The Magdalene Affair

July 22 was the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene. At church on Sunday, the sermon focused the congregation’s attention on the Magdalene pointing out that the name Mary was a very common name back in the day and that modern edited versions of Scripture reveal there were at least 7 different women named Mary. 

I forgive the Ministers for playing it safe, for not taking the risk to support what I know and believe about Mary Magdalene.  Modern scholarship has diminished Mary Magdalene’s role as the Bride of the Gospel.  Up until Vatican II, the view in the Roman Catholic Church and the prevalent belief in Protestant Churches was that Mary Magdalene was the Woman who anointed Jesus with her Alabaster Jar. What many Protestants contested was the fact that the Roman Catholic view used her anointing image to tarnish Mary Magdalene’s image by saying she was a sinner, a whore who was forgiven for her heart of gold.

It matters little for many people that calling Mary Magdalene a whore is no worse than calling Jesus a Jew, a Judean, or a demon possessed Samaritan. There are worse epithets. Think about Judas. Judas is called the betrayer, like Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute in old Jericho who betrayed her people by letting Joshua stay the night at her house. This made it possible for his armed men to scale the walls of Jericho under the cover of darkness to bring a mighty victory to God’s Hebrew people.  Rahab let the enemy into her heart and into her home and country as did Judas.   

Many, if not most Christians today, want to play it safe. They do not want to pick up their Cross, let Jesus wrap them with the Teacher’s help in the fine linen sheets of scripture and place them inside the very womb of life, wrapped and protected by a magnanimous Rock (Matthew 27:58).  

Most people would not understand what I just said.

Most Christians want to see the Political Jesus, the one who lived and died as heroes live and die. They take the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus as the actual historical account of how the authorities condemned Jesus as a blasphemous traitor and executed as all Roman criminals were executed.

Many Christians believe Jesus was nailed to an ordinary cross made of lumber. They think like Simon did, as men, as people, not as God (Matthew 16:24). Their minds are on the concerns of the people. They want justice and they want to denounce all evil doing. They want law and order and they want the woman they love to be treated with dignity and respect. People want to worship a conquering hero, someone who goes into battle for them and brings them the victory. If their hero sacrifices his life for them and dies nobly all the better. They will remember him and honour his memory and teach others to “fight” and die for them and future generations.

Most Christians honour Jesus in this way, claiming he is no dead hero. He died and rose again, proving he was God. And most will argue, he did not stick around. He ate with people, proving he was alive and then having proved that fact, he ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51), with the assurance that he would return one day (Acts 1:11).

Most people stop at the Ascension, thinking this ends Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is where they will say. “See Jesus doesn’t live forever on earth and neither will we. When we die we will discard our bodies, ascend into space as vaporous spirit and live with Jesus in space, forever as a vaporous cloud. Here on earth, it is our memories and our contributions to life that live on.”

Stop! Look and Listen. Hear the blessed assurance of Acts 1:11. In the same way you saw Jesus go, you will see Jesus return.  Open your eyes and your heart.  See how Jesus soothes, comforts and protects his cherished bride with the help of teachers like Nicodemus.  

People who are biblically alert might be quick to say. Linda I see where you are going with this. It is Joseph who lovingly, craves, or begs Pilate for the body of Jesus who is battered and bruised and whose wedding garment is removed, torn to bits and given to 7 others by demons, by people who are playing it safe or know not what they are doing. It is Joseph of Arimathea with the help of Nicodemus who anoints, wraps and carries the bloody and bruised body of Jesus in fine linen to a new cavern he has purchased for her, his Bride, as God did for Jerusalem when she became of age (Matthew 27:58; Ezekiel 16:9-10).   

People will say Joseph of Arimathea is not Jesus. They will say. How could he be? You must be off the mark Linda. Joseph was the earthly Father of Jesus and his Mother was Mary.

Others will say it was Simon the Cyrene who carried the Cross of Jesus (Mark 15:21). He was the Father of some red-haired person and some person called Alexander. So How could Simon be the Father of Jesus? If Simon was a Cyrenaic, wouldn’t that make Joseph the Father of Jesus black?  

What has all this got to do with Mary Magdalene?

The Bride is the female Jesus who was crucified with Christ, her Bridegroom (Galatians 2:20).  For two thousand years, Mary Magdalene was celebrated as the Bride. What is keeping you from realizing this? Are demons, patriarchal language, politics, worldly concerns for border security, or peace and justice, climate change, or the enigmatic beliefs of others?

Stand up and realize the Resurrection. Humanity is created in the image and eternal loving and living likeness of God. Every living person on this planet has a mother and a father. Loving parents, loving teachers, and loving neighbours from all walks of life teach us how to love and protect one another, not lifeless idols. Sometimes the concerns of our neighbours and the concerns of our hearts blind us to the Truth. Nothing, not even the grave, can separate us from the Love of God that is physical and protects us by living and dwelling with us forever (Romans 8:38).   

Mary Magdalene is the Bride, the Godly Mother of the Gospel. Her Godly Groom is Simon, the Christ she stumbled upon with the love and help of Jesus Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). She is not an X-rated enigma. Children need to see her as the Rabbi who loved much. They need to forgive and redeem her inordinate love affair with Israel’s Teacher who made straight the highway, to empower sinners to turn back to God and honour their Mother and their Father.

