‘An Incomprehensible Attempt.’ The Trinity!

Hildegard of Bingen, the 11th century theologian and mystic, imaged it in grand metaphorical style: A brightness, a flashing forth, and a fire. And the three are one.

John Robinson, the English 1960s radical bishop of Honest to God fame, said it had become a formula as arid and as unintelligible as E=MC2 that Einstein said was the clue to the physical universe.

While in one of his weekly eMail newsletters, Bishop Jack Spong said: “No one can ultimately define God, not even as the Holy Trinity.  The height of human arrogance is to suggest otherwise.  All any of us can do is define not God, but our experience with God. There is a vast difference between those two things.  The Trinity is a definition of our experience, nothing more.  Those that make this definition of our experience the definition of God, and call it the ‘bedrock belief of Christianity’ are not well informed.” (Spong Newsletter, 2008)

I suggested that the Doctrine of The Trinity’ might be a literary device, seeking to frame an understanding of God based on the Christian Myth of a special divine Son who through abandonment and thus sacrifice became the salvation of humankind. The doctrine seeks to deconstruct the divine character  so as to answer reasons questions. I also posited a question. That of “What if ‘Sacredness’ in everything, is a better doctrine?’

The reality of the challenges of the above reflection and suggestion is that here are those who argue that any person, but especially feminist theologians, who want alternative names for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, should be declared enemies of the church, or heretics.

What the elephant in the room is, is that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. A doctrine for which many have always harboured a (healthy) discontent. And while this rather serious debate continues, seriously, other stories about the doctrine also abound. Especially in the context of those culturally bound arguments called creeds. And as Rex Hunt puts is ‘during BBQs!’ One of his Catholic colleagues from theological student days, said he remembered the first time he became aware of just how difficult and obscure the doctrine of the Trinity can be.
“I remember as a teenager being in church and reciting the Athanasian Creed.  We got to the bit which reads, The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The man sitting next to me muttered, too loudly for comfort: The whole damn thing incomprehensible!” It seems that the ‘Trinity’ is incomprehensible indeed! At best irrelevant, and perhaps at worst, nonsensical.

We might pause here to acknowledge that Marcus Borg’s in his book ‘The God We Never Knew,’ and in Val Webb’s ‘Like Catching Water in a Net’. They suggest that the Latin and Greek words translated as ‘person’ do not mean what ‘person’ most commonly means in English. For us, ‘person’ means separate human being. But ‘person’ in the ancient texts refers to the mask worn by actors in Greek and Roman theatres. And Rex highlight Borg’s words:
“To speak of one God and three persons is to say that God in known to us wearing three different ‘masks’… in three different roles.”  (Borg 1997:98)

The image here is of a multifaceted sacredness, creating, indwelling, sustaining, resisting, recreating, challenging, guiding, liberating, completing. Not a reductionist simplifying example of a reasoned outcome. And cumulatively speaking, Borg suggests that when we step away from a literalist understanding, but a poor attempt at proving that God is not a distant being but is sacredness-ing near at hand. God is not primarily the lawgiver and judge but the compassionate one and the religious life is not about requirements, but about relationship.

Like Rex I am of the opinion that if more sermons were shaped by progressive theological thinking about the Trinity, then: most lay people would welcome such honesty from their ministers, most lay people would be enriched by such theological honesty and freedom,  and the literalness which often binds this doctrine, into a limited kind of definition of God, could be answered in a creative and imaginative way, and the original experience to which the doctrine points could be given new life,  freed from the interventionist prison it suffers within and the dead outer shell of the doctrine be discarded to the rubbish tip.

What this would affirm is that the way we imagine or understand what the word God tries to do and what Sacredness in everything might unveil could be valued. In the words of Irish priest and theologian, Diarmuid O’Murchur: “How precisely the relatedness of Jesus differs from that of the Father and Spirit may well be one of the most meaningless questions ever asked.”  (O’Murchur 2005:52)

Rex suggests that having a holiday weekend with Trinity Sunday in the middle, would allow for an emphasis of certain aspects of the nature of sacredness we are likely to ignore when we take our creed-driven neo-orthodox theologies so seriously! He says that having a holiday at this time of the year could remind us that simply getting together as a family for BBQs and picnics and taking delight in each other and in the world around us, would echo and reflect something of the spirit of Sacredness in which we ‘live and move and have our being’.

His reasoning is that there is wisdom to be found in merely being playful as we would be expressing something of the nature of Sacredness not least the mystery of the livingness of God in a wondrous community… a creative energy beyond reason, a compassionate cosmic traveler with, an empowering friendship within, connecting ‘all creation’ together.

Maybe… just maybe, this is really what the storyteller Matthew is on about.  That the essence of God is to be in mutual relation with everything… A mystery of dynamic communion of connectedness beyond that of things. A dancing and celebrating BBQ Emmanuel.

Sounds easier than the literal and liturgical interests of the ‘church fathers’ who set this lectionary story for this Sunday after Pentecost with its tenuous links to the so-called doctrine of the Trinity. Amen.

Borg, M. J. The God We Never Knew. Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith. New York. HarperCollins, 1997.
O’Murchu, D. Catching Up With Jesus. A Gospel Story for our Time. New York. Crossroad Publishing, 2005.
Webb, V. Like Catching Water in a Net. Human Attempts to Define the Divine. New York. Continuum Press, 2007.

‘Consciousness and the Nudging of Sacredness!’

Again, we arrive at the season of Pentecost that starts with the day we call Pentecost Day, Aside from being named as the birthday of the church or the Coming of The Spirit is has been the day Christians traditionally see ‘red’! Every year on Pentecost Day we hear Luke’s story of what he claims happened in Jerusalem 50 days after what we have come to call the Easter event. It’s a playful story full of symbolism and great drama. Like a movie director suggests William Loader, Luke, the one we traditionally claim as the editor of the Acts of the Apostles, scripts a scene with wind and fire, symbols of the present-ness of God, using flamboyant speech. Flamboyant speech it may be but some scholars might suggest it is clever use of Rhetoric as speeches containing words or phrases that engender wide ranging cultural usages of the time. Words like “conspiracy theory” or “violence” or “victim” are used to invoke an audience by drawing on their fears to emphasize an issue and draw sympathy for a cause or the plight of the speaker. This goes alongside the hermeneutics, the art of encouraging interpretation encouraging the hearer to explore the meaning for themselves. The task of this form of communication is similar to the task of Myth, it contains the truth by offering the opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of the claim for a single absolute truth. One might also see it as an entry point into a discussion about the definition or evidence of consciousness.  Current study is discovering consciousness in other than human expressions of creation.

Nikos Kazantzakis wrote in a piece called ‘The Cry’ a creation story that went as follows;

Blowing through heaven and earth,
and in the heart of every living thing,
is a gigantic breath – a great Cry – which we call God.

Plant life wished to continue its motionless sleep next to stagnant waters,
but the Cry leaped up within it and violently shook its roots:
“Away, let go of earth, walk!”

Had the tree been able to think and judge,
it would have cried:
“I don’t want to.
What are you urging me to do?
You are demanding the impossible!”

But the Cry, without pity, kept shaking its roots and shouting,
“Away, let go of the earth, walk!”

It shouted in this way for thousands of eons;
and lo! as a result of desire and struggle,
life escaped the motionless tree and was liberated.

Animals appear – worms – making themselves at home in water and mud.
“We’re just fine here,” they said.
“We have peace and security; we’re not budging!”

But the terrible Cry hammered itself pitilessly into their loins.
“Leave the mud, stand up, give birth to your betters!”
“We don’t want to! We can’t!”
“You can’t, but I can. Stand up!”

And lo! After thousands of eons, humans emerged, trembling on their still unsolid legs.

The human being is a centaur; our equine hoofs are planted in the ground,
but our body from breast to head is worked on and tormented by the merciless Cry.

We have been fighting again for thousands of eons,
to draw ourselves, like a sword,
out of the animalistic scabbard.

Humanity calls in despair,
“Where can I go?
I have reached the pinnacle, beyond is the abyss.”
And the Cry answers,
“I am beyond. Stand up!”

All things are centaurs.
If this were not the case, the world would rot into inertness and sterility.

The story uses common images of nature to provide biological, reasoned and philosophical truths to marry the logical, abstract, literal and reasoned with the aesthetic, metaphorical spiritual in an interplay of beautiful symmetry.

Such speech may on the surface seem to be an inadequate way of addressing the present-ness of God, but I suspect the use of metaphorical images – wind and fire – can be a more helpful way than trying to use abstract theoretical words. Rex Hunt suggested that perhaps  this might be part of the secret behind the popularity of Dan Brown’s fictional novel ‘The Da Vinci code’. What is certain is that it is folly to try and read the script literally, whatever historical events may or may not lie behind our Pentecost story.

And it’s not an original or exclusive script either. We also hear one other revised version
from the storyteller/theologian called John. Yet along with Easter and Christmas, Pentecost is one of the three major Christian festivals. So, what was and is Pentecost? And is it just about a ‘language’ game as many charismatics/fundamentalists and literalists usually argue against the liberal and post liberal view. If truth is not an absolute does that mean that anything goes? I want to claim with Iain McGilchrist that it does not. However, that’s, another 10 sermons of more.

