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.
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 stay tuned. There is more to the story. I’ll be posting things here as the season of Epiphany moves into Easter. 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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]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 [Eternal] (Romans 8:38-39) .
May the gift of Emanuel bless you and give you hope for the New Year.
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
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 a Greek 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.
Joshua captures Jericho: Joshua 6:1-21
Elisha purifies the spring of Jericho: 2 Kings: 2:19-22
Zacchaeus meets Jesus at Jericho: Luke 19:1-10
Jesus heals Blind Bartimaeus at Jericho: Mark 10:46-52
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 is Greek and he and his wife live in Greece. He was a resistance leader as a boy during the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War. He knows several languages other than Greek, including German.
The Ecumenical Affair shows and tells how God intervened in my life in a big way and left me thinking. There are no such things as coincidences, or chance events, only God incidences.
Had I not turned to the Greek standing behind me in the lunch line, I would never have fully appreciated the philosophical nature of my conversation with the Greek 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 Greek philosopher and theologian 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 Greek’s inordinate love for me. Most likely he saw the Greek speaking with me…caressing my face and body with his eyes.
When the chance to speak with me presented itself, the Swiss told me he knew who I was in a very deliberate and godly way. He 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 Jesus 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 the land owners 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?
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 the Greek 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 are lovers.
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, especially when they saw him alive. 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.
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 risen Christ, 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).
This past Sunday my church celebrated a quiet Pentecost. The Worship Team wanted to celebrate Pentecost next Sunday because the youth and many parishioners were celebrating Canada’s Victoria Day weekend camping. The Team did not think the Spirit would mind or care switching the day to include everyone. Mind you, this coming Sunday will be Pentecost for the Eastern Orthodox Traditions. So, the Spirit of my church will be in keeping with the Spirit of Orthodox Worshipers. Nice.
Mary is the first human being to realize the goal of the incarnation: the deification of humanity. As such she represents the Church of Christ and should be honoured as the Mother of the Church. https://orthodoxwiki.org/Icons_of_the_Theotokos
However, Mary and many women have suffered at the hands of church people and their councils who insist the Son and the Father are Divine while Mary is not.
In the Church that Mary gives birth to, men and women should be equal. They should be ONE. There should be no divisions among them because God who is Holy is with them. The Church should honour and recognize their Mother as Holy because in my view she is Jesus the Vine. (John 15:1; Psalm 128:3) She and her children are her branches, the Church, the Risen Christ.
The early church viewed Mary Magdalene as being one and the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus (Vogt Turner p. 3-4, Mary Magdalene: her image and relationship to Jesus) So why are many people today having trouble seeing Mary Magdalene as Mary the Theotokos and the Mother of the Church?
John’s Gospel says that Mary Magdalene stood outside the Tomb crying. When the Angels asked her why, she told them she was looking for her Lord. When Mary encounters Jesus the Teacher in the Garden of the Tombs. She thinks he might be the Gardener, the Lord she is looking for. He assures her he has not assumed his body. As Jesus the Teacher speaks with her face to face, they begin to see and understand each other more clearly. Jesus the Teacher recognizes her as Mara, someone whose experience and story are an exceedingly bitter one. (John 20:13-18).
For centuries, many people saw Mary as the scarlet woman who revealed her unbridled love for the Teacher to the authorities by kissing his feet and wiping them with her unbound hair. Now many Church authorities insist Mary Magdalene is not the Adulteress of John’s Gospel or the Sinner Woman of Luke’s Gospel. I sometimes feel like a traitor when I point out to the Biblical authorities that there is evidence in the Scripture to suggest Jesus the Teacher was married to Martha and had an affair with the Woman called the Magdalene. Since I successfully defended my thesis, Mary Magdelene: her image and relationship to Jesus, I published The Ecumenical Affair to use my own personal experience to corroborate my thesis and to reveal Jesus the Teacher to the authorities as a married man who spent the night with Jesus the Woman.
