This last week, I spent an evening with a young Muslim woman in our community. We spoke of her faith, her desire to teach and lead others in her faith – something currently denied most women in her faith, but something that will eventually shift. We spoke about the emerging voice of the feminine, which is not about whether a person presents themselves as male or female, but about an emerging voice that is able to look at things in a less linear way, a more holistic way.
So, that would mean, a way that takes into account many parts of an argument or situation, a voice that can hold two opposing ideas at once, without feeling the need to choose one against the other. It is a voice that is more interesting in nurturing than opposing, more interested in discovering than demanding, a voice that is more interested in serving, than oppressing.
Jesus was such a voice. And it is a challenging one.
And all these long years after his death, strangely, his spirit, for those who follow him, can call us back to our original purpose, which, according to our scriptures, our Christian way of being, is to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, and to love others.
Such a simple, yet audaciously ambitious project. And make no mistake about it, Jesus, in his simple teaching, in his seemingly small way of doing things, was grandly ambitious. And this is right, because, of course, he followed so closely the heart of God, and God, the divine spirit always at work in this world, wants nothing less than a fully transformed life for each and every person on this earth.
The divine yearning was lives transformed from self-focus to lives re focused on the rich, full life that serves the world at large and each and every person in it.
And this call, this instruction, this understanding is not just at work on Sundays when we read scripture, or in some designated times and places, or in particular books, or particular faiths, even, but this call to be transformed lives right in the middle of our lives, in our communities, in the everyday comings and goings of our lives, in all the relationships we have, all the things we don’t understand, all the things that puzzle us, all matters that challenge us, all things that bring us joy, and matters that bring us sorrow.
In the past, the Christian way was the way of knowing. We knew the way it was to be. We had Jesus. We had the scriptures. We thought we had some corner on the market of what God wanted.
This is a linear approach to the world. And, certainly, it spread the Christian faith far and wide in the world with its top down, authoritarian, triumphalist theology of knowing everything, of claiming truths it had no right to claim.
Still, it had its place in history.
That time has passed. And it will not return again, because though the patterns of history repeat themselves, the specifics never do.
So, what is Jesus trying to teach us now?
Who is it Jesus calls us to be, as individuals and as a collected body called the church?
Jesus was an outlier – someone outside the norm, outside the status quo, outside the popular vote, outside the common way of thinking that dominated his culture.
In a time when the servant, the woman, and the child were people to be bought and sold, traded, and disregarded, Jesus elevated them to places of honour.
And then, audacious person that he was, he called us all to be servants - to serve God, to serve one another.
He called us to be non-binary thinkers, those who were able to think in different ways that included all possibilities, explored the opportunities in every situation. He called us to live deeply where we were planted, looking around at how our lives might impact our community and our homes, our children, our politics, our faith.
So, this summer, give your mind a rest from all it knows, and drop down deeper to the area of the heart. ‘The heart has reason, that reason knows nothing of’, said the great French Catholic philosopher and theologian, Blaise Pascal - so look to your life to teach you what God needs you to know.
What is your difficulty trying to teach you?
What are your dreams trying to teach you?
What is the person you are having difficulty with trying to teach you?
What is your church trying to teach you?
What is the larger struggle in the church trying to teach you?
What is the non-binary concept that young people have around sexuality trying to teach us?
What was Jesus trying to teach us?
Where is God leading us?
And why are we afraid? When everything in our faith teaches us repeatedly that God is always with us, always looking out for us, always desirous for our future.
July 1st is Canada day. It is a national holiday. And that, I suppose, is something to celebrate. Certainly, we are deeply blessed to be part of a country that takes the welfare of is people seriously.
But never forget that as Christians we have no country, no loyalty to national offices, no call to serve the national order, or even the laws and ordinances of our municipalities or national doctrine if they fly in the face of the deeper call to serve God. We have an obligation to get along as best we can, and this calls for following the rules as best we can when they are just and right. But when they are not, we are called to question them, to prod our leaders for change, to disavow anything that does not follow in the way in the way of love.
So, let us enjoy our holiday, love our families and neighbours and friends, be grateful for the many, many gifts we have been given by our country, but hold fast to the way of Jesus - and to seeing him in our lives at every turn.
Rev. Dr. Candice Bist
Offering what I hope will be thoughtful additions to your spiritual journey, from my own musings, and the great array of teachers available to us through other blogs, videos, websites, music and art. May grace surround us all as we make our way forward through the astonishing mystery of life.