Get up, take your mat, and go

Reflection prepared for 2016 Annual General Meeting–the theme of which is Allons-y!/Let’s Go!–of the Montréal & Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada. Originally presented in both French and English.

9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go…’ 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

(Mark 2:9-12 NRSVA)

Nous n’avons jamais rien vu de pareil! dit la foule autour de Jésus.

We have never seen anything like this.

In the Gospels and in the person of Jesus Christ, our God is a God of miracles, of things that are too difficult for humans to understand. Starting with the earthly ministry of Jesus, the history of our faith, of the church, is a story of a God who loves, and who surprises, God’s people.
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Sex is the very last thing I want: (non)confessions of a Demisexual

Last week, I drove from Québec to Connecticut. It is something I do fairly often, and one of the joys of that five-to-six-hour-journey is that I have to stop and explain why to a federal agent with a gun.

“What is the purpose of your trip?”
“I am visiting two friends.”
“When are you coming back?”
“Tomorrow morning.”
“You’re driving all that way just to be with these friends for an afternoon? Is one of them a girlfriend?”
“They are both women, but no.”
“But you must be hoping for something to happen there to drive so long…” Customs agent creepily winks…

Our culture so desperately undervalues friendship and overvalues sex that my ability to freely and quickly cross the American-Canadian border depends on my playing along. Act like getting laid is my number one motivation in life, and there’s nothing suspicious. Explain, “No, actually, I just enjoy long drives and profoundly value talking with and being with people with whom I share common interests,” and get delayed. Our border guards recommend travellers to secondary inspections for being suspiciously chaste: that is the sexually-charged culture we live in. Young men who aren’t horny must be hiding something. Search the car. Continue reading »

God is with you wherever you go

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 NRSV

Moses is dead. And yet God’s command leaves no time to mourn, to regroup, to reconsider. The book of Joshua begins with a command to Joshua, to not only go forward, but to do so strongly, courageously, not having fear or dismay. For those of who prefer the idea of gentle, loving God it is uncomfortable to accept a command to be brave, a command against fear, treating fear or sadness as sin perhaps even. Sin is a loaded word, but if we see sin not just as “bad” behaviour, but those attitudes and choices which separate us from God, then fear of moving forward to where God calls us is “sin.” The point is not to feel guilty, though, but to go forward. Our fear can obscure God from our view, but we are not ever out of God’s view. God is with you wherever you are.
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“Never forget what your mother taught you.”

A painting of my mother, Virginia Anne Upham Williams, by my grandmother, America Liberty Holden Upham, c. 1968

A painting of my mother, Virginia Anne Upham Williams, by my grandmother, America Liberty Holden Upham, c. 1968, now in my daughters’ bedroom so they always know Grandma Ginger loves them

Never forget what your mother taught you. Keep [her] words with you always, locked in your heart.

Proverbs 6:20b-21a Good News Translation

On a July Thursday in 1948, Virginia Anne Upham was born in Philadelphia, a city I still have never visited, but from which I learned that women carry pocketbooks not purses. And 46 years later on a July Friday in 1994, she died of breast cancer.

She lives on, of course, in the presence of the God and saviour to whom she dedicated her life, in the memory of friends and family, in the very genes of her five children, her twelve grandchildren. She lives on the faith many of us have inherited from her. She lives on in the middle name of one of my daughters, Emerald Virginie, and in the crooked smile that she passed to me and that I passed to my other daughter, Lanéa.

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Holy Saturday: Rest

(c) St Stephen's House, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) St Stephen’s House, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“They went away and prepared fragrant spice and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath in keeping with the commandments.” – Luke 23:56 CEB

It is Holy Saturday. A quiet, sacred, confusing in-between time. The worst is over, but the best is still yet to come. Here where I live in Montréal, the climate of March exudes this confusion. There is warmth and sunshine, the snow melts away, and then another snow storm comes. It is neither quite winter anymore nor truly yet spring. And Holy Saturday is not Good Friday anymore. What is done is done. The memories of the crucifixion are vivid, tangible, and yet, yesterday’s. The hope of the resurrection is real, but tomorrow’s. Holy Saturday is a day to rest, to wait.

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