Every Easter people in the Cretan Village of Vamos dress a scarecrow as Judas and seat it on a donkey. Then they parade it through the streets, hurl insults at it and then toss it on the bonfire at Midnight on Easter Saturday. They do this to “symbolize the cruel fate of the traitor.” http://www.vamosvillage.gr/vamos-village/local-festivals
So, I was cautious this past Sunday when the Worship Team at my church chose to have me read the lesson from John’s Gospel chapter 20: 19-22 instead of the traditional Acts and John readings. I did not want to appear as a traitorous figure. The passage I read follows after Mary and Jesus the Teacher stand outside the Tomb face to face and he tells her to go and tell his brothers that he must rise in front of the Lord, his Father and hers. When Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples that she has seen the Lord and tells them about what Jesus the Teacher has said to her, many people may not see or hear the subtle distinction of the Trinity here. Patriarchal language and the perception that Jesus is one person who somehow incarnates the Trinity prevents many people from seeing how Jesus comes in three persons to unite their followers.
Dressed in red to symbolize the scarlet love of Mary Magdalene and the flaming tongues of fire representing the Holy Spirit, I took my place on the seat behind the Pulpit and waited for a male choir to sing the anthem: Veni Creator Spiritus. Then I stood up and read.
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After Jesus said this, Jesus showed them his hands and his side, his rib. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When Jesus had said this, Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
I tried to make it as plain as possible using myself and personal experience as a visual aid, hoping my red hair and red dress would trigger their Biblical memory.
In my heart and mind, the Woman known as Mary Magdalene is the Woman Jesus the Holy Spirit. In John’s Gospel, after clearing her eyes and realizing Simon is the Lord, the Jesus Rock and her promised Bridegroom, She Jesus goes and stands among the disciples and gives them her breath, her personal words of assurance and inspiration that Peace, the Shulamite Bride in Solomon’s Song, has returned to life and regained her sovereignty as the Holy Spirit. As such she is the Lord’s beloved bride and worthy life companion. She too is eternal and a sovereign person in her own right. Over the centuries, she has suffered abuse at the hands of men and women and her own fears and lack of faith. She however stands as a testimony to God’s promise.
The children of Moses can trust the words of the Prophets, the Psalms and Moses. The Last Days may still seem far off for many. But with the very real threat of climate change and war, I think the time is here. Jesus has returned and it is time realize the importance of forgiveness and good stewardship. Peace embodied by She Jesus herself sends the Church into the world to suffer and share the work of loving each other and forgiving each other’s offences as the Father, the Teacher and She have done and are doing—secure in the knowledge that God’s earthly family can trust in the promise that GOD’S EARTHLY FAMILY is the inheritor of Eternal Life. Jesus is the Father, the Teacher and his beloved Martha and the Holy Spirit. Reconciled and united as One, HE/THEY testify to that promise.
Larry, you say “Jesus did not condemn the Woman for her past life of Sin because Jesus knew She was demon possessed, so therefore She was not guilty of sin by reason of demonic possession.” https://www.wake-up.org/bible-characters/mary-magdalene-mystery.html#comment-2819
Larry makes a good argument and I know many people could easily agree. Although, it is also possible Nicodemus is Jesus the “Good Teacher” who met with Jesus the Woman under the cover of darkness and is therefore the Man caught in adultery with her, Jesus the Woman.
The chief priests and Pharisees ask the temple guards why they had not brought Jesus in. The guards reply. “No one ever spoke the way this [person] does. ” The Pharisees retort. “You mean [this person] has deceived you also? Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in [this person]? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, and who was one of their number, asked. “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing [the accused] to find out what [s/he] is doing? …Then each went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn [Nicodemus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.
At the conclusion of the trial, Jesus the Woman speaks to the Man caught with her which implicitly includes Jesus known to the chief priests and Pharisees as Nicodemus, and everyone who is cast out when Nicodemus says, whoever is without sin, cast the first stone. She does not condemn him nor he her. Both Jesus say, “Go and leave your life of sin.” For as Paul declares to the Romans in 3:23, all have sinned …and are justified freely by God’s Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The insanity defence or the demon possession defence robs the Woman of her own moral agency. Mark 16:9 says, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” Scripture does not name these seven followers of Simon, to whom Jesus said…get behind me Satan (Matthew 16:23).
Knowing the Law and who Jesus is makes it easier to see these seven devils as the teachers of the law and the Pharisees backing Jesus the Good Teacher known to them as Nicodemus, who brought the Woman Caught in Adultery in for questioning. When the teachers and the Pharisees realized they too were sinners and could not cast the first stone, they were cast out, one by one (John 8:9).