To get a sense of some of the story we need to hear a little bit of historical and cultural background. Because what we commonly remember or know as Pentecost is usually a linking of some stories where that linkage was never intended.  The current debate about the relationship between Acts and Luke is a case in point. Some scholars say Acts and Luke were written as one book whereas others say they weren’t. The difference is a critique of language that could be said to be an interpretation of the difference between Rhetoric (the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.) and the Hermeneutic.(a method or theory of interpretation.)

When revisiting what was and is Pentecost, we see that Pentecost’s roots are in Judaism.  Pentecost was, and still is, a Jewish festival. Occurring 50 days after Passover it links Israel’s much older agricultural cycle to her religious history. That is, it celebrates both the completion of the harvest as well as the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai.

So, to the groups of Jewish ‘revisionists’ – followers of the sage from Nazareth – the groups of followers of the Jesus Way within Judaism and including gentiles were still grappling with their Jewish roots, and struggling to survive in a sometimes hostile ‘orthodox’ religious climate, where ‘new’ could mean death, these images would have spoken to them.

William Loader helpfully suggests:  “Luke is saying that the coming of the Spirit is as epoch making as the giving of the Law, the scripture on Sinai and more.” (W Loader Web site, 2005)

So, it is very possible that this revamped story would have given them a sense of legitimacy and purpose and empowerment. Their world view was rooted in their historical past even though they were liberalizing the so-called truths under the influence of a belief based adherence. And they remembered… as at ‘creation’ and in the harvest, as in the valley of ‘dry bones’ and at the giving of the ‘law’ on Mt Sinai… The spirit or present-ness of God was active: as Ruach, as Breath and as Spirit. Their ‘before’, being, – in the prophets, their, ‘during’, being – in Jesus himself, and their, ‘after’ being – in the subsequent witness of the apostles. The spirit of God was at work creating the new community of the church, resulting in the beginning of the post-Easter mission of the early Christian movement.

So, Is Pentecost just about a ‘language’ game? Luke, as storyteller rather than historian, continues his use of flamboyant language. Rushing wind. Tongues of fire. Other tongues. Often called ‘glossolalia’ and associated with Charismatic and Pentecostal churches Luke’s Pentecost story – speaking in foreign languages and Paul’s ‘gift of spirit’ story – speaking in unintelligible speech, are often linked. But this is to make a link not intended by the storyteller.

Indeed, Luke’s ‘foreign languages’ at Pentecost has the opposite effect. The visitors to Jerusalem marveled: Are not all these who are speaking actually Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? So “rather than being unintelligible speech, it was supremely intelligible” suggests Marcus Borg  (Borg/Beliefnet Web site). If the storyteller is making any links it is more likely to be with the story of the Tower of Babel. From the babble of languages – a symbol of fragmentation… To the inclusion of languages – a symbol of one new humanity, able to bridge differences and to value diversity… A metaphor depicting the diversity among the early movement. This sounds rather contemporary, to our ears but what if we have undervalued metaphor and rhetoric and the Hermeneutical in a search for a so-called limited reasoned absolutist outcome.

So, what might Pentecost be for us, in the 21st century, in our urbanized and globalized culture ? We know that somehow Pentecost is something more than a so-called past event. It is the story of God’s continuing present-ness experienced again and again… even if we have different names for that which many of us name God. It is the “the amazing story of people coming to awareness through reflection on the life of Jesus that the same Spirit that moved in him moved in them.”  (Morwood 2003:84). We progressive Christians might also say that it is a story of coming to awareness through reflection on the life and work of Jesus that it is the same Spirit that moves in all myth and story of human life. Karen Armstrong’s claim that all faiths have compassion as the common endeavour is an example of this order beyond order or common value like that of truth that encompasses all truths. A key point is that this common truth is beyond languages ability to define. It is perhaps like Caputo’s naming of something does not mean it exists but rather insists. It is the organic, the dynamic, the unquantifiable essence of. Not ‘incarnate’ in the individual, but becoming incarnate in the ‘us’. As people dreaming dreams and seeing v isions of justice and compassion in the world. Not in the literal babble of tongues, but in the very gift of tongues – the ability to hear and speak the word, each as we come to know it, understand it, and tell it, in the uniqueness of our own experiences as they unfold as authentic in the mass.

So, while there is much in our daily, ordinary living as urbanized nationalized and globalized and as members of the Church/Institution, and of  our congregations, that can sap our energy and frustrate us no end there is also the possibility that Pentecost in the 21st century might be imagined as “the nudging of Sacredness in our lives which can bring about an expanding  experience of what life is really designed to be about.” Life is not about absolutes and definitions and efficiency and production and profit or being in control or winning.none of these.

So, where and how is that ‘nudging’ now?  That’s the 64-million-dollar question, isn’t it? If the stories from the past are any guide, this nudging of  Sacredness will touch us in such creative ways we’ll be totally surprised. It could be said to be birthed in Consciousness such as the ideas behind mystery and ‘more’ and I would add ‘Almost’ as the naming of Sacredness.

And one of those ‘creative ways’ that could be the surprise, is in the way Christianity could be transformed by an openness to other religions, and its desire to relate to them in the quest for a newer and broader form of spirituality.  (J Killinger, 2008/ http://www.csec.org)

A new Christianity for a new age is a phrase we have heard often and certainly way beyond the current wave of fundamentalism and new neo-orthodoxy in all the religions of ‘the book’, which breeds and lives on fear.

So, is the nudging of Sacredness or Spirit the awareness of consciousness and its persistence beyond language and is Pentecost the celebration of the awareness of the pervasiveness and unfolding of consciousness? What if ‘The Spirit of Pentecost, the Red flames that enter lives and transform them is in fact the consciousness that is a fundamental priori of reality beyond language (pre- creation, and glossolalia)?

Morwood, M. Praying a New Story. Melbourne. Spectrum Books, 2003. 

‘Ascension, Glorification, Into the Womb of Sacredness’

It is the end of the Festival or Season of Easter. After some 50 days, following an agenda primarily set by the storyteller Matthew, even though the majority of gospel stories have been told by the storyteller/mystic we call John, we have run out of Easter type stories, or have we? We have arrived at a one-day Season, called Ascension Sunday. A Season which uses a heap of ‘up there’ mythical language “as naively as any passage in the New Testament”
to quote 1960s ‘Honest to God’ John Robinson.  (Robinson 1967:76). So, what are we now, to make of the Ascension story in the twenty-first century?

We read in John about a way of viewing Jesus in that Jesus will not leave them bereft, like orphans.  They “will see” him, even though no one else will.  (“…the world can neither see nor know him…”)  The formula “on that day” is used throughout the Old Testament, and the fourth gospel uses it here to underline Jesus’ relationship and identification with the Father.  What’s more, the community’s relationship with Jesus is the same as Jesus’ relationship with the Father, the first such statement in the fourth gospel.

The community “knows” the advocate, and, “on that day,” the community “will know” that Jesus is in the Father.  The word is ginoskoGinosko, as previously mentioned, is knowledge through intimate experience–“mystical knowledge,” you might say.  It is not so much a reasoned-based “knowing,” but more revelation-based “knowing.”

The fourth gospel anticipates some of the trinitarian debate that would come two or three hundred years later.  The Son is in intimate relationship with the Father, yet is distinct from the Father.  Jesus has a direct relationship with the Father, and a direct relationship with the community, though the community itself is in relationship with the Father indirectly, through Jesus. The Father is utterly transcendent, known only through the Son.  John Sanford notes that “in Christian mystical thought…the Father is God as the uncreated One, pure Being or Existence itself who cannot be known or described in any human categories.” 

The Father is beyond space and time, and, therefore, beyond reasoned and rational description.  The eastern tradition calls this “apophatic” theology, which means that God can only be described in negatives, i.e. without name, without origin, without end.  Gregory of Nyssa:  Not unlike the Great Dao which reminds us that the God we know is not God. “There is no way of comprehending the indefinable as by a scheme of words.  For the Divine is too noble and lofty to be indicated by a name, and we have learned to honour by silence that which transcends reason and thought.” (Against Eunomius, 10)

The question that reason leaves us with is:  If the Father is unknown, how can be the Father be known?   And the fourth gospel asserts that The Father can be known through the Son.  The Father cannot be known, but the Son can be known, and to know the Son is to know the Father. This suggests that there is a possibility that some of those who first heard or read the story of Jesus being ‘raised in glory’(like one of the ancient Greek heroes) 70 -90 years after the life of Jesus, actually believed he ascended to a literal heaven and would return from God’s throne ‘someplace up there’ at the end of time.  (Epperly P&F Web site 2005). However that could also be a retrospective interpretation imposed on an earlier questioning.

The challenge we have is that despite how the earlier communities made sense of their world it is not how we understand our world today. So, the Ascension story is a bit of a test case of our ability to cope with strange language, and primitive cosmology. A world that was three tiered where up there was an accepted reasoned or metaphorical interpretation. Remember that reason may not have been separated from non-reason in those days.

The challenge for us, it seems to me, is to find new ways and new phrases of contemporary significance beyond the traditional literal rationalized images of ancient knowledge for the telling of both the Jesus stories and the God story. In literary circles a new look at the concepts and language used to explain what we considered reality in the age of the story or, and of the storyteller.

