Paul tells about the day, 18 years ago, he proposed marriage to Karis. Through it, he explains how mythology is involved in everything we share. Read more...
Mythology has nothing do to with whether something really happened, or not. Mythology introduces meaning into past events. This is what we have in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell many of the events of the public life of Jesus of Nazareth. They each render these events, or as I’ll call them — episodes, uniquely. Written decades after the events, Jesus’ earliest followers render meaning that has been formed over a lifetime of Christian living.
The exhilarating evening I proposed marriage to Karis, I showed up unannounced on the front steps of her family home with my best hair style, a dozen roses, and unknown to her, a diamond engagement ring in my pocket.
There was electricity in the autumn air that evening.
Microsoft had just released Internet Explorer 4, and the movie Titanic was opening in theatres, but the blockbuster release of the fall of 1997 was the moment when I took my beautiful bride-to-be on an picturesque walk overlooking the cityscape, got down on one knee and through trembling voice said, ‘Karis, will you marry me?’
She said yes, she cried, we embraced, rose petals came floating down from angels above, and the whole city stopped as if to say, ‘this is a match made in heaven’.
I did propose to Karis on a fall evening in 1997 and she said yes
I did show up with a dozen roses and a diamond engagement ring
Internet Explorer 4 came out the end of September that year.
Titanic wasn’t released in theatres until December 19th.
The city was Edmonton, not the most beautiful cityscape, and it was cold.
When I showed up, Karis was in her pyjamas, I needed to persuade her to change.
I thought these details took away from what I want people to take away from it.
Angels were not floating rose petals from above
I have no idea how much electricity could even be in the air
Only a few people could have noticed, and I doubt any of them cared
My rendering of this episode would have been more historically accurate when I told friends and family right after it happened, in 1997. Now, I am telling you this story based on 18 years of history, what it means to me now, and what you, my audience, might want to hear.
I would say, more important than historical, which from my perspective it is, I’ve given what this episode means.
Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths.C.S. Lewis
Mythology is a lost art, one of the few arts that really are lost; but it is an art.G.K. Chesterton
Our citizenship is in heaven – and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only once is Jesus pictured riding a white horse. The image once conveyed military conquest. The episode reflects Jesus’ heart to make our world peaceful. A white horse does not carry this meaning in Canada today. The capital of Yukon shares this name because of nearby rapids that resemble the main of a white horse. You and I are invited to do mythology, to use words and images from our world to share the heart being formed in us.
Jesus said, ‘Follow me’. And by following we learn how to be divinely human.Phileena Heuertz 21st Century
...asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
The early followers of Jesus use the word ‘thief’ to describe him because Jesus’ movements are not always noticed. ‘Jesus as thief’ serves as an invitation to awaken to what we are are unaware of. There are areas of your life where Jesus is present, but unknown to you. Regular practice of prayer exercises cultivate awareness of things hidden. At the right time, adopting new practices to cultivate relationship with God refocuses our attention.
Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am full.Watchman Nee 20th Century
Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak.
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
This is such a rich piece of Scripture, filled with truths, and powerful words that convey the gravity of what Christ has accomplished on the cross. Our human minds can’t fully absorb the depth of what happened when Christ willingly went to the cross to die for us. We have an eternal inheritance. We are set free. We are cleansed. We are given the honour and privilege of serving the living God.
At the Communion table, the veil between the present and the eternal, the seen and the unseen, becomes thinner as we eat and drink in the presence of
that living God. As we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection, we remember that the physical curtain of the temple, in the area that symbolically represented the separation of God and people, was torn in two – that Jesus, the mediator, made a way for flawed humans to be presented spotless before the living God. That is a lot to absorb, even on our best days! But as we are, right here today, forgiven, accepted, freed, we can come forward and remember, and trust that the cross was enough.
So I welcome you now to come forward, and to be served by our pastors.
Who has been pastor for you? There are many ways to rightly serve as pastor. The one constant is affirming each person’s unique relationship with God. Pastor affirms the presence of God, in all of life’s conditions, so the Spirit can form you. This is rendered in the episode of Jesus presently being a mediator between God. What in your assertions of what pastor should be might be distracting you from relationship with God?
A poet has no identity... he is continually... filling some other body.John Keats 19th Century
“Marana Tha” a common Aramaic expression meaning “Come Lord”
In addition to present and past episodes in the life of Jesus, his earliest followers rendered meaning into future episodes, like when he comes down from heaven. Relationship with God cultivates an awareness of Jesus’ return, not the other way around. Like the way you speak about episodes that may be in your future (graduation, marriage, retirement, etc). Your relationship with these renders meaning into how you speak of them.