Left alone, Jesus (the Teacher and the Woman) were left facing an exceedingly bitter moral dilemma. How could they work together to reconcile and bring peace and unity to their faith communities now that they had been caught in adultery and outed?
The day of the Blood Moon, I was studying the scripture passage of Saul’s conversion. I had no idea at all that there was to be a Blood Moon that day or any other day this year. I was just puzzled about the Light that blinded Saul and the significance of “Straight” street. Straight street was where the disciples took Saul and where filled with the Holy Spirit, fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes as Ananias laid his hands on Saul.
To understand a bit more about the context of my puzzlement, I should explain. In my last semester as a “Bachelor” an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University, I wrote an anthropology paper on Paul defending the premise that society has forgotten Paul was a female asserting herself as a scholar, a learned father of the faith.
Last summer, I received a Doctorate for writing The Ecumenical Affair, a creative non-fiction account of a mountain top experience that sent me to university, inspired me to write the aforementioned undergraduate paper, and filled me with an abiding love for God and God’s Ecumenical Household.
In university, I learned how to write essays and how to write creatively so that a writer could choose to put all her eggs in one basket and tell a story that is packed full of wisdom and insight. Some of her characters may have fictitious names and others may not. I have since learned that creative non-fiction or memoirs can threaten “orthodox” perceptions about “what is truth.”
So, I approached the Conversion account of Saul in Acts chapter 9 as a work of creative non-fiction and looked carefully at the names of the characters. The account concludes with Ananias placing his hands on Saul after Ananias himself hears the Lord speak to him in a vision, as a prophet would. Now, as many people of faith acknowledge, prophets create visions using word pictures full of symbolic language such as the sun turned black and the moon turned blood-red.
Many churchgoers may not realize that the name Saul or Solly can be a last name. In fact, my step father’s name was Solly. However, the name Saul in the Old Testament is believed to be the first name of the first king of Israel, before King David. Christians pronounce the name Saul as SOL. So, it is easy for me to imagine myself, as a learned scholar, as Saul a BRIGHT LIGHT sallying forth, letting her light shine like Sol, the Roman God, like Sol the Germanic Goddess of the sun and like Apollo the Greek Sun God http://romanpagan.blogspot.ca/2015/12/prayer-to-sol-apollo.html
In the Conversion Account, Ms. Saul was very definitely asserting herself. Scripture says her letters were threatening the disciples with murder. Thinking back to that paper I wrote as a bachelor, an undergraduate student, I recalled that I had argued that when Saul ended her marriage with her husband Steven, she killed herself as Steven. She broke the legal bond of marriage that made her one with her husband Steven.
Thinking about the stones thrown at Steven the first deacon[ess] of the Church? I asked myself, “Were they actual stones? Or were they living breathing stones connected to a living breathing wall? In I Peter 2:5, Peter the Apostle writes:
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.
Thinking more deeply about Saul’s conversion and the blinding light that caused Saul to fall to the ground, I recalled a more recent memory. I remembered how I looked up at the face of the person I now love deeply and intimately. He was standing behind me, but I could not see him because of all the sunshine streaming all around him and me. He is black. Against all the light his face disappeared. It wasn’t until he spoke and laid his hand on my shoulder, did I realize he was there.
Knowing the names of the Roman and Greek Gods of the Sun is culturally important to the integrity of the story. Knowing the Gospel Easter Story is also important. When Jesus stands in front of Pilate the man who asks “What is Truth?,” the narrative and dialogue reveal three people called Jesus: Jesus Barabbas, Jesus the Christ, and Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews, (Matthew 27: 11-16; John 19:19). At the conclusion of the Acts 9 account of Saul’s conversion, Saul proves to people that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22). Later in Acts 18:18, Apollo also proves Jesus is the Christ.
Another important scripture verse to remember is Acts 4:11 quoted by Simon Bar Jonah also known as Peter.
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Beware. The Light can blind and confuse people into discounting Simon as merely a fisher of the great catch, one who is not the one people call Jesus of Nazareth equal in every way to Jesus the Christ, who appeared to the Teacher’s beloved Lady and to the tearful Mary in the garden of the tombs whom he also loved (John 11:5)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
Remember Simon carried the Cross of Jesus (Mark 15:21).