Some reason-based questions in theology involve humanism, posthumanism, and transhumanism and these go to the realm of so-called artificial intelligence and the use of algorithms and their effect on thought and our understanding of what it means to be human. But that is another few sermons ahead, I am sure.

For today we might restrict ourselves to being a recognition that story and poetry, image, intuition and imagination are important and culturally influenced as to their proximity to a truth.

So, it is probable that we can be clear that the heart of this particular Jesus story is not about some pre-scientific form of space travel… Neither is it about a past moment in time, nor about some possible future event, usually called the Second Coming. It is primarily a story about our calling to engage in the reality of our world in order to heal and transform it. Thisworld and not some other. The call is to live in the world that is never as it seems, never about certainties, never discovered by reasoning nor fantasy but rather always that which is becoming. The call of the Ascension story is to look beyond the assumed, the presenting reality and to live faithfully in this life on the journey that Jesus chartered.

Likewise, when we are engaged in our God-talk it too needs to go beyond our traditional literal images. Images are far too important to be limited to rationalization. One person who has attempted this is Shirley Murray among others who as contemporary composers whose work invites us to imagine God or the sacred, differently, and to experience faith with some different accents.

We know of some of Shirley’s creativity as her contemporary hymns are often included in many Progressive services of worship. We are also reminded of the creative work of Miriam Therese Winter, a Catholic sister and theologian whose continuing invitation to us all is to consider the feminine image of God. Not in some cheap Hallmark Mother’s Day card theology, but addressing God in relational ways.

In one of her many reflections, she offers this: The God of history, The God of the Bible.
is One who carries us in Her arms after carrying us in Her womb, breastfeeds us, nurtures us,
teaches us how to walk, teaches us how to soar upward just as the eagle teaches its young
to stretch their wings and fly, makes fruitful, brings to birth, clothes the lilies of the field, clothes Eve and Adam with garments newmade, clothes you and me with skin and flesh and a whole new level of meaning with the putting on of Christ…
 (Winter 1987:20).

At one level this is an issue of justice in a culture of patriarchy. What is clear is that in our time the issues of exclusive language, human rights and gender equality are still with us. We are still influenced by the historic question of power and control and hierarchy of influence. And at another level this is about a different way of thinking theologically and imagining God. What we need to be careful of is that in reality this is not a not a very new way, because the feminine image of God has been around for generations. It can be claimed that the feminine was successfully buried by church patriarchy as ‘pagan’.

So, thinking theologically, which the biblical stories of the Ascension demands that we do, means more than just interpreting our given orthodox biblical tradition and creedal statements. It also means being willing to think differently now than in the past! And to take seriously that this can be dangerous stuff. Jesus proclaimed good news yet this was in the main, rejected.
Not because it was good, or bad, but because it was new in his context.

So, this day, as the season which celebrates new or changed life comes to a close, maybe we could imagine the ‘womb’ of God’ or ‘the Sacred birthing of us’ to be wonderful,
creative, and caring human beings… Born in the image of the One who has borne us.
Pilgrims along the way – on a not-so-easy journey which Jesus first chartered.

Robinson, J. A. T. But That I Can’t Believe! London. Fontana Book, 1967.
Winter, M. T. Woman Prayer Woman Song. Resources for Ritual. Oak Park. Meyer Stone, 1987.


A God that Lives and Comes to Wonderful Expression in Us.

Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday comes around once a year and amidst the wrestle with inclusive language and the need to avoid inferring that Mother’s, are only the functions they perform in the procreative imperative, or assigning being to doing when we know that ones being is more than the sum of ones parts or of ones actions, and in the current environment of a search for a gender neutral designation many clergy avoid the day or pay lip service to the commercial worlds use of it. A harsh and simplistic critique that may be but it touches on issues of justice, harmony wisdom and learning.

Last week I spoke about the words put into the mouth of Jesus by the storyteller John:
‘I am the way and the truth and the life’, and the interpretation I offered, may have been challenging to some of you. One parishioner at a Sunday service I was at was adamant that it was a waste of time talking about such issues that had no interest in most people’s world. However, it is often the subject of debate in the wider world that speaks against religion and Christianity.

For those of you who didn’t read my words of last week I should probably recap a little. The question was: ‘how can we make sense of the claim: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’.

Traditionally, these words have often been used, and come across, as exceedingly exclusive.
As if Jesus, in the guise of a benevolent but first century ‘Terminator’, is making an ambit claim against other religions. Or is some kind of heavenly bouncer, keeping people away from God.
Especially those without faith. Those with not enough faith. And those who express their faith differently.

My sermon was about the opposite of this. Jesus is not the way in the sense of a dogmatic guide or a model of leadership.  I suggested that he was and is the path-way into the depths of the God/self/neighbour relationship… This is in keeping also with the central theme to all the gospels and that is a concern for the Kingdom of God or the realm or God which is different from the realm of human power and control. Simply it is a reigning of loving. The serendipitous, so-called weak theological power process is the realm of God, not the dogma driven one we belong to then and still now. The Jesus Way is a way of being and doing that is the discovery of the ever-present mystery of our common existence. It makes sense because it is real, it reflects our relational being, it affirms our experience and it invites us into a hope and a peace beyond understanding. As Jack Spong suggests I think, we are encouraged to love wastefully.

Jesus is the truth about that common existence. Uncovering what is hidden, and bringing to light another dimension of human existence. He is speaking into a culture where the Greek and Roman philosophical thinking is grounded in reason and human control of certainties. Ceasars’ are Gods. Sadly, as the Gospel engaged the Gentile World its need for distinctiveness and difference led to the assumption of ideas of supernaturalism and deism that claimed superiority for the Jesus Way distorting process into the power of certainty over difference.

Jesus is life because he is the way and truth by which God, self, and neighbour, break their isolation and flow into each other. So, the challenge for those of us who live comfortably with the title ‘progressive’, and that’s not everyone who attends progressive churches, is not the existence of other faiths claims. For the most part, most of us happily embrace religious pluralism and spiritual diversity as part of our reality as human people who think. The challenge, it seems to me, is our surrendering of the Christian story to exclusive cults and preaching gurus, to fundamentalists and members of the ‘religious right’, and to the new neo-conservative evangelicals. They are not religiously different. They are driven by the dogmatic obsession with certainty and power and control. In my view they deny the cross and thus the humanity of Jesus. But that was last week.

One way into this week is to wrestle with the differences between the religion of Jesus, and
the religion about Jesus. The sometimes-subtle difference is that the religion of Jesus is found in the echoes of the sayings he spoke and the stories he told, not as law, but about how to live, how to treat one another, how to re-imagine the world. In another sense to seek to value being human and to establish values as the basis of being human. An engagement in the process of becoming rather than ticking of the boxes achieved to become. The religion about Jesus has often been the religion of literalism and fundamentalism. And when the story is about Jesus it becomes the believing a certain story about an interventionist God, with the promise that if you do believe, you’ll be saved some day after you die.

The religion of Jesus is not a ‘supernatural’ story. It is not a story that has to wrestle with magic and superstition. It is about how you can be made more whole, here and now, and how you can help make the world more whole, here and now. From our very best guesses (thanks to the work of amateur sleuths and scholarly critics), we can say the message of the religion of Jesus was one of liberation and empowerment and compassion. Of providing new or different pathways to experiencing and serving God or the Sacred in daily life, Participating in the process of sacredness in this life. And from all we have puzzled over and learned, we can also say that the message from the religion about Jesus was one too often aimed at
frightening or controlling people, hating gays or assertive women, or supporting a war against people who disagreed.

The religion about Jesus emphasizes the ‘noun’ locking it into the world of grasping, controlling, owning, and having, whereas the religion of Jesus emphasizes the ‘verb’, inviting us to walk the Way, to celebrate the differences as part of the whole, as contributions to harmony and human flourishing. As a web site colleague has said: The religion about Jesus is ‘Easter’.  The religion of Jesus is ‘eastering’. “It’s about the miracle of new life coming from old, life out of death, right here and now.  Nothing supernatural, though it feels so magical when it happens…  Life is about honouring that spirit of life that comes and goes as it likes, but when it comes our way, it can make all the difference between feeling dead and feeling alive…”. (Davidson Loehr UUAustin Web site, 2008). 

The story we heard this morning from John, I want to suggest, are more about ‘eastering’ than ‘easter’. It is not about bigger miracles or stricter commandments or watertight creeds. They are about a dynamic, creative, evolving, as Rex Hunt would say a ‘present-ness’ in our midst.

It is our experience that stories are conditioned and shaped by the language of their day: The earth is flat, sin causes sickness, God is all powerful and distant are just some of these experience shaped doctrines that have become dogma and thus limited and conditional truths.

But so are our stories conditioned and shaped by the language and imagination of our day. So, with the so-called Luke’s version of Paul, (the Paul taking the Jewish Gospel into the gentile world) we can claim: God is ‘not far from each one of us.’ Present and active everywhere on earth… – in the slow development of human cultures and societies, – in the growth of knowledge, – in the constant search for meaning as women and men tell stories and sharing their connectedness, and in the urging of us to love graciously and generously, to break down barriers between people, and to put an end to religious elitism and religious wars.