This is Good News. Not Fake News. Jesus the Rabboni did not steal Christ’s body as many have thought. Christ’s body belongs to the Bride. The Rabboni is the Friend of the Groom who ascends, stands up with his head held high and his arms stretched out, rejoicing at the sound of the Bridegroom’s voice, saying I do! (John 3:29; John 20:15-17).

The Ascension does not end Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Ascension is the beginning!

Star of Wonder

Every year on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Christians celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany is when the Magi see a wondrous star in the east. This star brings these prestigious travellers to the city of David, where they see Jesus and present Jesus with gifts fit for a king (Matthew 2:2).

Many people have often wondered about that star. How could a star suddenly appear in the sky and cause prestigious wise people to travel to a far-off land? Was the star a comet? Was the star a revelation of divine wisdom? Or a rising new star for them to respect?

In 2015, I presented an eco-justice paper at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. The title of my paper was Mathematics and the New Jerusalem. In this paper, I revealed how as a homemaker, with merely a high school education, I discovered how the ancient biblical writers were well aware of sophisticated mathematics.  Astonishingly, I discovered and make known in that paper how they embedded the circumference of the planet into the sacred stories. I do so with the help of the Star of David and the Christmas Star. 

The City of David…Jerusalem…the City of Peace
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

So what? 

What difference does it make whether the Magi saw an actual star in the sky or discovered the circumference of the planet as I did? 

The fact is the magi saw a revelation they believed was divine. It astonished them. It filled them with awe. It caused them to suddenly see how awesome and mighty God is.  It took them on a journey outside of their comfort zone bearing gifts. The Star they saw led them to a place where they saw God’s wondrous gift of Eternal Love newly born. It inspired them and gave them the hope, that no matter what, God was with them forever.  The Star and the Journey brought them to where they saw for themselves, God’s promise of Eternal Love and Life was true.

However, law abiding citizens were demanding justice and peace on their terms. They were asking. How can God’s gift of Eternal Love and Life inspire shepherds and stable help who do menial work for little or no reward? What little they make gets gobbled up by taxes and living expenses.

As the Christian story unfolds after the Visit of the Magi…Christians can read about the problems the early church encountered as they tried to work for peace and justice.

About 12 years after the Magi’s visit, Mary and Joseph lose sight of Jesus. To their wonder and surprise, they find Jesus sitting at the feet of Rabbis teaching them, in what Jesus says is “Daddy’s” domain.

Well most of you readers know the story. Or think you do? It is a rich, complex story. As more and more people join the band of followers working for peace headed up by Jesus the Good Teacher and the Woman called Mary Magdalene, things go awry (Luke 8:2). Everyone has a version of the truth. Some people say Mary Magdalene is not the Woman who anointed Jesus the Good Teacher. Others sully her reputation, claiming she is a prostitute, possessed by demons. Nobody cares a fig about Joseph or arithmetic and everyone is calling for Jesus Barabbas the resistance leader and insurrectionist to be set free (Matthew 27:16).

So dear readers. There is more to the story. Read some of my other posts. If you want to read some of my more academic papers, you can download them from my website. If you like what you read, be sure to give me a like. Or share my posts with your friends.





Is Rudolof the Red-Haired, Ariel Gazelle Mary Magdalene?

Did you know that Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer –the littlest reindeer with the antlers and the bright red nose is FEMALE…even though she has a male name.?  If you don’t believe me…check out http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/6487154/Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-is-a-female.html

Poor Rudolf the other reindeers laughed and called her names like he and maybe even Dorcas or Dork for short.  Then one foggy night Santa, being all tarnished with soot came to say…Rudolf…with your nose so bright…will you guide my sleigh tonight?

The Christmas tales told to children allow some adults to glean bits of divine truth that reveal how the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love come into the world.

All is quiet not a creature is stirring…no one is speaking up. I wonder why? Why does Santa come down the chimney? Why does he come down from heaven…from the night sky through such a narrow opening?  Why does old Saint Nick come under the cover of darkness?  Why is “he” wearing a scarlet suit?

Two Scriptures that may shine like a bright red clue for you are:

John 3: 1-2

John 20: 16  

Many kids have heard, if they’re naughty they’ll get the gift of coal and if they’re nice they’ll get Candy…hard rock candy shaped like a shepherd’s crook. People from Crete may get that one. Did you know that Crete was once called “Candy” by Brits? And did you know Cretans were one of the first Christians to welcome the Holy Spirit and her tongues of fire? (Acts 2: 1-12) http://sundayteacher.com/vcmedia/2414/2414925.pdf

But why coal? Why would Old Nico, Mr. Noddy, give naughty kids a block of coal in their stockings? Why would naughty kids who run around the city stealing to keep warm, need a lump of coal?

Did you know that there was a Father called Simon who carried the Cross of Jesus? Mark 15:21 Many Christians believed he was black because he was called the Cyrene. Cyrene was a city in Northern Africa.  In addition, Cyrenaics were sensual hedonists. So, today many simply say there is no proof that Simon was black or a hedonist. And some even ask.  What difference would it make anyway?

Well if Simon is the Black Rock that was rejected, what does that make Simon? Sshh…not a creature was stirring not even a wee biddy didymous.