Unite your own will to the will of Jesus Christ.Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori 18th Century
May more and more mercy, peace and love be given to you.
When we take Communion together, we remember the key time in which Jesus entered into our space and time, lived among us as one of us, and showed us God’s heart and character through His life.
The truth is though, as Paul has shared, is that Jesus has been in our midst always. Since before Abraham ... through all of the redemptive stories of both Old and New Testaments ... and today ... and in the future. Redemption is all around us, because of Jesus.
The event we remember and celebrate as we take bread and juice together is the pivotal redemptive event in history. And we can participate in this knowing that here today we are also part of this ongoing redemptive story. Jesus is in our midst, breathing life into our own brokenness, and inviting us to be bearers of His life and redemption and liberation to others.
So to quote Jude again, as you come forward now to participate – “may more and more mercy, peace and love be given to you.”
In the Exodus, ‘Yahweh’ (a Hebrew name for God) is given credit for liberating Israelites from Egyptian captivity (Exodus 3:8, 12:51, 13:3, 14:29-31). Reliable manuscripts of Jude 5 credit Jesus with this liberation. This example reinterprets history as Jesus is formed in his followers’ hearts. Jesus can be credited with every act of liberation. How is Jesus be liberating in your life? In what internal and external ways is he bringing liberation?
Your death claims my love, Jesus my Savior, for it gave your love supreme expression.Francis de Sales 17th Century
I pray to God that whether in a short or a long time not only you but also all those who are listening to me today could become such as I am, except for these chains.
Jesus’ public life lasted just 3-4 years. At some point, people discovered his backstory, including his birth, family, and in this astonishing episode, creating ‘all things’. Anything of the meta-universe is created by Jesus. I.e.: time is created and entered by Jesus. The limitations provided by time need not be rallied against. As Jean-Pierre de Caussade invites us, the only place I can meet God is where I am, because that is the only place I am.
If You, O good Jesus, in Your love do not make the soul gentle, it will persist in its natural hardness.Saint John of the Cross 16th Century
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! Lord, do not hold this sin against them!
The episode of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God is included in several New Testament books. Jesus is pictured ruling from heaven with authority. The old word ‘session’ (literally sitting down) helps describe Jesus’ rule. Like when a court is ‘in session’, Jesus is forming his characteristics in the hearts of people. Is this an episode you see? Is Jesus in heaven forming your heart? How are you responding to the session of Christ?
That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us, and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.Thomas a Kempis 15th Century
Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.
In the story we’ve heard today, Jesus revealed Himself to Paul in a dramatic way. He appears to Paul. His voice is heard.
Do we believe that Jesus is also ready to be seen by and heard by us? That He has words to speak to us?
When we come forward to participate in Communion together, as we’ll do in a moment, we ourselves do several things – we take steps, we remember, we give thanks for all that Jesus did to restore our relationship with God. But it is not a one-way conversation. Communion is one of the many contexts in which we can meet with Jesus. I imagine Jesus standing by the table, arms open, welcoming us to come and eat with Him. And for all that this is simply a picture that is meaningful to me ... I’ve come to believe that this is exactly what Jesus is doing.
He welcomes you here, and maybe today this will be one of the places where you hear the words He is speaking to you. So as we come forward and take the bread and juice that represent His sacrifice for us ... continue in this attitude of prayer, and keep listening for His still, small voice, and for the words He has for you today.
I’ll ask the servers to come to the front. And when you’re ready, you can come forward and take the bread and juice ... and you are also welcome at this time to write your reflections down at the table.
The ascension is not Jesus’ final episode. One subsequent episode happens 3-4 years later when he meets Saul of Tarsus. Jesus’ ‘alacrity’ is evident in the timely message he has for Saul. Alacrity is a ‘brisk and cheerful readiness’. Jesus is ready to speak to us. We learn to discern his voice by tuning out our voice and the voices of others. In a period of intentional silence, listen for what Jesus is saying to you today.
God wills to be seen and to be sought: to be abided and to be trusted.Julian of Norwich 14th Century
Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?
This 10 minute recording includes the music and some of the prayer exercises used in this liturgy. Use it to cultivate awareness of the nearness of Christ.
MP3 (12mb) right click and choose “save as” to download
The New Testament shares repeatedly that Jesus has ascended into heaven, but only Luke records it as an event. Matthew, for example, ends with Jesus saying “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. This omission of an ascension event emphasizes that Jesus has not left us, but is indeed near. Have your experiences with spiritual exercises like The Examen, Imaginative Prayer, and Lectio Divina help cultivate the nearness of Christ?
