Let the Women Speak

This site and its past incarnations (Resistance is Ruin, Sword of Peace) has had primarily male authorship. Currently we have 4 male writers and do not have any female representation. We’ve had a few guest articles written by women, but unfortunately, most of what has been posted on here has been written by men.

I find this to be somewhat troubling. I think one of our goals here on Not By Hands is to have a diverse representation of voices that come together with a common purpose of radical discipleship. I enjoy the dynamic that women bring to the table with their often less power hungry, often more loving, and more communitarian approach. Sometimes us dudes just get caught up in theology and self-righteousness.

Jesus intentionally chose to incorporate women into his mission during a time when women were seen as inferior and second to men. His message spoke of healing and salvation for men and women.  Jesus’s mother, Mary played an important role in the Biblical narrative as she was specifically chosen by God to give birth to the messiah. Many women were healed in the gospel accounts, and women were the first to visit his tomb after his death.

I didn’t want to make this post long, I just wanted to say:

Let the women speak.

Happy Advent!

Happy Advent Everyone!

How are you celebrating the season? How are you not celebrating the season?

Leah and I have been trying to do the daily readings that are a part of advent at Circle of Hope. Each one is based on scripture and/or other influential people/saints throughout the ages. We have been struggling to remember to do this every night and will often read 3 or 4 days at a time! I hope that we can enter into this discipline through the rest of advent.

Circle of hope does a great job with advent. We light the candles, we reflect on a prophet, usually Isaiah, then John the Baptist, then Mary, then shepherds, then at our midnight service on Christmas eve, we welcome Jesus.

I have been extremely scroogish this year when it comes to the season of Christmas. I have no desire to have a tree and/or anything resembling santa in my apt., but I also need to understand that Leah never really celebrated Christmas in an enjoyable way and once she started seeing how my immediate family does it, fell in love with some of the corny traditions. We do have a tree, and it does have a few ornaments with Santa on them.

Leah and I were unable to buy all of our gifts fair trade and hand maid this year which was a little difficult. We have both been to busy to invest in alternative forms of giving.

I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

 

For God loves a cheerful giver: In which Sean learns about generosity in community

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

-2 Corinthians: 9:7

Nearly two months ago I decided that it would be a great idea to gather with friends to play capture the flag.  I loved this game as a child and thought it would be even more fun as an adult.  So gather we did.  About 8 of us on the most perfect field, on the most perfect day.  We quickly laid out our boundaries and set our teams in place, hiding out flags.  We yelled out go…..

10 mins later….

…..and so there I lay, a fallen hero.  Well, not quite.  10 minutes early I had gone to chase one of our “enemies”, slipped on some grass and now lay on the ground with what I would find out later was a broken collarbone.  Terrible.  See what I get for trying to be 12 at age 27?!

In all seriousness this was a terrible blow to me.  I am mostly self employed.  Earning my keep as a freelance photographer and artist.  Money can often times be few and far between.  The same with being able to afford health insurance.  But beyond the cash flow issue there was one more pressing matter.  I was now incapable of holding a camera and thus lost my ability to work.  I was crushed.

After getting through the initial physical shock, the hospital visits and getting used to a sling.  I begun to wrap my mind around my financial situation.  It was (is a bit still) quick bleak.  My money was running out and the medical bills would eventually total nearly $2000.00.  I’m used to worrying about money a bit but now that I couldnt even work for my money ,what would I do?

Turn to God.

Being a freelancer leaves you quite dry some months.  And I’ve always seen God do miracles.  Things just often work out.  I get through them.  God provides more jobs.  I guess my question was this time: “how can I work more jobs if I can’t use my arm?  How can You possibly provide for me now?”, “can You really make a money tree?”  I was starting to get scared….

enter the church

After a few days of praying and nursing myself I began to see out pouring in a way I have never seen in all my life.  Members of my church (The Garden) began to offer their time and their money to help support me for the first month.  I was puzzled at first having not even asked for help.  But then my puzzling turned to joy as I saw their hearts leading them to just hand me money with out expecting anything in return.  My financial needs that month were now going to be met!  What a burden to be lifted from me!

I guess what had so impressed me was that the giving wasn’t asked for specifically, it was prayed for, and I was surprised how freely they gave to me.  This was giving from genuine love.  And it seems to me that giving of that sort is what we ought to be doing.  Its just I have rarely seen it in action before.  My past experience with Church told me to expect many “I will be praying for you”‘s and “I’m sure God will provide”‘s but very little action on the part of the members.  Often times we forget that WE are the church.  And if God is to move through the church WE have to take action rather than sit around and just pray.  The purpose of a community goes beyond simply meeting together to worship and pray.  We are to take on a supportive role with each other.  Hold each other up where we cannot.  Give where there is need.  My brothers and sisters at the Garden were actually living out the principle set out in scripture.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

-Romans 12-10-13

And I will be eternally grateful for the radical generosity they have shown me during my time of need, by actually practicing principles of church and community that are far too rare in our society.