Did you know that Dorcas is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Tabitha meaning “gazelle”? A Dorcas gazelle is also known as an ariel gazelle, a little deer with horns and a reddish brown, a rufus coloured coat. (The Latin word rufus means red haired one)…mmm Disney’s Ariel the little mermaid has red hair too!

Dorcas gazelle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dorcasgazellemarwell.jpg

Did you know that Simon (who Jesus called Peter and Satan) raised Dorcas from the dead?  You can read about this in Acts 9:36-42; John 1:42 and Matthew 16:23).

As you can see, much can be gleaned from thinking about Old St. Nick letting Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer lead the way, one Foggy Christmas Eve.

May your Christmas be Merry and Bright!

 

 

The Lid on the Story: Jesus and Nicodemus

The Story of Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3: 1-21) can trap the unsuspecting Christian reader and leave him or her in darkness. It represents the Truth the Church is afraid to proclaim or cannot proclaim because of those who insist Jesus was a celibate “straight” male. Under the cover of darkness, Jesus and the Teacher met alone. The Sunday School or Sunday Club version says the Teacher’s love for Jesus was platonic.

The Sunday School version puts a lid on the story. The Teacher’s love for Jesus is more than platonic and this should be “good news”. This Johannine story is linked to the Rich Person and the “Good” Teacher story of Mark’s Gospel chapter 10:17. Do not let others dissuade you. Believe me. These texts are linked and they are also linked to the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-10.  Jesus the “good” Teacher and member of the Assembly looks at Jesus with eyes of love and desire and asks to stay, to spend the night with the person people know is a tax collector…a Vogt, a wealthy property owner entitled to collect taxes and rents, an advocate for the Romans (Luke 19:6).

In the public eye, Nicodemus remains stoic and platonic as a teacher and rabbi of the ruling council and Jesus remains male. To suggest that Nicodemus had any sexual desire for a male Jesus would not only be blasphemous, it would be heretical. It would not advance the messianic and Johannine belief that Christ was the one who belongs to the Bridegroom (John 3:29).

The Truth is, alone with Jesus, Israel’s Teacher acts upon his love and desire. Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit responds, supposing Israel’s Teacher is Jesus the Christ. Later Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit confronts the Teacher in the Garden of the Tombs. There the Gordian Knot of confusion disappears. As the Truth dawns, Mary Magdalene’s Image and Relationship to Jesus becomes apparent. Jesus the Rabboni is not her Lord, the Christ the Everlasting Father. He is the Son of David and Jesus the Wonderful Counsellor is the Vogt…the promised Advocate, the bitterly treated and maligned Magdalene accused of blasphemy for saying she was The Light…the Magda Elaine of the World, the ADVOCATE  (John 8:12 and John 15:26).

In the Christian tradition, the 6 weeks leading up to Easter are called the Season of Lent.

The Sunday marked the second Sunday of Lent, the Minister at my home church told the children a story before they left the sanctuary for Sunday Club. This story featured a box. Inside the box was a word that no one was allowed to say or sing during Lent. This being the second Sunday of Lent, the Minister was not going to say the word and asked if anybody thought they knew the word. The Minister of Music embellished the story. Every time the Minister opened the box a crack, the other Minister would make a sound on the organ that reminded people of the word they weren’t supposed to hear or sing in the Church until Easter. This children’s sermon has been told every Lent for the past several years. And so, this year a youngster just couldn’t help but reveal the word.

The Scripture reading for the second Sunday of Lent this year was John 3: 1-17.  The adult sermon reflected the Minister’s interpretation of the story of Nicodemus and Jesus without any allusion to any ardent feelings that Jesus and Nicodemus, the platonic Teacher and Council Member had for each other. Rather, the Minister simply told the story as if Nicodemus was in the dark with the rest of the Council and Jesus’ disciples as to the reorientation his life would take once he openly admitted his love for Jesus.

From the perspective of the Minister, Nicodemus was boxed in like many of us because he didn’t want to upset the balance of power. The Minister projected Jesus as a scruffy fellow, some sort of country bumpkin, alluding to Simon the Cyrene, the man who carried the Cross of Jesus (Mark 15:21).

In his box, the Minister dared not even suggest Jesus was a slender young redhead richly dressed filling Nicodemus’ eyes with desire.

I must admit I was losing my patience with the Minister’s sermon, thinking. “What is wrong. Why can’t people see the Truth?” Nicodemus is the Victory of the people.  He is Jesus the Teacher that comes back at the end of the story to talk with the Red-haired Woman “face to face” in the Garden where the Teacher has a cave, a platonic academy dedicated to peace and eco-justice, situated overlooking two burial grounds.  Then just as my patience was at its thinnest, the Minister tells a story about when he was boy.

As I listened, I was struck by the coincidence of the Minister’s story and the story of Nicodemus.

As a boy, the Minister would run away from his parents and hide under blankets and things. One day he hid in the cedar chest where the blankets were stored. But unbeknownst to him, his elder brother was watching and saw a chance to assert his power. Knowing his brother was in the chest, the elder brother sat on the chest. The more the younger brother tried to push up the lid or reveal his whereabouts, the more he couldn’t. His cries were muffled under the blankets. The more he struggled and the more he tried to make a sound and failed, the more frightened he became. Finally, the elder brother stood up and he was able to open the chest.