The ascension brought about our loss of his bodily presence.Thomas Aquinas 13th Century
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all include an episode where Jesus calls his early followers to continue his ministry. The setting, literary style, and content of each varies significantly, offering unique value to our formation. Perhaps there is a common theme of living in relationship with God and sharing those experiences. How are you currently experiencing relationship with God? How will you share this with another?
You are burning lamps whom the Lord has established on his sacred mountain to illuminate the darkness of the world by your word and example.Elisabeth of Schönau 12th Century
I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known.
The many appearance episodes show the physicality of the resurrected Jesus. While we have not observed the bodily presence of Jesus, we have received from God in ways that demonstrate the physicality of his heart. One of many examples is rhythm: repeating the same activities in the same places with the same people. Rhythm cultivates relationship with God. Is there an activity God is inviting you to develop into a rhythm?
In communion, a regular practice of the church, you and I are offered the very body of Jesus. As Jesus’ teaching is remembered in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Communion is remembering. Our memory recalls the last supper, the suffering and death, and the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. Events that we were not there for, but can remember as a relational gift from God.
Communion is nature. We receive actual bread and actual juice that are tasted, swallowed, and digested.
Communion is church family. We receive alongside one another and are served by one another.
Communion is rhythm. We receive communion about 20 times a year.
You are invited here and now to participate in the physicality of communion as a means to cultivate relationship with God.
God became man, and by his own death, as we believe and affirm, restored life to the world.Anslem of Canterbury 11th Century
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
All four accounts include around 200 words describing the alarm, fear, and bewilderment experienced at the initial evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection embodies a not-yet-familiar future, so relationship with him takes us where we have not been. Does your vision of the future include room for your formation? Share with God how his forming your heart affects the future we are still becoming familiar with.
In the face of my darkness, you are light. In the face of my mortality, you are life.A prayer of Gregory of Narek 10th Century
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
At circa 200, the Alexamenos graffito could be the earliest drawing of Jesus. It is also an example of mythology, the sort that mocks Jesus’ suffering. While the death of Jesus is well attested by historians, it’s meaning is formed in the heart through relationship with God. How would you draw the crucified Jesus? Regardless of your artistic talent, take time to share what this episode means to you through drawing. Be sure to include yourself.
Can you imagine being there as these events unfolded, watching from afar as this group of Jesus’ followers did?
As people who knew Jesus, they would have known that everything said in these passages was true:
I imagine the people watching, so confused and distraught because this righteous, innocent man is being killed — and seems either so powerless or so unwilling to save Himself.
And then the darkness comes.
And the ground shakes. And the temple curtain is torn in two.
And all of a sudden, there is a realization, at least in part, that something monumental has just happened. That things will never be the same.
And we’re here today, thousands of years after this event took place, taking Communion together, because this event is as monumental for us today as it was for the people watching from afar.
We don’t get to feel the earth move, or see the dead rising, or see temple curtains torn in two. But because Jesus willingly went to the cross, and took the world’s sin on Himself … we have life, we have forgiveness, we have the hope of resurrection. And because darkness did not have the last word on the cross, we have the assurance and hope that it will never have the last word.
And we have all of this because of God’s deep and relentless love for us.
So let’s come forward now and take Communion together, remembering these incredible truths, and seeking to live in the reality of the cross more and more each day.
Lord God Almighty, shaper and ruler of all creatures, we pray to you for your great mercy, that you guide us better than we have done, towards you, and guide us to your will, to the need of our soul, better than we can ourselves.Alfred the Great 9th Century
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Jesus transforms the human heart through relationship. There are no words correct enough to make up for what is formed in a relationship with God. Is this part of why Jesus requested to keep his messianic identity a secret? When we sing songs in liturgy, the words cannot make up for what is lacking in the heart. Sincerity connects us to our heart. To cultivate sincerity during liturgy, share a secret with God. What private thought could you share with him?
The breaking of bread, not simply the eating of it, began early in the Old Testament, with Melchizedek king of Salem, bringing out the bread and wine to bless Abram by God Most High; to the pure incense, representing bread as a food offering to the Lord, Sabbath after Sabbath, as a lasting covenant with the people of Israel, to the Festival of Unleavened Bread, forever marking the day the Sovereign Lord brought His people out of Egypt, to the white life-saving, Heaven-sent, honey-sweet manna, which neither the Israelites nor their ancestors had known, to teach us what Job would later confess, “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words from my God’s mouth more than my daily bread,” for man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Wrapped in this timeless mystery, Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread, and taking just five loaves and two fish, performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand. Not only were all satisfied, there were 12 baskets leftover. For in our Lord’s Kingdom, the blessings will overflow; His goodness knows no end.