St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day

I was reminded last night that today was St. Francis’ Feast day, so I  decided to share his infamous Canticle of the Sun:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis has been an extremely influential figure in my life. I am grateful for his commitment to advancing God’s Kingdom here on earth. Let’s celebrate his feast!

Restorative Justice in the Way of Jesus

This post is taken from my journal and is based on Matthew 18:15-20 (shown below) and the current book I’m reading titled: Ambassadors of Reconciliation: Volume 1 by Ched Myers and Elaine Enns.

15″If your brother sins against you,[a] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[b] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18″I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[c]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.

19″Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus presents us with a model of restorative justice. His way begins with the victim taking the initiative in the restorative process. The victim goes into this process with the understanding that they have the backing of the church. In doing so, both the victim and offender have a chance for healing.

The Victim enters into a dialogue with the offender. If the offender is unwilling to listen, the victim gathers 2 or 3 witnesses to further give him or herself support and show the offender that this is a serious matter. If this is unsuccessful, then the matter is taken to the church. We must remember that the job of the church is to function as a supporting and loving community. If the offender does not trust in the church to help resolve issues, they are unwilling to seek the restorative type of healing demanded by God and are thus alienating themselves from the community. This is not equal to the Anabaptist practice of shunning, which has been justified to “get rid of rotten fruit”. The offender is only choosing a path of isolation which the church must follow up with.

What is really striking to me is the power of healing in working out a problem using the way of Christ. This goes contrary to our instincts to punish and have someone else deal with our problems. Paul often commands us in his letters to speak the truth in love and work out our problems with others, rather than giving into the temptations of taking about someone behind their back, which is both destructive to the person with the issue as well as the person listening to the issue and is also known as gossip. If we have a problem, we must go directly to that person if we want there to be healing.

How do worldly systems help victim and offender heal? They really do not benefit either person as we can see in our current social systems by the amount of damage and lack of healing we can see in the lives of victims and the high rates of re-incarceration we see of offenders, who are victims themselves in many ways. I think that Jesus’ teaching on restorative justice is universal and he is not just calling the church to employ these techniques with others in the church. I believe this is how he wants us to relate to all people.

I think the reason that our current justice practices do not work is because they do not allow us to see each other’s wounds, weaknesses, and faults. They do not give the space where victim and offender can enter into dialogue with each other and see the brokenness that we experience. They do not let us see that we are human beings living in sin. They do not let us see that we are children of God and that Jesus wishes us to live in harmony with our neighbor and enemy.

Revenge-style conflict resolution is contrary to the grace of God. It is cheap, destructive, and is not rooted in love.

After these verses is the classic instance where Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive our brother. As Myers and Elaine point out, “His incredulous ‘how often?!’ unmasks our own skepticism about and resistance to the process just proposed. Peter is looking for a loop hole” (Myers & Enns, 2008) Jesus then assures Peter that we are to always use this style of conflict resolution by saying that we are to forgive our brother not 7 times, but 77 times!

For lent this year at Circle of Hope (my church), we are focusing on a season of reconciliation. I know there have been many times in my life where I have stabbed people in the back and seeked the easy route of differing my problems to others to take care of issues in a punitive, unhealthy way. I am trying to make the necessary changes in my life in order to solve my problems in a way that is Christ-like.

In the fall I am going back to school for school counseling. I plan on taking what I have learned from Jesus and applying it in my counseling of children and young adults. I feel a sense of anticipation as I believe that healthy conflict resolution can lead to lasting peace. I am enthusiastic about putting some of these things into practice, and i can start by doing so in my own life.

It’s only through Jesus that we can be Transformed.

Loving Your Enemies

(Credit to Isaac Villegas from Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship for inspiring some of this post, with a piece of his sermon “A Material Spirit”, which you can and should read here.)

Trigger-happy American Christians tend to think the best way to deal with our enemies, at least on a large scale if not on a personal level, is to annihilate them. “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out,” we hear from the mouths of NRA-card-carrying fundamentalists. Never mind that drivel about loving and blessing and praying for your enemies, Jesus only meant that in an interpersonal context. Maybe. But as far as those Muslim Al-Qaeda Iraqi towelheads go, let’s bomb them all and turn the Middle East into a sea of glass. After all, they are a threat to Christianity.