With this story told by the Minister standing outside the pulpit, from the middle aisle, a flash of insight came to me. The Rock sealing the Teacher’s tomb, holds the balance of power. Until the scruffy don from the country who carried the Cross of Jesus, stands up bald headed and clean shaven ready to fulfill his role as the Bridegroom and Don (Mark 15:21), the Teacher is trapped in his platonic cave. The Teacher, like the youngster in the Minister’s Lenten story is trapped. He cannot come out and embrace the Light as her brother and be born again. And neither can the Madonna and their followers. They must wait and put their trust in the Lord, their Don. And the Good News is…he rises every EASTER and brings the wine.

Did Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch steal your Christmas?

As the Christmas Story goes, three wise men some say were priests, others say were kings others say were astrologers bring gifts to the newly birthed Jesus 12 days before. Did Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch steal your Christmas and keep you standing outside in the dark and cold looking in? It is hard to celebrate Christmas when the story doesn’t bring you food, warm clothing and safe cozy lodgings. My wish for all my readers this year, is that they find the love of Jesus and nurture it as they would a brand new baby.

Linda Vogt Turner-Author, Faith Based Speaker:

Did Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch steal your Christmas?

Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch are laughable characters. Death is not. Death comes to countless numbers of people every year at Christmas. So does unemployment or the loss of one’s home. Many people watched TV movies hoping for the promise of sugar plums and gifts and making it home in time to reconnect with family. Many were disappointed. They just couldn’t see any hope. Christmas came…and God didn’t wow them with a miracle.

Where is the hope of Christmas when death or some personal let down comes like a Scrooge or a Grinch? Can the Christmas Story bring hope to those facing hard times?

As the Christian Story goes, Mary is pregnant with a miracle—an immaculate conception. Should the authorities find out about Mary and Joseph, they and Mary’s gift could be killed. Miraculously they escape the death grip of the…

View original post 750 more words

The Lid on the Story: Jesus and Nicodemus

Linda Vogt Turner-Author, Faith Based Speaker:

The Story of Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3: 1-21) can trap the unsuspecting Christian reader and leave him or her in darkness. It represents the Truth the Church is afraid to proclaim or cannot proclaim because of those who insist Jesus was a celibate “straight” male. Under the cover of darkness, Jesus and the Teacher met alone. The Sunday School or Sunday Club version says the Teacher’s love for Jesus was platonic.

The Sunday School version puts a lid on the story. The Teacher’s love for Jesus is more than platonic and this should be “good news”. This Johannine story is linked to the Rich Person and the “Good” Teacher story of Mark’s Gospel chapter 10:17. Do not let others dissuade you. Believe me. These texts are linked and they are also linked to the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-10. Jesus the “good” Teacher and member of the…

View original post 916 more words

Home Improvement

Ken Weliever and his wife Norma Jean recently took a trip to Jerusalem. They are blessed and Ken’s blog posts are a blessing to many of his readers. Ken’s blogs from Jerusalem brought Jerusalem to me and others who are not so blessed to be able to travel abroad.

Walking on water, travelling across oceans and rivers is extremely difficult for people who are not financially independent or funded by foundations. It is easy for funded people travelling in the boat with Jesus to say…where’s your faith? You Ken do it.

This week Ken Weliever’s blog brought Home Improvement to my attention. https://thepreachersword.com/

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ken and his wife Norma Jean spent the weekend in South River Ontario where Ken presented a sermon series on Home Improvement to a Brethren congregation.

Here are snippets from Ken’s post:

Regarding our homes, it’s very easy to see how our spouse could improve. Or our children. Or our parents. But what about us? American businessman Bo Bennett once quipped, “Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family.” How can I be more loving? More patient? More responsible? And less irritable? Less demanding? Less self-absorbed?

I often hear people criticize local churches. Every attendee is an expert on how the church can improve. We critique the preacher. The song leader. The announcer. The Bible class teacher. And the men leading prayer and those serving the Lord’s supper. We evaluate the friendliness and hospitality of the brethren and the way visitors are received.

But what about you and me? Are we adding value to the local church? Are we doing our best? Serving? Teaching? Encouraging? Edifying? Using our talents? Extending hospitality? Speaking to others? Fervently worshiping? And joyfully engaging in fellowship?

The areas of improvement are obvious to us when observing the lives of other Christians, but less apparent in our own lives. To modernize the quote of Robert Burns, “Oh, the gift that God could give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” But even more importantly would that we pray the prayer of David, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” (Ps 26:2).

In order to improve, we must see ourselves as God sees us. We must believe we can improve. Truly desire to improve. Identify those areas in which we can improve. And then make a conscious choice to set in motion a plan for improvement.

The Bible says, “Examine yourselves” (2 Cor 13:5). Are we growing spiritually? Increasing in knowledge? Developing deeper faith? And demonstrating the fruit of the spirit in our lives? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. And self-control.

The Bible command “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18) is not optional. And it implies that we can improve.

The Bible says that 12-year-old Jesus when home to Nazareth and was subject to Joseph and Mary and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52). If the Son of Man in His human state could grow and improve, surely that says you and I can and must follow His example to improve our lives.

After reading Ken’s post, I reached out for the LIKE button and clicked it. Then I thought. How can I add value to what Ken said?

The image of 12-year old Jesus getting lost suddenly occurred to me. To check out the facts, I looked up the passage Ken quoted from Luke 2:52. Just before this passage, Joseph and Mary lost sight of Jesus.

Here’s the comment I added to what Ken said.