The gospel of Jesus invites an imagining of a better and more creative and vulnerable humanity. A greater acceptance of an ambiguous truth as opposed to a certain truth and a rejoicing in the knowledge that that which we name God is a process of becoming a living wonderful expression in all things. (Panentheism). In us!  Missing pieces, incomplete pieces and all because it’s not about certainty because biological death is the wonderful reality whereas eastering is about being born again and living, So, long live living.  Beyond belief, beyond certainty and with a peace that passes understanding. Amen.


Recognising the Jesus Shape

A young woman I know from a little time back contacted me online a few weeks back and after catching up on life events she asked me about the exclusivity of the text that taken literally make some pretty exclusive claims of Jesus of Nazareth. ‘I am the Way The Truth and The Life, and its only through me that you make it’ (Paraphrased) I remember my feelings when thinking about how to respond to her in a way that would encourage her to keep asking those sorts of questions without feeling scared of what she might learn.

Rex Hunt tells a similar story from his university days in the mid to late 1960s. He tells of a member of EU (Evangelical Union), a religious group on campus, coming up to his lunch table in the student union cafe of the university. ‘Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life?’ he was a very intense, but earnest fellow student. Rex was a bit dumbstruck and didn’t quite know how to answer him. So, he just smiled politely, folded his meat and salad sandwich in its waxed lunch wrap, and got up to leave. The earnest friend called after him ‘He’s the way!  The only way to salvation!  Get on board before it’s too late!’

Rex left the cafeteria, angry, embarrassed and frustrated. The desperation of his certainty both frightened and angered him. Years later the sureness of conviction, and the exclusivity of it,
still made Rex feel uncomfortable. While my friend wasn’t in any way certain and she was genuinely asking because she wanted to know for herself how to deal with this text, I however felt the weight of the tradition and the hundreds of years of question becoming doctrine and then worse dogma. How does one share the good news when it is buried in historical power and control and hidden behind years of Super-naturalism, Interventionist deity escapism, ecclesiastical ordering and hierarchical posturing.

And still more years later, this issue was again raised when in 2000 a former Pope of the Roman Catholic Church issued a papal statement, Dominus Iesus, which “set off alarm bells in most other Christian communities, as well as giving offence to the adherents of every other religion on the face of the planet”. (Jenks/FFF web site).

Rex reminds us to ask this question of today’s text: Is this heavy ‘salvation’ stuff what the storyteller John was on about with today’s gospel story?

While the John story seems to have been set within the context of a debate over differences, that debate seems to have been between those who were Jewish followers of the Galilean (often called ‘revisionists’), and those who were Jewish followers of Jewish orthodoxy. They viewed matters differently.  Perhaps profoundly so. A significant challenge here to see that even among followers of the Way there was difference of thought and maybe even belief. What seems is that this story’s modern usage is been taken to extremes. So perhaps we might explore this first.

One of the learnings from examining, the text is that during his life time, Jesus/Yeshu’a resisted questions about his personal identity. And when pressed, he deflected them toward the central motif of his teaching… e.g., the present-ness of a compassionate God, and
the radical or ‘counter culture’ demands he made on human living.

But it is also true that when the words ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’… have been used, they often make Jesus sound like a heavenly bouncer, keeping people away from God.  Especially from those without faith, those with not enough faith, and those who express their faith differently.  I think this is where literalization (the taking too literally) limits and distorts meaning. Recent studies of the years pre Christianity and pro Jesus movement perhaps show a wide range of differing ideas and interpretations. If we thought diversity is new then we are sadly very wrong. And this statement about the exclusivity of Jesus suggests that difference of opinion was still strong and perhaps even more so as the Gospel moved from the Jewish world into the gentile world. We note that this was a gradual slow evolutionary development of thought also. We also note that religious authorities and groups of every age and creed
have often exercised their religion in two ways: – as a weapon against others, and – by protecting God from others.

History seems full of such ‘weapon’ stories and events: The Crusades.  The Inquisition.  Sudan.  Middle East.  Indonesia.  Northern Ireland, to name but a few. And the gospel stories are littered with ‘protecting’ stories: People who brought their children to Jesus, but… Women who touched, ate with, plead with Jesus, but…

As someone pointed out just recently when talking about racism and justice in New Zealand land wat times ‘ethnic cleansing’ is just a more extreme form of this same motivation. The ownership of certainty, of fact of absolutes is a dangerous thing. So, what can we do with these words: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’…

Well, we need to be strongly upfront but not dogmatic or lacking in humility. Scholars tell us it is highly probable that Jesus never made this claim. That the words were put into his mouth by the storyteller/mystic John! In the 2nd century in response to his perception of the context he knew at the time. So, to hear them, we need to hear them differently from that of John’s hearers. If these words can be read in terms of relationship with the God rather than describing a content of dogma to ‘believe’ , these words can be an invitation to us to be on the journey which Jesus chartered. The Way of Jesus has great value because it is an alternative to the orthodox, a new Way of being in the world. The truth is bigger and more complex than simple fact, A different Way of relating to with and for the world. Not unlike the call of science re climate change and a sustainable planet. A Way that is aware of the dangers of making things out of values. Love is not just making oneself vulnerable to another it is that which changes things forever.

That Jesus, as sage, provides a way of passage from one place to another. Becoming and exploring and doubting, rather than condemning or belting us over the head. So being suggestive, rather than bullying Jesus into what he is not. • Jesus is not the way in the sense of a moral guide or dare I say it a preferred model of leadership. He is as ‘Way’ the pathway into the depths of the God/self/neighbour relationship which is always more than the sum of the thoughts or actions. Perhaps as Rex suggests The Jesus Way is the way… into the mystery of our common existence. Jesus is the truth about that common existence, not the exclusive owner of it. He uncovers what is hidden, and brings to light the last dimension of human existence. Jesus is life because he is the way and truth by which God, self, and neighbour, break their isolation and flow into each other. He is an example of the social interdependence at the core of all human relations

As storyteller John Shea puts it: “Jesus of Nazareth was the triggering centre of an event which restructured the God-self-neighbour relationship.  This event was not only healing and transforming but mysterious and overwhelming”.  (Shea 1978:118).

It is in this context that the words of Jesus, as suggested by John, come. ‘I am the way, the truth the life…’ And they were culturally socially a religiously and ideologically challenging and that’s likely why the author of John used them and exposed them to literalization and cultural distortion. And as Jesus challenged the dominate system of his day, so these words contend with the powers and principalities of this day.

In this person, we see a concern for the marginalized and the vulnerable (which included both the poor and the wealthy), and a rejection of the belief that high-ranking people of power
are the favoured ones of God. Empires are human organizations subject to human distortion by the search for power and control.

The good news then in this statement is, Rex suggests and I concur is that it is not about Jesus, but about that which we name God and us in the spirit of Jesus. Or as Bill Loader puts it in his comments on this story: “Trust that God is the way Jesus told us and demonstrated to us.  That means two things: we can trust in the God of compassion in which there’s a place for us, and we can know that the meaning of life is to share that compassion in the world – there’s a place for all!

But then this important suggestion: “We can join that compassion wherever we recognise its ‘Jesus shape’, acknowledging it as life and truth and the only way” (WLoader 2005/www site).

Shea, J. Stories of God. An Unauthorized Biography. Chicago. The Thomas More Press, 1978.

Rex Hunt Website

‘Endurance not Atonement’

Posted: April 27, 2023 in Uncategorized

‘Endurance not Atonement’

The text left of the lectionary is 2.17, 18 which give our reading context. In leaving them off we are invited into a generalization that invites us to think about Christ. 2:18 exhorts slaves to be subject to their masters, cruel or otherwise. 2:17 had commended honouring the emperor. For slaves there is a reward of some kind for suffering unjustly; none, however, for suffering what they deserve (2:20). 1 Peter lives within a structure of authorities, including abusive authorities, and obviously sees no way out except to remain faithful and at most shame or silence the abusers, as 2:15 suggests. 2:20 indicates perhaps that more is entailed than simply doing good in a passive way – not doing evil. Akin perhaps to peace not being the absence of war but the creation of another state of being. The comparison with Christ which follows may also invite us to think more widely about the nature of goodness, not in the sense of passive acceptance but with endurance. There are times when the only alternative is to endure. Few of us know such experiences, but they happen and are happening. When we are not facing such situations, we have little idea of what such courageous tenacity means. Imprisonment, torture, abuse, are still up to date in the arsenal of oppressive regimes. One might think of people living under an oppressive governing regime or captured withing the arena of war. Without power in the face of a dominant system the only option is endurance. Christ’s endurance can be a central model.

1 Peter sees the event of Jesus’ suffering primarily against the background of vicarious atonement interpreted from Isaiah 53 and probably reflecting earlier Christian tradition. Note that it is likely a vicarious atonement and not a literalized one. Metaphorical as opposed to factual. The passage from Isaiah allows the author to reinforce sinlessness, an echo of 1:20. It also reinforces non retaliation. History shows that it is hard for oppressed people not to hate their oppressors during times of oppression and, when they are over and they assume power, they are exhorted not, themselves to become oppressors. Hate has no place for those imitating Christ nor for those seeking to be in solidarity with them. When anger at injustice and the need to confront abuse and abusers takes the further step and hates or kills, then something terrible happens to the vision: it ceases to be a vision of justice and hope, because it has sown the seeds of death. It is, perhaps, too easy to reflect wisely about loving enemies. We need to meet those who have. 1:24 reminds us that all that God did in Christ was that we might live – not that any should die or be deemed unworthy of life. In Christ meant being in a changed state.

