest of death and the opening of eternal life - through Jesus, a gift offered to every human being who reaches out to him.

Not just for individuals but setting a benchmark for all of society because God is lord of every society and nation...  

Jesus is alive – and he addresses head on all of our fears, together and alone. It means whilst we wake in a world so often characterised by pain and suffering, there is another more defining, more compelling, more true story to wake up to.

It is not complicated to receive the gift of the life of Christ. It costs no more than to surrender our lives to God, lives we cannot keep. In that surrender we join the journey into life everlasting, we are caught in his hands as was Mary who returned to the disciples saying “I have seen the Lord”.

Jesus’ resurrection, dead first, now alive, changed history. It changed societies, shaped nations. It calls us each to live resurrection shaped and filled lives now, and to mould resurrection filled societies in our world today and in the future.  


Earth Week and speaking for the trees in today's Groundling blog

Monday, April 18, 2022

Easter and Believing Women


Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Luke 24: 22-24 NRSV

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” ...

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:1-3, 18 NRSV

In the liturgical calendar yesterday was the beginning of Easter, a season of 50 days which leads to Pentecost Sunday, this year on June fifth. In reality a lot of congregations forego any more Easter hymns and take down decorations. I negotiated with worship committees, most of them quite dedicated, to let Easter be Easter and the members did their best not to roll their weary eyes. 

I've been thinking about the women of Easter as first witnesses and first evangelists of the gospel of the Risen Christ -- essentially the first Christians. I imagine that part of the reason is that in the States there seems to be a heightening of resistance in conservative Christian circles to women in leadership, whether its the evangelical camp or hardline Roman Catholics. Women who have written about the toxic and non-biblical patriarchy in different traditions have been vilified and some have moved on to more accepting expressions of Christianity. It's something of a miracle that they don't just pack it in altogether. 

Given that one male disciple betrayed Jesus and another denied him, and that women were faithful at the cross and the empty tomb, maybe we need to ask how the scam of male superiority in the church has endured for two thousand years. 

The tee-shirt above and the tweet below say it all about those first Christians: 

I thank God for those women, not because they were women but because they were spiritual giants who believed an angel, trusted Jesus, and did the only sane thing they could do, given what they now knew. They went and told somebody.