The twelve-year old Jesus was subject to Joseph and Mary. And then one day Jesus appeared to be lost. They couldn’t find him. They may have criticized each other…for losing sight of such a precious gift. Scripture says they retraced their steps and found Jesus teaching in Jerusalem.

WOW! Imagine their joy when they discovered the gift given to them to raise up. So, they asked: Why have you done this to us? [Disappear and not tell us where you were going or ask us for permission?]

Jesus simply answered his Mother and his Father with 2 more questions. And they did not understand the statement He was making to them. Then he went down to Nazareth and was subject to them. But [And] Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. Imagine her joy when a friend simply reminded her of the 2 questions Jesus asked his Mother and his Father.

These Two questions Jesus asked bring Wisdom and Stature to Jesus’ body still today. Why are you looking for Me? Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?

Think about Jesus’ questions. Who is Jesus’ Father? Why isn’t Jesus’ Father standing behind him or sitting beside him or across the room in Church, in the Temple?

Mothers and wives can improve their relationships at home. Me too. We can start by [inviting and] encouraging our husbands and our Bridegrooms (or special friends) to attend Church with us and God’s children.

Later I thought…well that is a place to start. Discussing the sermons and the issues brought up in Church (even if they do not attend with you) can strengthen and improve one’s self and one’s family ties. Conflicts and disagreements are bound to occur. This is where humility comes in with a big dose of love for the one with whom you disagree. If they are not taking your side and getting behind you. Ask yourself why? Likely, the answer to that question is where the growth and home improvement will happen.

With this post, I am thanking Ken Weliever and his wife Norma Jean for reminding me of what Jesus said to his Mother and his Father when they had lost sight of Him.

Did Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch steal your Christmas?

Did Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch steal your Christmas?

Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch are laughable characters.  Death is not. Death comes to countless numbers of people every year at Christmas. So does unemployment or the loss of one’s home. Many people watched TV movies hoping for the promise of sugar plums and gifts and making it home in time to reconnect with family. Many were disappointed. They just couldn’t see any hope. Christmas came…and God didn’t wow them with a miracle.

Where is the hope of Christmas when death or some personal let down comes like a Scrooge or a Grinch? Can the Christmas Story bring hope to those facing hard times?

As the Christian Story goes, Mary is pregnant with a miracle—an immaculate conception.  Should the authorities find out about Mary and Joseph, they and Mary’s gift could be killed. Miraculously they escape the death grip of the lawful governor and his assassins and they arrive in the Inn. There, they are faced with another moment of near death. The Inn has no room for a woman about to give birth to what Joseph names as Jesus and the Heavenly Messenger claims is “God Emanuel”. The Innkeeper and his wife put them up in an adjacent Barn.

heart shape multicolored stand
Nothing can separate us from God’s Eternal Love conceived in the Woman called Mary and presented in the Inn with her betrothed.  (Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com}

Still today, lawfully accredited authorities threaten Mary and Joseph and the Holy Family that they began that night the Innkeeper and his wife made room for them. There is simply no unbiased historical evidence to support Mary’s conception that the birth and rebirth of Jesus brings people Eternal Life.

Like the cold-hearted, Ebenezer Scrooge and the mean-spirited Grinch, the cold hard factual truth comes in the form of death, war, earthquake or some horrible tragedy to tell people flat out. There is no miraculous birth of Emanuel.  Eternal Life is an illusion, fake news. The Madonna’s new born Don is fiction. He’s not Eternal. Only God is.  When people die, they leave this earth and it hurts like hell to say goodbye to them. God has Eternal Life. People in earthly form do not.

Many Christians have lost the hope of ever seeing their loved ones again in this world. Not wanting to completely abandon their faith, they cling to the hope that one day they will see their loved one on the other side in spirit form, without a body. The “other side” being that place where righteous people go when they die to live in spirit form with God.

Atheists on the other hand are adamant. When people die, they die. Their hearts stop beating and their organs shut down. It is the end of the game. Sometimes people can have a near death experience that gives them the illusion of floating over their bodies or seeing Jesus.  That’s as good as it gets. There is no God.

Despite all this negative evidence, many Christians believe in the miracle of ETERNAL LOVE that Joseph and Mary brought to the Inn that dark “starry” night. They are not fooled for a moment. Joseph and Mary are their proof.  It was God’s plan that Mary and Joseph should fall in love and marry. The miracle is. They who had lived and died countless times, found each other at a moment in history when the priestly family of God needed a wake-up call.  As their love for each other grew and became more visible to the Innkeeper and his wife and the shepherds and the angels, people began to celebrate the news. The Don loves the Madonna and their Eternal Love is a Gift from God.  They together with the Innkeeper, his wife, et.al present Emanuel to the World. This is truly a wondrous gift that ushers in a whole new era. Death is fake news.

Oh-oh. Wait a minute. If death is fake news. Why should people try to make peace with each other, with their families and with their neighbours or with their enemies?  Sure, Christmas is about Love. It is also about, Peace and the hope for Justice.

The Christmas story takes place in winter. In winter, the road to the Inn gets muddy and full of cattle dung. Many days and nights are dark. There are times when the couple could have given up and simply allowed themselves and their love to die without pressing on toward the Inn.  Yet, they trusted God and what God was doing in their lives and so did the Innkeeper, his wife and the visitors who came to listen and watch as Mary presented her gift.