Isaiah 53 also stimulates the imagery of sheep and shepherds, taking off from the negative comment about going astray to celebrate Christ as the shepherd and overseer (episkopos; the Greek word for bishop, supervisor, superintendent, overseer). In such adversity this is something to hold onto and in which to hope.

Taken into other contexts this passage can serve the interests of oppressive regimes, however well dressed in piety. Then it teaches people to be doormats, to put up with abuse, be brave, and not to raise questions. It misreads the text to see it as a general call to passivity. Part of the “doing good” alluded to in 2:20 must also have echoes of “doing justice”. We often find ourselves in situations where passivity is collusion, where we can speak out and become active and need to do so. The more we come to understand how oppression and exploitation work, the more we need to address them, whether in the interests of those being oppressed or in our own. Jesus ended up facing his passion only because before that he had the courage to alert people by word and deed to an alternative vision, an alternative kingdom (regime), creating enough confusion and trouble for the authorities to tidy him away. He did not get there by being a doormat. We must also see Jesus’ death in the light of his life; otherwise we will have no idea what this life is for which he died and think it some kind of promise of escape to bliss.

Our reading from John’s Gospel introduces the shepherd image as a rich and traditional image, even if it no longer forms part of everyday life for most people today and reflects practices quite foreign to the sheep farming with which most are familiar. Like images of kings and queens, which have long since lost their relevance for most in contemporary society, even where monarchies survive, this is a persistent image. Images have their own life. The Latin translation, ‘pastor’, has tended to associate the shepherd image with ministry. Originally it was most common as a metaphor for rulers, as far back as the Pharaohs. It was a way of describing royal responsibilities which included caring for subjects, the flock. It was apt symbolism when David became the shepherd king and the model for messianic hope.

These associations are swirling around in the background as we consider our passage. The sheep are unambiguously people who are to be cared for. That fact, in itself, represents a value implicit in the image. For us it might evoke Jesus’ parable about caring even for the one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), which Matthew then applies to care for members of the church who have fallen morally (18:12-14), an important value in a vengeful, unforgiving age. John’s Jesus is ambitious to make the whole world a flock for divine love, far beyond Israel (10:16; 3:16). The idea of Peter’s endurance comes to mind when thinking about herding sheep. The text from John introduces assumptions within which 10:1-6 focuses on leadership. When John reports in 10:6 that Jesus’ hearers did not know what the parable meant, John’s hearers are being challenged to get it and so are we. This was not too difficult with the image of call and response. A call to endure perhaps? Perhaps, the call to endure is a model of leadership of importance. It makes sense in an environment of systemic oppression where the new is an option some way off and endurance becomes a significant difference. Sheep belonging to a particular shepherd who endures would follow that shepherd through the gate in the morning out into the new day.

The parable may imply the instruction: make sure you listen to his voice! It might also be explaining why some sheep belong and why some do not, an assurance for those who belong that they are special and a comfort for the failure to attract others. The parable of the sower also came to serve that function. John’s gospel has a number of sayings which suggest a closed system according to which only those in the light respond to the light (eg. 3:19-21) and only those who are drawn may come (eg. 6:44). It is important to recognise their function and not to make them the basis for exclusive systems, because it is equally apparent that whoever hears and responds may come and will move from darkness to light. The paradox is promising.

There is more, however, to the parable than urging response and explaining rejection. It is warning about rival claims to leadership. In the context of Jesus’ ministry which forms the primary setting for the gospel story those rivals are the other Jewish leaders with whom Jesus is in dispute. In the context of the gospel they are doubtless also other Jewish leaders who compete for the loyalty of John’s sheep. The dangers envisaged here may be a range of rivals from other Jewish leaders even to Christian Jewish leaders and, perhaps, non Jewish as well. If we read this from the world of 1 John we would recognise such leaders as those who disputed the writer’s teaching and had led their Christians out to a new Spirit-inspired understanding of Christ which elevated him above the flesh and blood which appeared to compromise his divinity (2:19; 4:1-6).

It is difficult to discern how far these disputes already formed the background for the gospel, but it is clear here and in Jesus’ parting words and prayer (especially John 15-17), that disunity was a major threat. Certainly the image interprets Jesus’ conflicts with ‘the Jews’ at the feast, as 10:26-30 show. There the association of shepherd and ‘messiah-king’ is assumed (10:22-25). But like in most of John’s gospel, contemporary concerns are never far away. There is an ongoing tension between the will to include all and the need to explain rejection and console the flock who respond. The latter is quite dangerous and in some hands leads to hate and exclusivity (including antisemitism). Yet this is the gospel grounded in John 3:16 and a vision of unity, which ultimately wants to embrace all in compassion.

What seems to many a romantic and gentle image and even one of defeat, endurance is in fact a very theologically political statement. It invites us to look out for dangers in our own times and to recognise that rejection and punishment and success will sometimes present themselves as religiously plausible. What is important in the challenge is the place of endurance in suffering sometimes is a challenge to the status quo. What is apparent in this challenge is that thinking critically about theology remains crucial to the leader’s task. Endurance is ultimately a way of engaging and being engaged by God and being called out into the day. This could be an argument for including the first two verses of the text, and for acknowledging the part that endurance plays in the change process. It might have spoilt the generalization of the passage from 1st Peter but then that should alert us to the limited (yet valid) application of the passage and remind us that in many contexts endurance is not submission but rather endurance and as such is in harmony with the way of Jesus. Amen

William Loader https://billloader.com/lectionaryindex.html

Food, Community and the Importance of Metaphor!

Here perhaps is the most important and life changing story we find about the celebration of Easter. It invites participation.  It is in the very best sense a faith legend, a core mythos, a central unveiling of the Jesus story. Whatever any actual experience may lie behind the story, it is now an invitation.  It invites us to join the journey of what we call the Jesus Way, the active human participation in a story that unveils the meaning of what it means to be human.

Bill Loader, the Uniting Church theologian from Western Australia suggests that this story. The   ‘Road to Emmaus’ story is indeed a wonderful, original story by the storyteller we call Luke imagining, sharing, celebrating and teaching. Especially ‘imagining’, because imagination never numbs us with a description, nor locks us in literalism or any historical context but coaxes us into a new situation, I would suggest a new and more tenable mysterious truth. This can be said to be the appropriate contextualization that is required in the hermeneutic, the living breathing interpretation of and for the now.

As the story is told and the plot revealed we can find ourselves engaged in the questions, not just asking them but bringing them to life in a new context and in the new possibilities of the story, as a different re-imagining of the world dawns. This is why this story is a great story.
It is first a ‘metaphorical story’ not ‘history remembered’, as Marcus Borg nudges us and reminds us.  (Borg 2001:44)

This is the challenge of parable, of the biblical story that plays with contradiction and rhetoric inviting us for just a moment visit the non-metaphorical historical treatment and note that many brilliant scholars have revisited this story and sought the historical context and the location where Emmaus actually was and four places seem to have been suggested:

  • Amwas, near Latrun – approx. 20 miles from Jerusalem;
  • Abu Ghosh – approx. 7.5 miles from Jerusalem;
  • Qubelba – approx. 7 miles from Jerusalem, and
  • Moza – approx. 4 miles from Jerusalem).

This highlights also the number of others who have heard and interpreted this story. For instance, some commentators seek to explain aspects of this story in terms of an ‘interventionist’ God. That on the road back home toward Emmaus, God intervened deliberately, and kept Cleopas (and his wife?) from ‘seeing’ Jesus, so Jesus could explain the scriptures to them. On the other hand, others see the work of a ‘supernaturalist’ God in this story. When Jesus suddenly appears spirit-like, and then later on, is suddenly whisked away. And when Jesus can no longer be ‘seen’ with eyes because he had gone from this world to the ‘Father’. An outcome of these approaches ensures that this new literalistic world can evade our senses and thus our participation in being human in this world. It steals from us the richness of imagination, art poetry and metaphor which is the very essence of the biblical text.

Those of you who are reading this will of course have heard this challenge before, The challenge to move on from the creation of dogma to somehow protect the faith and from doctrine as the listing of so-called facts that are pillars of the faith. To put aside the use of creed and repetition of fact as a pathway to truth and to hear again the song of the sacred. Many of you are living these questions as so-called ‘Progressive Christians”. I’m pretty sure that none of these literalist and proof seeking literary attempts to control and limit resonate with most of you, especially the theology of those suggestions. Indeed, like me you may well be at the point where they be little more than brainteasers that kill off the story. However, their presence doesn’t mean we can’t seek to unravel and appreciate the context of the story. To aid this I want to raise some pointes Rex Hunt has used to help nurture the imagination and thus explore the metaphorical reality.

All stories are very concrete. They ‘live’ within a particular context that we know little about but can discern the image of in a number of ways. One bold suggestion is that this story’s context may have been when some debates were taking  place about how Gentile Jesus followers could sense the present-ness of the Post-Easter Christ after the death of Jesus. This suggests there would have been clever and innovative use of language in order to cross the cultural understandings.

Luke tells a story about the most common and important community occasion these followers had experienced. The experience is of a meal in community rather than an ‘out-of-this-world’ experience. So, this is a meal story and a bonding story. The storyteller Luke is grounded enough to know we become what we eat, and that a meal story holds significant weight as a communicative genre.