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. — Luke 9:51-56

Christ was on a mission, headed decidedly toward Jerusalem. In His way stood Samaria, already disparaged by the Jews, and they lived down to their reputation here by resisting Jesus’s presence. They were, in the moment, a threat to His ministry. The disciples came up with a bright idea that ought to look pretty familiar to modern readers – they suggested that they annihilate the offending citizens with fire from heaven. Jesus looks at them like they each have two heads. Really? Have I taught you nothing? Keep in mind, this is after Jesus’s famous exhortation to love enemies (see Luke 6:27-36). This had to be fresh in the disciples’ minds, as faithful followers of the Messiah. But alas, mercy is not at the forefront of their agenda…yet. So they respond instinctively with an appeal to violence – divine violence, even, implying that God would send the fire to incinerate these wicked foreigners. They know God is on their side, so they think His judgment can be brought in to solve their problems. They have yet to understand the ways of the Prince of Peace.

Jesus rebukes the disciples, and instead of razing Samaria to a heap of ashes, they all simply go around a different way. They don’t try to convert the Samaritans, either; they remain, for now, “enemies” to the Jews.

(There is another, perhaps better-known, record of Jesus’s dealings with Samaria in John 4. Jesus chats it up with a local woman – doubly subversive – while the disciples go into town to buy food, and presumably not to burn down the grocery afterward. Jesus has quite an impact on this Samaritan village, and many people there do receive His message as He stays among them for two whole days. We don’t know what the disciples thought of this or whether it occurred before or after the hostile encounter in Luke, but we can be pretty confident these were two different places in Samaria. The whole of the country was still not keen on Jesus’s teachings, and the disciples were not keen on the Samaritans.)

Time passes. Jesus dies, is resurrected, charges His disciples with spreading His gospel, empowers them with the Holy Spirit, and makes His way home to heaven. The disciples scatter, taking the good news of the Kingdom of God all over the place. In the famous eighth verse of Acts 1, Jesus tells His disciples where to take the good news – including Judea and Samaria specifically. Philip is evidently the first one of them with the guts to go that way; in Acts 8, he goes to the big city in Samaria and proclaims Christ to them. What do you know…they listened! Philip converted men and women and even the town sorcerer by preaching the word and performing miraculous signs. But for some reason, Philip’s work isn’t quite complete. God has a loose end to tie up here.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. — Acts 8:14-17

Why Peter and John were capable of finishing the work Philip began isn’t fully clear, but that’s what happens. But look closely…John is one of the disciples sent to Samaria to complete God’s work. Maybe John was too embarrassed to record the story that Luke did, quoted earlier. John was, indeed, one of the prior proponents of the total destruction of Samaria. Jesus denies him the opportunity, and then years later compels him to return to the same scene to give those same Samaritans a different sort of Fire from Heaven. The hands which John wanted to lift to call down calamity, he now lays on those people to instill them with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit finally comes upon them through this act of grace, making complete God’s work both in Samaria and in John’s heart.

Practical Resistance

Matt and I have been working on a way to practically resist American materialism and individualism. We have increasingly been trying to set up a system of commonality and sharing with things that we possess.

Matt and I both have similar interests, and in the past have each bought things that we could have shared with each other. Now, we are intentionally not purchasing duplicates of anything. Even though he lives in Baltimore and I live in Philadelphia, we are significantly reducing how much junk we purchase. As somebody who is trying to get rid of a great deal of what I own in order to live more simply, this is great! I have read Acts 2 many times and haven’t been really trying to live it out until recently. We should turn to radical sharing, and remember how everyone had all things in common and redistributed to those in need.

I no longer feel as if I own anything. I have certain ‘things’ in my possession, that need to be viewed as gifts rather than stuff I earned or purchased. When you view everything as a gift, you are more grateful, and become more and more willing to share it with others.

We should also take this a step further as did the Disciples and Apostles. The whole purpose of their redistribution was so that they could give to those in need. Our true motivations should lie in our desires to care for others and take care of those who are marginally oppressed. I would like to explore this in a more practical way, by creating a system of sharing that not only includes my friends and family, but includes those who really need us to share. Something other than just sharing money. Something like inviting people over and sharing dinner. Sharing is a powerful tool that can change the world.

I am writing this not to sound condescending, but to encourage everyone who reads this to try this more often. I admit my failures and shortcomings, but am sincerely trying to retreat from the entrails of individualism and materialism. I feel my life changing as I am less and less attached to my material belongings, and I am very excited about the positive changes that I’m trying to make in my life.

Previous Older Entries