Christmas is about being cold and hungry and frightened and slipping and sliding and almost giving up because it is a time when death is very real and near. Yet, Mary and Joseph pressed on toward the Inn.  Getting to the Inn was God’s plan.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

May the gift of Emanuel bless you and give you hope for the New Year.  

heart shape multicolored stand
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Saints and Demons

Did you know people talked trash about Jesus?

Until I read a devotional email from Pastor Mark Driscoll https://markdriscoll.org/ I was only vaguely aware of the kind of pressure Jesus faced. Mark puts it quite plainly. He says.

Jesus had some very real enemies. They had a constant public plan to ruin His reputation. They said He was a drunk, a glutton with no self-control, and a demon-possessed party animal who spent a lot of time with the kind of folks who like to wear underwear as outer wear while breaking the commandments with full zeal. That’s a rough public relations nightmare for a single, homeless guy trying to launch a brand-new ministry from scratch.

Mark goes onto say:

This Jesus who never sinned called these enemies “hypocrites, white-washed tombs, serpents, and blind guides, and said that their daddy was the devil—all of which probably got pretty emotional.”

Personally, I think Christians are confused about what sin is and who Jesus was and is. The Gospel calls people to love their enemies and their neighbours. Calling people hypocrites, white-washed tombs, serpents, and blind guides and then calling their father the devil exacerbates hurt feelings and makes enemies.

What is going on? Who is this Jesus? Why would this Jesus incite such emotion? Why is Jesus focusing on emotion?

This Jesus asks:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46).

Saint Paul points out that the Law reveals people as sinners and makes people slaves of sin (Romans 7: 7-25). In Luke’s Gospel Jesus demonstrates the importance of forgiveness and love (Luke 7: 36-50). In Mark’s Gospel, when asked what commandments people should keep, Jesus reminds people that loving God with one’s whole heart, body and soul and one’s neighbour as one’s self supersedes the other commandments (Mark 12: 30-31).

Who do you say Jesus is?

I say Jesus is three people tied together as one by their passion—their emotion. This emotion matures into full on passionate love for God, neighbour and self. In the Gospel, Israel is divided into three parts. Israel, Samaria and Judea. The chief priests and their followers furthered this divide by trash talk, and by calling their opponent’s chosen messiah names such as Satan, Sinner or Adulterer.

During a great feast, Jesus challenged people by saying. If anyone is thirsty, let him/[her] come to Me and drink. He/[she] who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘From his[her] innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’  Scripture says, this caused mixed emotion. Some saw Jesus as a prophet and others the Christ and caused the chief priests and temple police to question the validity of this Jesus. Nicodemus, Israel’s Teacher, defends this Jesus saying: “Does our Law convict a [person] without first hearing from [her] what [she] has done?”

The next morning, the chief priests and the temple police bring Jesus, Israel’s Teacher and Jesus the Woman in for questioning.  They claim they have caught her in the very act of adultery. Neither Jesus condemn the other. However, Jesus Israel’s Teacher tells her Jesus to go and sin no more (John 8:11) as if she is guilty and he knows it because he alone can prove it. He is the man caught with her.

Jesus’ opponents continue their campaign to stone Jesus. They are sure Jesus is guilty of sin. But they cannot prove it. Jesus uses Scripture to claim that God the Father has sanctified Jesus as the Son of God, and implies that this Father is the rock who leads the united house of Israel out of slavery and death into the promised land (John 10:36; John 11;1 Corinthians 10:4).

I see this Father as the Rock the chief builders rejected as just a poor fisherman who was feeling the pressure…to be the Gardener and Bridegroom who gets hooked up to Jesus the Fish who people were saying was demon-possessed and not worthy of life.

This Rock is Jesus of Nazareth and Simon the Cyrene and Simon the Pharisee and Simon Peter and Simon the Magus. He is the Father, of Jesus Israel’s Teacher and Rufus, the Father’s red-haired Bride—Jesus the Woman (Mark 15:21). He is not the biological Father of Alexander and Rufus. He is the Father, the Pharisee, the Esteemed Elder of the Law and Oral Teachings of the Bible and as such he is their Esteemed Elder, their Esteemed Father and Don, their Lord.

Imagine what would happen today if a red-haired woman in love with a singer and prophetic entertainer bearing the name of Don, told everyone she met she had an affair with a guy named Alexander?

In Vancouver Canada this actually happened last Easter. As the story goes, some people woke up Easter Sunday to rumours saying that their friend and neighbour Don had died on Friday. When he appeared alive and well on Easter Sunday…People fanned the flames of gossip.

The Day Don Died || Trailer (Widescreen) from Nootka St. on Vimeo.

People start talking trash about him…because prior to this Don guy’s death and mysterious resurrection people saw him hanging out in bars and romancing all the women who came out to hear him sing… who in turn bought him gifts, arranged to get him subsidized rent and found him tax breaks.

As Scripture implies, Jesus the Fish was also feeling the pressure. She was in the water doing what fish do…surfing. She was thinking this single homeless guy resting in the back seat of the boat was Jesus of Nazareth one moment and Satan or Simon the Sorcerer the next (Acts 8). She was not sure she should trust him to be her ROCK. She knew she was the FISH, the very womb of life. The 153! She was the living icon of the Madonna. Of that she was sure. But his nets were cast on the left side of the boat excluding the people on the right who were conservative and orthodox in their thinking. She couldn’t imagine how he was ever going to catch her and bring her and her orthodox brothers and sisters safely to shore.