From all that we are now discovering about early Christian culture, meals played an important role in both community life, and in the Jesus tradition. Not just as food for the body but also as the place where conversation becomes sacred, transformative and creative, not just a place where fear or anxiety driven questions take place but also where they are recognised as vital for life and for community as questions that are part of the human life journey. Discussion and debate are crucial in an oral culture and they will still hold such importance in a cross-cultural exercise. Last week we dealt with the part doubt plays in this context. Indeed, ‘Christians’ regularly ate together, even before they began to conduct worship services. And Jesus seems so closely associated with meals that one of the criticisms levelled against him, you will remember, was as a ‘glutton and drunkard’.  (Matt 11:19)

It’s very likely that Luke heard some of those stories, re-imagined them, as well as having shared in some of the meals. He knew the power of story. So, he tells a meal story at a crucial point in this local community’s history. And if we continue to accept the findings of modern biblical scholarship, then we can affirm that: Jesus regularly accepted invitations to attend meals, but as a guest rather than as a host, and Jesus used these occasions for re-imagining and ‘indirect’ teaching, rather than the so-called ‘whiteboard and text’ kind.

“Words and food are made out of the same stuff”, writes Rubem Alves. “They are both born of the same mother: hunger.” (Alves 1990:77) For around a meal, food is shared not hoarded,
friendships are made and relationships strengthened.  And “experimentation, adventure and innovation lure us toward new horizons.” (O’Donohue 2003:146)

We can also assume that in the continued celebration of meals – early Christianity often called it ‘breaking of bread’ -which was motivated primarily by the needs of community, rather than establishing or remembering the so-called ‘upper room’ meal event. There was an embodied practical reason for the meal in the first instance. This story then is not a forerunner to, or about, Holy Communion and it certainly has got nothing to do with the Roman Catholic doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’! But on the other hand, because all religious language is metaphorical…
When bread and wine common meals and BBQs are eaten, they become body and blood. Our body and blood.  And when they are eaten, they become compassionate deeds. Our compassionate deeds. And when compassionate deeds are eaten, they become as Christ in our neighbour.

“Since the beginning of time,” author Robert Fulghum writes, “people who trust one another, care for one another, and are deeply connected to one another have shared food as a sign of and a reaffirmation of their relationship…  Every time we hold hands and say a blessing before a meal, every time we lift a glass and say fine words to one another, every time we eat in peace and grace together, we have celebrated the covenants that bind us together.”  (Fulghum 1995:81-82)

Because the storyteller Luke knows we become what we eat! His Easter stories are an invitation to share, to journey, and to celebrate. And as his Emmaus story particularly notes,
“hospitality is the open door to creative transformation and an expanded vision of possibilities.”  (Bruce Epperly P&F web site, 2008)

The disciples travel on a journey chatting together; human beings are social beings who live the journey of conscious life as community; they share stories of their experience; others join unexpectedly and bring their life stories as well; the stories are embodied in the new context. They recognize that their stories have different contexts and experiences even while they don’t recognise the message being introduced by the stranger. They share the story of how their concerns about change and the richness of life have been lost in circumstance and human power and control and manipulation even from those they have considered wise and leaders. They don’t know what to make of the events that brought about this change in their lives and they talked about the failure of reasoning as a path towards an answer. And then it was only when sitting in the most vulnerable place at the meal table they saw what was never there, the purpose of their life’s journey walking the Jesus Way as response to the opportunities presented in their metaphorical reality.

The Easter story beyond the historical and literal execution as a criminal and the literalization and individualization of the resurrection story is the invitation. The cross is about the systemic collective use of a violent act upon a truth and the later personalization of a collective national symbol of restoration personified by the use of words such as ‘died for our sins’ as opposed to ‘was executed as a pawn in the struggle to retain social political and religious power’. The Emmaus Road story that invites us to contextualize a metaphor as opposed to literalize and control the truth. Amen.

Alves, R. The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet. London. SCM Press/Trinity Press, 1990.
Borg, M. J. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally.  New York. HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.
Fulghum, R. From Beginning to End. The Rituals of our Lives. Moorebank. Bantam Press, 1995.
O’Donohue, J. Divine Beauty. The Invisible Embrace. London. Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press, 2003. 

Easter: An Open-ended Future, Alive!

“In dealing with people, Jesus did not condemn those who questioned or doubted. While Jesus was harsh with scribes and Pharisees who claimed to have all the answers in water-tight belief containers, he was always ready to encourage the genuine doubter” (Webb 1995: 15).

There are many quotations over time that have confirmed the value of questioning and of the importance of doubt.

Richard Tarnas: “Our world view is not simply the way we look at the world … world views create worlds”.

Henry Thoreau; “The question is not what you look at, but what you see”.

William Blake; “As a man is, so he sees”.

And too, perhaps Iain McGilchrist, when he writes that; “Who we are, then, determines how we see. And how we see determines what we find. Given that the hemispheres ‘see’ differently, how reliable is each hemisphere in its disclosing of the world?”

The story about Thomas is a very familiar story.  Too familiar, perhaps, and therein is one of its problems. We hear it every year at this time, the first Sunday after Easter, that is, if ministers and preachers follow the set lectionary. And because we tend to hear it every year it is a difficult story to tell or preach on, because everyone, preacher and listener, reckons they know the ending, so jump ahead to ‘their’ endings and miss the story itself.

There are a couple of strange things about this Thomas story, both remembered and read,
about the many interpretations of this story. The first is that it is often titled ‘doubting’ Thomas, in a negative way, yet we are told there is no such word as ‘doubt’ in the Greek! It is as if asking questions is the same as raising a white flag of surrender, and evidence of faithlessness!

It was the German/American theologian Paul Tillich who blew that latter criticism right out of the water for many of us. In his small, blue bound book, called Dynamics of Faith, Tillich claimed authentic faith included doubt as well as affirmation. And that questions were not a sign of faithlessness, but a willingness to take faith seriously.

Others have followed Tillich’s lead, such as Australian Val Webb in her book of some years back: In Defence of Doubt.  An Invitation to Adventure. And the progressive study resource called ‘Living the Questions’.

One of the things this understanding offers is to hear anew the storyteller we call John as he sets his interpreted story within a particular community which was experiencing debates on
mission strategy, leadership issues, and discipleship. We might ask how else can we hear that Thomas does not receive a blessing as do the other disciples, despite his so-called faith statement? This is an unexpected realisation.

Second, our storyteller John seems to be making it fairly clear that the faith which marks a true disciple relies on the witness of others rather than a personal experience of the Christ.  (Jenks FFF Web site, 2008)

  • This says that it is in the place where we can practice belonging practice hospitality practice respect practice humility practice conversation and disagreement.  (Bessler-Northcutt 2004)
  • In a safe place such as this place, in the company of others, that we can be shaped and reshaped by our questions and our search.

A good argument for the gathering together oof followers of The Way in order to wrestle with the hard questions of faith and to engage in what is sacred conversation or formative conversation, or creative critique.

Greg Jenks from FaithFutures Foundation, puts it this way: “Faith depends on accepting the witness of others, not in securing a personal miracle that removes all opportunity for doubt.”  (Jenks FFF Web site, 2008)

This is an approach that is not readily explored as we have heard that story before. And then  we might also hear the claim that it is the underlying theme running throughout the whole of John’s collection of stories being: that we experience the creative, transforming power of the divine routinely, quietly moving through life, our lives. A moving that is often subtle.  Unpredictable.  Evasive. “It is less like a hammer on the head than it is a gentle prod”, suggests Bruce Epperly of Process & Faith, “a tickle, sometimes as gentle as a feather, touching each moment into being.”  (Epperly/P&F Web site, 2008)

Again I suggest these are images that are more readily available in a weak theology than and almighty interventionist one.

Rex Hunt quotes a story told by Brazilian Rubem Alves, of a boy who found the body of a dead man washed up on the edge of a seaside village.

There is only one thing to do with the dead: they must be buried.

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial, so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral. As they did, the women began to talk and ponder about the dead stranger.

He was tall… and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses. His voice… was it like a whisper or like thunder. His hands… they were big. Did they play with children or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman’s body.

The women laughed “and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection: a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead, returning… their bodies alive again”.  (Alves 1990: 23)

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening, became jealous of the drowned man as they realised he had power which they did not have. And they thought about the dreams they had never had… Alves ends this part of the story by telling that they finally buried the dead man. But the village was never the same again.

Easter Friday and the execution of Jesus invites us to look again at the two parades on Palm Sunday and to see the dichotomy of the two parades as alternative approached to life. To know the reality of resurrection is to experience it. Not as some doctrine which involves belief in a supposedly empty tomb. Not as a doctrinal atonement doctrine, a death for the removal of our sin. Nor on an insistence on the literal historicity of the biblical stories. Why? Well! As this story says; We all experience it “by simply being alive, and going through all the normal, routine transformations of human growth and love and death”.  (Epperly, P&F Web site, 2008)

Einstein said: “At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason … Imagination is more important than knowledge … It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

He also said a number of other things that reflect on the process of scientific or mathematical discovery: the mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a leap – call it intuition or what you will – and comes out upon a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap. This discontinuity, the necessity for a leap or sudden shift of thinking, is often mentioned by creative problem-solvers:

I would suggest that this is where the importance of doubt comes in. Without is we as products of the last 350 years of study could remain with our negative limited view of doubt as the Thomas story has been interpreted.