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Many teachers insist there were many Simons and these Simons were all different. Call me foolish and irrational, but I simply do not believe that. The Simon carrying the Cross is a Cyrenaic. A Cyrenaic was a philosopher holding the worldly view that the pursuit of happiness is a noble pursuit. Remember Gospel writers also say Jesus renamed Simon, Peter, the Rock of the Church in Matthew 16:17 and then in verse 23 told Peter.
Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.
Thinking Peter to be Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and who prophets say is an eternal high priest, sinless in God’s eyes, not man’s (Hebrew 4:14), I thought it prudent to look up the NAME ANANIAS because Ananias appears in scripture as the high priest (Acts 23:2).
…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?
When Saul later known as Paul stood trial in Rome, Paul’s vision became even clearer to me. Paul was using prophetic language and trying to bring people “face to face” with the living God who had created and is creating people in God’s own image and “eternal” likeness as living stones, the very heart and soul of the earth. Paul says,
I saw and heard the Lord speak to me in a vision from heaven. He told me “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
The power of Satan is keeping believers and Paul in chains, because Satan’s power comes from silence, disbelief and spiritual blindness.
Saul called Ananias a white washed wall. (Acts 23:3) Now of course, to call the Lord, the high priest of Heaven a white washed wall sounds like a slap in the face. In some contexts, it is and in others it is a wakeup call.
Remember Jesus calls Simon, Peter and Satan. I think calling the Rock, Satan would be a slap in the face too. Such a negative label stinks and is as insulting as the one Simon the Pharisee and the Prophetic Teacher gave the Woman who anointed Jesus. Both men gave her the label “sinner” (Luke 7: 35-50; Mark 10:17).
So, what am I saying? Was Paul crazy? Was Paul merely retaliating? Or was Paul reminding Peter and those in ear shot that there are three persons proclaiming the Good News of the Resurrection in the name of Jesus who share the role of Christ and all three persons have sinned and fallen short according to the Law of Moses and all three are sanctified, restored and washed clean by their faith in each other and by the forgiveness and faith of their beloved communities.
After Saul’s conversion, Saul sallies forth with restored vision and proves Jesus is the Christ and proves Jesus alive (Acts 9:22). Now…look at other scriptures such as 1 Cor 1:11-13 and Acts 18:28. The Truth is there for people to see with their very own eyes. The Cloud hides Jesus and the Cloud can also make Jesus visible again.
WOW! And the second coming is coming again in these times too. Especially now, when so many people are so sure Jesus is a single divine male who is androgynous.
Have those people forgotten the importance of the Great Commission Matthew 28: 19-20? Jesus commanded the disciples to go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME[S] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Have people let patriarchal language, monotheism, sexism, racism, political correctness and historical critical thinking cloud their teaching?
I believe Christianity has a gift to share with Humanity, God’s only born child. Other religions can help Christianity and share in the joy of worshipping God by acknowledging the Second Coming is the fulfillment of prophecy. The Second Coming proves Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and assures those who believe that they too can come back to life again and again.
Will the Second Coming spell a nuclear disaster? It could. Doomsday prophets and people full of Scripture lessons touting Satan as the Snake and the source of all lies are giving Satan the power to deceive and frighten people with the apocalypse, a sudden destruction of a bigger rock that we know and love as the EARTH.
Take heart. Remember the Rock Jesus called Satan is a stumbling block and the chief cornerstone of the Church’s foundation.
Many churches today filled with priests and church goers may have forgotten or simply dismissed the man called Simon the Cyrene as merely a man who Mark says was “forced” or compelled (out of a deep abiding love) to embrace the Cross of Jesus. As previously mentioned, many teachers of the faith, tell their students that there were nine Simons in the New Testament and only one Peter. https://www.peterdehaan.com/the-bible/9-guys-in-the-bible-named-simon/
This is a big clue.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
You see, the nine Simons are all one and the same person people have described differently. These nine ways of describing Simon, also known as Peter make the one sure foundation that the Church is built upon.
People need to clue in and help others clue in. What the world needs now is LOVE. People need to know, God created and is creating humanity in God’s own image and eternal likeness male and female. No one person has seen God, for God is love. When we love one another and our neighbour as ourselves we make God visible. When we call people names such as hypocrite, racist, white supremist, slut, lech, homo or homophobe, perhaps we should stop ourselves and ask ourselves. What is going on? What are we doing? Are we loving one another as we see Jesus loving? If so, then perhaps we need to recalculate and rethink what we think we know about who Jesus is.