And as Jesus told his disciples, who wanted yet another sign to believe, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
So that on the night he was betrayed, our Lord said to his disciples, “For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, giving it to them and saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Divided in nature, he entered the world, to save and to help without bounds.Inscription on the Nestorian Stele,
For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
The heart of Christ is to teach us we are welcome to learn his heart. Matthew renders Jesus’ homily on a mountain while Luke describes it on plain. Where are we learning Christ’s heart? When we learn it in our context, among those we live with, we give ourselves and others the opportunity to learn Christ’s heart. Is there one part of Jesus’ homily and one place where he is welcoming you to learn his heart?
Christ Jesus brought the right of Deity into the poor lantern of our humanity, and then set it upon the candlestick of his church that the whole house of the world might be lit up thereby.Venerable Bede 7th Century
…the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…
For Jesus, love depends on the heart of the lover rather than the qualities of the beloved. For this reason we may learn to love God, our neighbour, our enemy, and ourselves. Love is formed in our hearts through receiving Christ’s love for us. We are invited to have times of prayer, receive communion, and experience belonging in our church family not because we prove our love for Christ, but receive his loving heart for us.
As we remain in this spirit of prayer, and as we continue to listen to God’s heart for us (and I encourage you to do that, even as I speak) – we have the opportunity now to continue this time in His presence by coming forward to participate in Communion together. What is represented in Communion is love in its fullest.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” … and this is exactly what Jesus did, for each one of us. Not because we were worthy, but because we are loved.
Communion is therefore a place where we can be reminded afresh of the deep and boundless love Jesus has for us. And it’s a place of grace; a place we can approach as forgiven, restored, and beloved children of God. So let’s do that now …
Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.Benedict of Nursia 6th Century
Give us each day our daily bread.
Jesus of Nazareth is remembered by his followers and other observers as a “doer of startling deeds”. With the event of the miraculous feeding, his followers wish to both render this event, and state what wasn’t understood by them at the time — his divine heart. God may form us looking at past events with a new perspective. In prayer, ask God how you have avoided formation in the past and how you can now rightly respond.
The Saviour will multiply your little many times beyond expectation, and though you give but little, you will receive much.Cyril of Alexandria 5th Century
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
The heart of Christ is to call us to himself. This calling comes from without and from within our own heart. How is Christ calling you to respond to him now? Is he calling you from his voice in scripture? Is he calling you from the voice of a friend? Is he calling you while noticing another respond? Is he calling you from the desire to serve? Is he calling you from his voice cultivated through stillness and listening?
When we take Communion here at HMCC, we come forward to the front – and I love that we participate in this way because, as I've mentioned from up here many times, because it makes our participation active. Jesus graciously offers us an invitation, and in coming forward, we actively respond.
Luke 22 says, "And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
As we prepare for Communion, and prepare to respond: Jesus invites us to ... remember that pivotal time in history where He willingly laid down His life so that we could be restored, forgiven, and given hope. Jesus invites us to ... a life lived in that reality, life to the full, a life of freedom in the deepest sense. And Jesus invites us, as He did with the disciples ... to leave everything behind, and follow Him wherever He leads. In full confidence that the God who sent His son for each of us, is alive and active in our world today, and in our lives as we serve Him.
So as we come forward now, I encourage you to remember His sacrifice – and the deep love that God has for you – and to respond to this as the disciples did. By choosing to follow, whatever that may mean.
We are told of the first disciples that they forsook their boat and their nets, and even their aged father… as if to show that it is sometimes a religious duty to be undutiful for the Lord’s sake.Jerome 4th Century
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.
The heart of Christ is to affirm the small and slowly form it in places that receive little attention — like our hearts. As a metaphor speaks of something non-literal, so Jesus is remembered speaking of the kingdom as a small seed growing into a large tree. How has the kingdom of God grown in your heart? Try to explain this growth without referring to physical objects, people, or places. Use the non-literal language of the heart.
I pray that you may prosper, my beloved child, as you minister to the Lord in peace.Dionysius of Alexandria 3rd Century
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!
The episode of Jesus being tested by the devil is a private event that can be recalled by Jesus’ followers because they knew his devotional heart. Christ’s devoted heart may also be formed in us, diminishing our capricious desires to break relationship. What opportunities are you most aware of that test your devotion to God? When struggling to sustain devotion, how can your private life cultivate lasting devotion?
Let me follow in the footsteps of the Lord.Ignatius of Antioch 2nd Century
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
The heart of Christ is to participate in relationship with God, in ways that others were participating. There are many reasons why not to participate in cultivation activities. For us, activities like baptism, sining, relationships, serving, or communion. Christ is remembered participating. What are the contexts for heart formation in your life? How are you currently cultivating relationship with God?
For where the Lord's nature is discussed, there the Lord is.Didache 4.1 1st Century