There is no mistaking the passion Einstein had, but what was he referring to? He told the violinist Shinichi Suzuki that ‘the theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition.’ Indeed, he said to the poet George Viereck “I often think in music”, and his sister Maja reported that when working on a problem he would play the piano, and then get up saying ‘there, now I’ve got it’. He is said to have told the psychologist Max Wertheimer that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings, and musical architecture. He called mathematics ‘the poetry of logical ideas’, an ‘effort toward logical beauty’ in which ‘spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.’

According to McGilchrist, Einstein is making several points here. That for him scientific and mathematical discovery involves intuition is clear; that the intuition uses shapes (‘musical’ or ‘architectural’) as metaphors for ideas; and is led on by a deep attraction towards beauty. The beauty was, certainly, bound up with logic – but not just with logic: it also involved feeling, and a sense of something spiritual.

The good news of Easter, then, is not the so-called final scene as it is in fairy tales that says everyone ‘lives happily ever after.’ Easter is rather ‘the beginning of an open-ended future. A moment in our flesh, when dreams long believed to be dead, return, and our bodies – individually and as a church community – are alive again. Keep asking the questions because doubt is required for the journey of the Way.

Alves, R. The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet. London. SCM Press/Trinity Press, 1990.
Bessler-Northcutt, J. “Learning to See God: Prayer and Practice in the wake of the Jesus Seminar” in (ed) R. W. Hoover. The Historical Jesus Goes to Church. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2004
Webb, V. In Defense of Doubt. An Invitation to Adventure. St Louis. Chalice Press, 1995 (Expanded Edition 2012). McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (p. 1158). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition

The Need For Humour (A Weak Theology) in Our Lives

“It is true that at least one medieval theologian, Petrus Cantor,
is known to have asked during the course of his ruminations whether Christ
ever laughed. Cantor was of the solemn opinion that he must have 
if he was truly [hu]man. What disturbs us today is that Cantor 
should ever have felt the need to ask the question.”
(Harvey Cox)

In recent studies seeking to understand and define consciousness it is suggested that consciousness is far more widespread that just the human species, Scientists have told us, so the saying goes, that of all the creatures that live on earth, only humans have the gift of laughter. But not all know how to laugh. Recent studies suggest that its possible that many animals and maybe even plants might include humour in their being.

Many of us human beings, it is said, only go through the motions of laughing. Their sense of humour is lacking, without which laughter is merely a muscular reflex. Religion in general and Christianity in particular has not for the most part appreciated the place of laughter in the human heart. In fact, religion has often taken a pretty solemn and gloomy view of life. At least that is the experience of many when religious attitudes are subjected to the so-called ‘pub test’.

Religious people including perhaps Presbyterians are often caricatured as dry and  humourless. An article by Chris McGillion in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out:
“When humour surfaces in a church setting it seems somehow awkward if not unnatural and laughter erupts as a sense of relief more than an expression of genuine merriment.”  (McGillion 2000)

On one, occasion Rex Hunt of the Uniting Church in Australia was part of a team that wrote a ‘religious’ radio script which, in part, went something like this: “There is a man who seldom thinks about the church: but when he does he always has a vision, and in which he sees church people. “He shudders whenever he has this vision of church people for it is not
only their appearance that frightens him. It is also their message. “They tell him of all the things he dare not do, and he notices that everything they list is something he enjoys…”

And the reaction? Well, let’s say it was interesting. From the church-goers: criticism. From the people ‘on the street’: agreement. The Calvinist wing of the Reformation was not known for its exuberance or wit!

Always keen to push some theological boundaries, Harvard Divinity School theologian Harvey Cox, in his book The Feast of Fools, suggests that the “comic spirit is somehow closer to Christianity than is the tragic”.  (Cox 1969:150)

Then 18 years later, in April 1987, he published in the journal Christianity and Crisis, an article called “God’s Last Laugh”. In it he suggested: “God laughs, it seems, because God knows how [Easter] all turns out in the end.”

Cox went on to say :“On the Christian calendar Easter is a feast of gladness. Grief turns into jubilation. Bitter defeat becomes exuberant hope. Even those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death know they need fear no evil. But, without a trace of irreverence, can we not also say there is something genuinely comic about Easter? Could it be God’s hilarious answer to those who sported and derided God’s prophet, who blindfolded and buffeted him, and who continue to hound and deprive God’s children today?”  (Cox 1987)

Recent theological study responding to the challenge of a non-theistic, non-supernatural non- Almighty, omnipotent God who demands obedience and who intervenes at whim have suggested that the foolishness of the cross metaphor might be more appropriate and that a so-called weak theology might make more sense. My suggested ‘Almost’ as the word for the divine recognised the shift from object to process, noun to verb and even the adverb as a way of exploring this weak theology.

Cox had in mind, no doubt, the custom found in some Orthodox churches, where members meet in the church – usually on the Monday after Easter (through to the following Saturday), and called ‘Bright Monday/Week’ – for a feast and festival. Games would be played. And there would be much laughter, dancing and joke telling. Why? Because, they said, it was the most fitting way to celebrate the ‘big joke’ God pulled on Satan in the resurrection. And of course, this frivolity is grounded in the understanding of resurrection as the resurrection of all in God’s time, not the individualization that the western church adopted. Being able to make fun of the empire and its obsession with cruelty, and punishment as the means of power and control appeals to me.

But it leaves us with the over-all question: Why does laughter hold such a meager place in our religious life? One reason for wanting to raise this question is simple. Not just because all work, all seriousness, makes us dull and uninteresting people. Nor is it to have a go at so-called Fundamentalists, of the right and the left whom many believe have no sense of humour at all!  As someone suggested: “the Christian fundamentalist has the awful fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  

It is important to wrestle with this propensity for stoicism, dullness and fear induced solemnity because a culture that causes people to be too serious all the time, and lacking in humour, can be a culture in which awareness of the other, the disadvantaged, the marginalized and and compassionate response can be lacking.

To say that comedy and humour are important is in no way to detract from the seriousness of life. Rather it is only to say just as there is a need to see that there is always an alternative we are called to see that seriousness must be tempered with a sense of humour. The person who can never laugh at herself/himself, or even at their own pretensions, may easily become the reactionary who wants to destroy everything that does not agree with her/his narrow focus of what is important. And ‘social media us into madness in the process! One of the problems facing AI is haw to factor in a sense of humour.

Former minister at All Souls Church in New York, Walter Kring, suggested: “I would almost be willing to subscribe to the thesis that the most serious person, if he/she lacks a sense of humour, may be the most dangerous person in the world, This is particularly true in our day when so much power can be concentrated in the hands of so few”. In that sermon Kring went on to make two suggestions as to what he believed made up a balanced life:

(i) Every life must have a serious purpose,

(ii) We ought to temper this serious sense of purpose with good humour.

Briefly, his commentary suggested that; The greatest people of our earth are those who have delved the deepest and who have found the most profound truths.

While philosophers, scientists, and religious prophets have differed from each other, they have all been seeking to find the basic nature of all things in all seriousness. Thus they have highlighted the fact that the only way to truth is through experimentation. That through the process of testing we shall eventually arrive at some generally accepted principles which will be felt to be true – unless something more satisfactory is arrived at. While this is true recent studies of the brain and how it works have suggested that process is too simple and limited by a dominant left hemisphere approach that ignores the right hemisphere’s contribution to meaning. Intuition, imagination and a view less bound by the need to complete and factualize is required for a more wholistic and human response to reality.

As people who take seriously ‘progressive’ religion, this should be particularly relevant to us.
Many people think of religion in terms of dogma – as law and answers, or what Bishop John Shelby Spong called “killing certainties”, rather than as search – as questioning. I would say also our obsession with the need to objectify, concretize and explain finally as a certainty or a thing, is also what is driving religion to the sidelines. Progressive Christians I suggest are seekers who honour the mind for its amazing abilities, live the questions now as a part of the life process and who know… perhaps someday in the future, gradually, and without ever noticing it, they live their way into an answer that is always new and unveiling.

David Felten Jeff Procter-Murphy in their book Living the Questions, write about these ‘christian’ seekers: “These seekers are comfortable with ambiguity and understand that through difficulties, mistakes, and challenges, and dare I say it foolishness, humour and so called failure it’s the journey that’s important. It’s what we learn along the way in relationship with the Divine and with one another that matters most.”  (Felten & Procter-Murphy 2012:69)

A ‘serious purpose in life’ must always be tempered with the realisation that no matter how inspired a leader, or catechism, or book, or we may be, in the long run, both they and we are undoubtedly not going to have the final answers to everything. Its why for me I can name God as ‘Almost’. No longer an old man up above who plays with the machine he invented but rather an energy a source, a collective Spirit that lives as I live or perhaps is part of how I live in that image. Yes… we all ought to be serious about life. And we ought to search with all of our being to find out what is true for us. We ought to use our brains to the best of our ability. But we also ought to temper this seriousness, this serious sense of purpose, with good humour.