Jesus came to remind the world that God forgives those who make mistakes and say and do things that are hurtful. Scripture reveals Jesus calling the Pharisees white washed tombs and hypocrites. (Matthew 23:27). Jesus also called the Rock, the very foundation of the Church Satan. What’s going on? Why is Jesus hurling such vicious epithets at people? Where is the love for friends here?
Is Ananias a white washed wall after all? Is Paul merely trying to get his attention, to remind him who he is and his divine calling?
Is this why the Roman Procurator says Saul is insane and why the Gospel of John claims nothing good could come from a town like Nazareth or the region of Galilee? Down through the centuries, worshippers and church doctrine claim Jesus is sinless and yet Scripture passages show Jesus as a hot head telling people off or stonewalling them.
However, the point is Jesus came to show people how to forgive one another and to show how hurtling insults at one another destroys the credibility of the Church and her unified foundation. Today more so than ever before, church goers can clue in to who who Jesus is and the importance of “forgiveness” without spending years in a convent or monastic cell studying Latin and Greek.
Church goers can easily understand literary themes. They can see how Jesus the Rock is not a sinless person full of loving thoughts, twenty-four seven. Nor is Jesus the Good Teacher or the innocent lamb Jesus who entertained the Good Teacher under the cover of darkness.
Patriarchal language is deceptive, even if one knows ancient Greek. So epic movies and other modern forms of media still have the power to deceive. Jesus the Good Teacher visited Jesus the Woman in her home under the cover of Darkness (John 3:1-21; John 7: 50 -52; John 19:39). Yet, Jesus the Woman entertaining the Good Teacher in her home under the cover of darkness is not the innocent lamb or scarlet cloaked demon possessed penitent, tradition makes her out to be. She is aware of the darkness and the intimate setting. The Teacher did not force himself on her. She willingly entertained him under the cover of darkness as if to seduce him into the light. After a lengthy intimate theological chat, she says:
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
The Atonement theory makes Jesus and all humanity spotless and without sin, by divine forgiveness, or in the words of popular evangelism, washed in the blood of the lamb.
Many modern people believe the “blood of the lamb” atonement theory is outdated. However, they may be more about getting the wolf to admit he has wronged the lamb than they are about getting both the wolf and the lamb to live in peace and harmony as God intended.
In my view, when people truly forgive one another and hold no resentment toward the other for past insults or hurts, they free themselves from a prison full of recrimination. They let go of justifications such as I am the innocent lamb, the victim and you are the wolf, the perpetrator, you must pay for what you have done and you must repent. You must stop being an aggressive wolf and you must live out your days in a zoo or wildlife preserve where zoo keepers feed you kibble. This justification merely, gives the one who feels wronged the power to persecute, victimize and oppress the one who has done him or her wrong.
In the new heaven and new earth prophecy, the wolf and the lamb will lay down together. The lion will eat straw like the ox! (Isaiah 65:25) In other words, the lion and the ox will both eat humble pie. Both will have to take responsibility for their own part in the drama caused by their conflicting needs, wants and desires or those of their communities.
According to prophetic wisdom, the Day of the Blood Moon, signals the end of time. People have seen many blood moons and the end of time has never arrived. So why should this time be any different? Things have heated up in the world and people are extremely divided on issues. Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons makes the destruction of the earth more likely now than ever before.
It is very possible his old earth will renew with what some may call a nuclear explosion caused by the rapid release of energy from a nuclear reactor. It is also very likely many Christians and non-Christians will fear this day as the “terrible Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31) and step up their efforts to save the earth through conservation and ascetic efforts that see indulgence and luxury as sins or crimes against nature. Many liberal Christians may agree with them and many may not and many others may try to discredit them, in their zeal to honour more modern worldly thinking.
However, I believe it is more likely people of faith will rally together realizing Conservative and Liberal Christians and nations have much to learn from each other. Rallied together, forgetting old animosities, Liberal and Conservative Christians will welcome the Day of the Lord and live to tell their grandchildren and their neighbours they saw this old earth have a conversion experience like Saul’s when the sun turned black and Artemis, the sister of Apollo, the Greek goddess of the moon became cloaked in scarlet as Saul alive and well after many perilous journeys, carried the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, their kings and the people of Israel (Acts 9:15).