So, when I opened my mouth and took a gulp of devotional water, I swallowed a pastoral letter from a guy named Mark. As this letter began to work its way into my digestive system it got me to thinking. I then heard myself asking: Who ever heard of a rock catching fish? So, I searched the online net. There, on the net I found a video clip of a young fisher making a rock lure.  As I watched the young fisher catch three fish, the Truth sunk in…I could trust the Rock to catch me, my orthodox brothers and sisters, and the next generation to preserve the art of fishing with a rock.  So that all would remember and know. Love turns demons into saints.  More importantly, it is Love that turns enemies hurling rocks, trashy talk and insults into welcoming friends and passionate lovers.  https://youtu.be/9stu2p6hF2U

Coincidences

Are coincidences mere chance events? Or are they God Interventions?

As, if by chance, while waiting in a line in Canberra at the 7th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, I met a person from Switzerland.

The Swiss person glanced at the name MRS LINDA VOGT on my United Church of Canada name tag, and struck up a conversation with me. In English.

In Vancouver, at the 6th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, I met Nicodemus (not his real name) in much the same way, as if by chance.  After all, I am a friendly person.  I talk to people as I wait in lines.

I’m convinced these two chance encounters were God Interventions.  Before I tell you why, I need to tell you that the 6th Assembly was held in Vancouver, 3 miles from Jericho, on the unceded territorial land of the Musqueum people.

Jericho is not just Jerry’s cove or a good place catch fish or swim. In the Bible, at least 5 Miracles happen in Jericho or on the Jericho Road that restore people’s faith and hope in God’s promise of salvation.

  1. Joshua captures Jericho: Joshua 6:1-21
  2. Elisha purifies the spring of Jericho: 2 Kings: 2:19-22
  3. Zacchaeus meets Jesus at Jericho: Luke 19:1-10
  4. Jesus heals Blind Bartimaeus at Jericho: Mark 10:46-52
  5. The Samaritan rescues a traveller on the Jericho Road: Luke 10:25-37

According to the Bible, the walls of Jericho fall because a female named Rahab, believed to be a prostitute gives overnight hospitality to Joshua and his spies in her home. In the battle for control of the city, Joshua and his soldiers spare Rahab and her family and welcome them into Joshua’s camp.

Similarly, Zacchaeus, believed to be a despised tax collector and enemy of the people of Jericho, gives overnight hospitality to Jesus. Because of this, Jesus restores and honours Zacchaeus and the whole town of Jericho as descendants of Abraham (Luke 19:1-10).

35 years ago, I was unaware of this connection.

35 years ago, the person I met near Jericho in Vancouver was a resistance leader as a boy during the Second World War.

Had I not turned to this man standing behind me in the lunch line, I would never have fully appreciated the philosophical nature of my conversation about “Man” and “Woman.” Nor would I have entertained the idea of driving to my home along the Jericho Road and spending the night with him.

Patriarchal language, place names, names and stories in the Bible are misleading. They blinded Paul and they have blinded many.

You see in the Bible, a person or a man can be either a he or a she, but grammar rules default to the male gendered pronoun. The theologian and man from the Assembly I took home with me made no argument when I made such a claim.

I suspect the Swiss I met at the 7th Assembly was aware of the connection this man from the Assembly and I shared. Perhaps he saw him and I speaking as I reached out and touched his camel hair pashmina draped over his shoulder…and him caressing my face and body with his eyes.

When the chance to speak with me presented itself, the Swiss told me something very important about the name, Mrs. Linda Vogt, recorded on my official 7th Assembly name tag. What he said opened my eyes. Something like fish scales fell from my eyes.  I could see how Nicodemus and the Woman Caught in Adultery are linked, to the Story of Zacchaeus.

The Swiss simply said:

“In my country, the name Vogt is a pejorative. To call a person a vogt, one is calling the person a cheat and a dirty, tax collector!”

The Swiss was telling the truth.  According to Wikipedia, during the Holy Roman Empire “vogt” was a title given to the noble or advocate, who was a steward or land owner. As such to be a vogt was to be considered a ruler, a member of the ruling class. These advocates or vogts as they were called, did not always charge people fairly for the use of their property.  And most likely, as people sold their lands, gave their land to the church, or lost their lands to colonizers, fewer and fewer people owned the land. As rents and taxes increased, people without wealthy relatives became resentful, and began to think of “Vogts” as grubby tax collectors.

The story of Zacchaeus is related to the story of Jericho.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zacchaeus This is no coincidence. Jesus and Joshua both receive hospitality from a person the Bible says is a sinner, an enemy, and a betrayer.

Jesus and Joshua both receive hospitality that is not legitimate.

Yet, Jesus and Joshua do not sully themselves by accepting this hospitality.  Nor do they suffer the same pejorative consequences as Rahab or the Vogt aka the rich Tax Collector. Is this fair?  Should not both the one receiving the hospitality and the one giving the hospitality be equally sullied or equally honoured?

The story of Zacchaeus is often used to illustrate the saying of Jesus: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8, because the name Zacchaeus means ‘pure’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zacchaeus

In the Bible, having a clean heart is important. The Singer in Psalm 51:10 sings:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right[a] spirit within me.