A well- balanced life is going to be the life that truly understands the place of humour. Because laughter can help to herald in the dawn of human hope. Or at the very least, a hope about hope. Just as it is pertinent for ‘Progressive’ religion to  recapture the use of poetry and song and the aesthetic it needs to give recognition to the neglected gifts of humour, comedy, play, and laughter. They are after all ‘gifts of grace’ to be used for the healing of human lives, and for attaining balanced lives.

It would do us well to remember the words of American pastor and poet, Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  (Felten & Procter-Murphy 2012:70)

The well balanced life is valuable, not because anyone says so, but because in the long run it is the most satisfactory life.

Cox, H. “God’s Last Laugh” in Christianity and Crisis, (6 April 1987)
————, The Feast of Fools. A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969
Felten, D. M. & J. Procter-Murphy. Living the Questions. The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity. New York: HarperOne, 2012
Hyers, C. “The House of Laughter” in Presbyterian Survey 80, 3, (April 1990), 29 – 31
Kring, W. D. “The Need for Humor”. All Souls Church, New York City, (17 January 1971)
(Staff Writer) “Christianity: A Laughing Matter” in Insights. The News/Magazine of the Uniting Church, NSW Synod. (August 2002), 23-24

“Beyond the Obvious”

Posted: March 29, 2023 in Uncategorized

“Beyond the Obvious”

The fool on the donkey receives the accolades of success, the adulation of the emperor, the recognition of real power, truth and enlightenment. Wait! Is this the wrong procession? Should this not be the other path? The one with the standards, the creaking of leather and the clinking of steel, the snorting of horses under bit of controlled aggression and might. What does this dichotomy mean? Which one is true? Which path is the right one?

On this sun roasted day are we witnessing a living testament that nothing lasts in the form it is first constructed or understood? In the shimmering light of a later time with the Forum and Coliseum silhouetted one behind the other and the Dome of St Peter’s lit by the golden shafts of sunlight is the signal of the dichotomy that the Rome of the time was accessible through what was about to disappear?  Is it possible that in the splendour, pomp, power and empire, the spiritual materialism become temporary specifics, have their moment and then are gone. That the human ideas and human endeavour find their fullest form as the beautiful ruin. The emperor on the back of an ass, the snorting of the horse, the heehawing of the donkey. The shouting of obedience as the waying of bits of trees. Caesar stands proud listening for divine transcendence and the bestowing of the future as the foolish lover hangs on to the ridge on the backside of the ass. Where is the truth here? Where is the beauty of this picture? What story is the one we should choose? And why? Is it power and powerlessness? Is it Triumph or Passion? Where, is the aesthetic? And what does that mean?

Bernard Meland says that “Being aesthetic means reaching out beyond the obvious and the useful to the vaster and richer content that environs us. This aspect he says, is the opposite of standardization. It tends toward innovation. It cultivates spontaneity, originality, deep insight, and broad sympathy. It gives dimension and intensity to life. The only way to achieve this aesthetic measure of life is by frequently exposing one-self to the awesome, the mystifying, and the inspiring. Live in the presence of that which gives altitude to emotions. Enter frequently into deepening contact with the wide cosmic expanse of life. Turn from the critical mood occasionally to see life in synthesis. See the world synthesized in a flower, a sea, or in a human being. Catch glimpses of the whole of reality. Contemplate your own life blended with the total movement of life. Envisaging these wider reaches of reality not only enlarges the scope of living, but it sensitizes our feel for life and beautifies its quality.” (Meland 1934:288)

Maybe the choice we have in this Palm Sunday reflection is to step back and look at the bigger picture. Recognise that the two options are real and that a third is to evaluate each in their ability to last and to enable across time and space.

Another way the dichotomy of our Palm Sunday stories might be to step back and contextualize them in today’s concerns? Perhaps the wisdom of poet Mary Oliver—another Pulitzer Prize winner might help in the context of a world facing the climate change implications. Oliver has a strong sense of place, and of identity in relation to it, as central to her poetry. Her creativity was stirred by nature, and her poems are filled with imagery from daily walks: shore birds, water snakes, the phases of the moon, and humpback whales.

“Just pay attention to the natural world around you—the goldfinches, the swan, the wild geese. They will tell you what you need to know.” (Franklin 2017)

When reviewing Oliver’s work one literary critic wrote: “Her poems are firmly located in the places where she has lived or traveled… her moments of transcendence arise organically from the realities of swamp, pond, woods and shore.” While, another commented: “At its most intense, her poetry aims to peer beneath the constructions of culture and reason that burden us with an alienated consciousness to celebrate the primitive, mystical visions of the natural world.” Pay attention!  Experience! Imagine! Such attention and experience comes, from being immersed in what is, and seeing the overlooked.

As another has said: we are cosmic and we are local. (Fleischman 2013:165) The natural world is all around us, and we are an integral part of it. Appreciation of the benefits of nature—of being at home in the universe and the environment in which we must fulfil our lives— is an ancient wisdom we are only barely beginning to regain, as the Earth heats, glaciers melt, rainforests are logged, and species vanish.

At times we will seek to critically understand and to use those environing realities. And a poetic response is often the most appropriate and shrewdest analyst of social concerns including frustrated hopes and political skulduggery. At other times we will respond appreciatively to the deep significance of these environings.

As Rex Hunt has said on another occasion: we need both the voice of the rational —to keep any community free from sloppy sentimentality— as well as the concern of the creative artist —the rich, deep, not entirely rational forms of expression shaped by metaphor, the poetic, myth and parable—to strike a chord and resonate within.

But it is at the level of the imagination that any full engagement with life takes place.
Thus, what is now required is a different religious sensitivity. In the case of the Palm Sunday dichotomy, the choice of path, the seemingly foolish clownlike no change Way or the obvious outcome driven, successfully clear option is the choice. The obvious real or the aesthetic beyond the real option. Today the choice is an obvious economically sound option or a natural spirituality or an ecological spirituality. Like the choice to walk the way of the obvious foolhardy idealistic expensive way the natural way is the thread that completes the tapestry of life. “Whether or not we believe that there is something more, nature is so significant that all our beliefs must be reformulated so as to take nature into account.” (Hefner 2008:x)

The Palm Sunday foolish path is religion born out of the sense of wonder and awe of the majesty and fearsomeness of the universe itself. (Berry 2014:74) But religion is also poetry—at least according to ‘geologian’, Thomas Berry.

In an interview with Australian church historian and former priest, Paul Collins, Berry claimed:
“Religion is poetry or it is nothing! How can a person be religious without being poetic? Certainly, God is a poet; it is God who made rainbows, butterflies and flowers. It is the most absurd thing in the world to think of dealing with religion in any other way than poetry or music… You cannot do it any other way.” (Collins 2010)

But then Collins went on to add: “Deprived of nature with its beauty, multiplicity, mystery, complexity and otherness, our imaginations would shrivel up, and we would lose our ability to perceive and experience the deeper feelings and intuitions that give real meaning to our lives. For nature is the source of our origin and the context of our continuing evolution and spiritual development. Without imagination we would lose all sense of ourselves as human beings.”

Life glows on! Such is the poetics of life.  All those many things and experiences which enhance life with mystery, colour, and fragrance!

“As we consider this Earth, our home, and we, our presence upon it, may we be moved to see ourselves as particles of the whole and walk in reverence.” (Vosper 2012)

I would put this; “As we consider and seek clarity in the relationship with this planet may we be moved to see beyond the obvious. To see ourselves as the embodiment of the more than the sum of the parts and walk with confidence into the discovery of the novel beauty of realization.”

“Eccentric Tree” by Diana Butler Bass (2016)

Eccentric tree,
lofty and lithe:
shadeless rod with
roughened fronds—
misfit wood.

You alone from forests of arborial majesty
offered expectant masses
sacred fans for fervid alleluias
and carpeting grace.

Gazing from holy height
Did you join the song?
Or bow in the holy breeze As the One rode by?

Perhaps in doing so, you redeemed your race:
For another of your kin, a more mundane timber, gave stake and beam,
But you gifted glory.


Berry, T. Selected Writings on the Earth Community. Introduction by Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grim. Maryknoll. Orbis Books, 2014Collins, P. “Religion is Poetry or it is Nothing!”. ABC Religion & Ethics. 10 December 2010Eliot, T. S. “The Waste Land”. 1922. Poetry Foundation. <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land>Fleischman, P. R. Wonder. When and Why the World Appears Radiant. Amherst. Small Batch Books, 2013Franklin, R. “What Mary Oliver’s Critic Don’t Understand”. The New Yorker. Books. 20 November 2017. <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/27/what-mary-olivers-critics-dont-understand>
Hefner, P. “Forward” in J. A. Stone. Religious Naturalism Today. The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative. New York. State University of New York, 2008
Logan, J. “The Resurgence of Life”. Poetry Soup. 22 March 2021 <https://www.poetrysoup.com/poem/resurgence_of_life_1340115>
“Meaning and Symbolism of Hyacinth”. Teleflora. n.d. <https://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/hyacinth?promotion=AUGUSTWELCOME5>
Meland, B. E. Modern Man’s Worship. A Search for Reality in Religion. New York. Harper & Brothers, 1934
Monahan, J. “Bite into Poetry…” The Ledger. January 2005. <https://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20050111/News/608089277/LL>
Vosper, G. We All Breathe. Poems and Prayers. Toronto. PostPurgical Resources, 2012