My first name Linda in Italian means “clean” or “pure” as does the name Zacchaeus.  More importantly, my previously married name of Vogt means tax collector or advocate. I don’t think I inherited these names by accident or by chance.

6 years ago, I met and fell in love with DonStewart at a Jazz Vespers event, the very same year Nicodemus and his wife accepted my invitation to be my honoured guests at the eco-justice conference I initiated at my then home church, Bethany-Newton. These events too, came about as “if” by accident or by chance.

DonStewart is a black jazz singer well-versed in the Gospel. He is a father, a divorcee and single. Many people know him as someone who speaks up and out against people who mistreat women and people of colour. He grew up in Amherstburg Ontario. He is a descendant of Eliza Harris, the heroine of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His mother’s name was Virginia.  Virginia was a Christian missionary and Don’s father was a Pentecostal ordained minister. Virginia whose name also means “virgin” as in “pure,” deliberately named Don, Don.  In Italian Don means “Lord.”  It is no accident that he and I intimate friend and lovers who on track for marriage.

On Easter Sunday 2017, Don’s neighbours woke up to convincing rumours claiming Don had died on Friday evening after singing at a local venue. Easter Friday is the day Jesus died.  Was this just a coincidence? People’s tongues and imaginations went into overdrive.  When film producers Steve Adams and Sean Horlor heard the story, they put together a storyboard with on-location interviews and live performances of DonStewart and his band—and pitched it to Storyhive as a docudrama with the title The Day Don Died.

The Day Don Died || Trailer (Widescreen) from Nootka St. on Vimeo.

Spoiler Alert…The Tomb is Empty. Don is Alive.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

On Sunday, the Minister at St Andrew’s Wesley United Church asked an important question. Other Ministers  following the Church Lectionary may have asked the same question. The Gospel reading for Sunday September 16, 2018 was Mark 8: 27-38 and in that scripture passage, Jesus asks Simon and the disciples: Who do you say that I am?

On Monday September 17th I sat down at my computer and drafted this blog. The first thing I did was to compare the Mark 8 question with the same question posed in Matthew 16.

Then I thought about the questions the angels and the anointed Rabboni ask the Woman in the Garden: Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for? (John 20).  In my experience, when a person is weeping, they are looking for someone to listen to them and to encourage them to tell people who have hurt them why they are sad. They may even want some vindication.

In Hebrew, the word LISTEN is a common Greek name. That word is Simon. So, it is important to note that Jesus asks the question Who do you say that I am? to Simon, to the one named in the Gospels as the epitome of the word Listen.

Reflecting on this some more, I asked myself. Why did Jesus ask Simon this question and why did the anointed Rabboni ask the Woman in the Garden, who she was looking for?

I’m now thinking, Jesus gives new meaning to the word Listen because the one called Listen, listens with his whole body and responds in love and faith. He replies: You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).

You see, in response to the one who listened with his whole body and responded in love and faith, Jesus says: Forever after you will be called Cephas…Peter…the Rock on which my Church will be built and you will stand at the Gate…with the keys of heaven. But then, Jesus also calls SIMON, Satan and a stumbling block.  Why?  He who listens is thinking like a human being, like a Cyrenaic (Mark 15:21) and not like a great Patriarch…created in the image and eternal likeness of God the Father.

So then I asked myself: Why is the Woman weeping in the Garden? What is causing her to stumble? Who is she looking for? Why does she think the Rabboni is the Gardener? Has the Rabboni taken HIS body? Is he keeping her, Peter and the disciples from realizing who Jesus of Nazareth is?

In my view, people need to ask: Who is the Gardener?  Jesus says I am the Vine and the Father is the Gardener, the husbandman who prunes my branches…John 15: 1-2). The psalmist in Psalm 128: 3 sings…happy is the man who fears the lord and walks in his ways…his wife will be a faithful vine.

The Rabboni responds to the Woman’s quest and her tears by giving her the name Mary, the name the widow Naomi called herself when she returned from Moab. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi a Hebrew name that means sweet and pleasant said: “…do not call me [sweet and pleasant] anymore…call me Mara for the Lord has treated me bitterly” (Ruth 1:20).  He has left me without a husband in my old age.

Standing “face to face” in the Garden of the Tombs, the Rabboni tells the one he called Mary to go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Then the narrator of John’s Gospel says, “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: 19-31).

Eventually, the disciples answer the question of who Jesus is in terms of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16:20) saying…“It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34).  As more and more disciples realize the truth more fully, a cloud of witnesses grows in faith and number as the Father takes his beloved by the hand and lifts her up (Acts 9: 41) in front of the anointed Rabboni and his beloved in the house of Grace also known as the house of Bethany (Luke 24:53) or heaven.

I love Peter’s speech after the Ascension, on the Day of Pentecost. He certainly knew his scripture. Everyone from all over was proclaiming the Good News in their own language. God had fulfilled the long awaited Messianic Prophecy. To those trying to follow along and LISTEN..the people sounded drunk. Peter however, sets them straight. According to Peter and all those hearing his words that day…Jesus of Nazareth, the very stone the chief builders rejected and crucified, is very much alive and pleased to be celebrating the gift and Patriarchal promise of the Holy Spirt with the anointed Teacher and their disciples (Acts 2; Acts 4:11).