Genesis, Vocation, and Master Penmenship


Every human being has a call to be a maker. This vocation is one of cultivation, of using the resources before us, alongside the talents within us, for betterment of those around us through partnering with the God among us. This is (partly) what it means to be made in God’s image.

This is part of the creation mandate found in Genesis. Many readings of “the beginning” focus on particular polemical readings, either glossing over or completely ignoring the narrative trajectories these primal texts put us on. From the onset of our story, we find a God getting down in the dirt – the image of a gardener on his knees comes to mind – hands covered in earth. Breath is infused into the earthenware known as human and he is told to get on with being this cultivator, this maker. In short: be a culture maker. This is not a solo venture, but one completed and carried out in community, as the Genesis story tells.

And so we find that our spiritual life is comprised of our physical life. Our vocation is a holistic one: the spiritual manifesting itself in the physical. The two are intimately incorporated into one. Proper usage of earthly materials along with the proper wielding of our personal beings is at the center of the spiritual life. We do damage to the Genesis story and in turn to what it means to image God when we set up false dichotomies between the spiritual and the physical. God is one who gets down in the muck, not who stands above it all.

True spirituality, therefore, is not a denial of or seeking an escape from earthy stuff, but is a participatory relationship with and resting in one’s interconnected place within all this earthiness.

This vocation is not dependent upon one’s occupation. The call – vocation literally means “calling”; same word as vocal – is to use and put forth objects of love. Love in the sense of making them with love for others whom you love because you know a God who does the same. Be it a plumber, teacher, or mayor; those employed, unemployed, or under-employed; the call is the same: creatively use what you are given and who you are to be a cultivator of love.

To be human is to cultivate love.

An example of these thoughts is found in the video of Master Penmen below. I hope you find it both challenging and inspiring as I did.


“God is not a workaholic.” – Walter Brueggemann on Sabbath (and Empire): Day 18 of Lent

My friends over at The Englewood Review of Books posted the following videos featuring renowned theologian and biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann. They are taken from The Episcopal Church of The Redeemer in Cincinnati for a series they are doing on Lent. In an effort to spread the goodness, I am posting there here as well.

As his normal self, Brueggemann is brilliant in these lectures/discussions on what Sabbath was and did in the context of Israel being in exile under the oppressive rule of differing – and yet stunningly similar – empires. Interspersed along the way, he brings to our attention what life might look like as subversive communities living within the Empire of our current age.

How do consumerism and productivism shape our identity – both communal and individual?

What does Sabbath have to do with the self, justice, and poverty?

How might we actually embody practices of economic subversion in our imaging of God?

This is eye-opening and challenging stuff. Watch, wrestle, and talk about it with your faith community. (There will be a Part 2 so check back in for that in a few weeks.)


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Other posts in this Lent series:

Moving Beyond Immediate (and) Affirmation or Why I Will Be Blogging Through Lent

“Divine Sorrow” and Remembering: Ash Wednesday

Longings, Presence, and Vulnerability: Day 2 of Lent

Being Led by the Gentle Voice of God: A Notebook and 3 Questions: Day 3 of Lent

Lent Around the Blogosphere: 10 Links: Day 4 of Lent

First Sunday of Lent: A Prayer

Psalm 91 and Cliche: Day 5 of Lent

Community and Prayer: Henri Nouwen on Pushing Through Individualism Via Communal Prayer: Day 6 of Lent

Humility, Place, and The Everyday: Lessons in Mission From John the Baptizer: Day 7 of Lent

Lenten Reflection and Fasting According to Joan Chittister: Day 8 of Lent

Jean Vanier’s “Seven Aspects of Love”: Day 11 of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent: A Prayer

Suffering and Lent: Words from Joan Chittister: Day 14 of Lent

Life With and Among the Marginalized: Wisdom from Jean Vanier

For more than the past seven years I have worked with students with special needs. When I moved home after college with a Biblical Studies degree in hand, there weren’t many jobs looking for someone with my background. My brother informed me of the summer program he was working in and so I too began working with him as a Special Education Teaching Assistant. It was a challenging time, yet rewarding, as I began to have my eyes opened to what I would later learn is an extremely hidden and marginalized population.

As soon as summer school was over, I began working for my local school district as a Special Education TA and have been employed by them ever since. Within this time, I have worked with all ages from kindergarten to adults of 21 years old. I have worked with students who have learning disabilities and require a little help reading to non-verbal, wheel-chair bound students who are unable to do anything for themselves (eating, toileting) and can be dangerously violent. I have worked with students all along this spectrum, many of whom have rarely been seen by the public eye. And it isn’t just these individual students that are hidden, but the families and other support structures that are behind them.

Along the way, I was blessed to attend seminary and complete a Masters in Theological Studies. Combining the life experience I was receiving at the hands of the hidden and marginalized with the holistic change in thought and action that was being cultivated in seminary, I began to sense something was amiss in the Church’s relation to those with special needs.

I firmly believe people living with – what are commonly known as – “disabilities” are the most neglected group within the Church. This was recently brought up at most recent Emergence Christianity event with Phyllis Tickle and reflected upon by Julie Clawson. There are a few resources out there regarding Christian life and witness and the beautiful-yet-hidden humans I’ve worked with. I don’t say this as to induce guilt. Rather, I’d like to ask questions and raise awareness of what our current situation actually looks like.

I have learned the most from the founder of L’Arche: Jean Vanier. L’Arche is “an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities.” It is not just another home of seclusion for these people. No, it is a community where, in the words of Vanier himself, “We live together – those with disabilities and those who wish to have a deep and sometimes lasting relationship with them. We laugh and cry and sometimes fight with one another; we work, we celebrate life, and we pray together.” And in this way the giving of life does not flow in one direction, as would be normally thought, from person without disability to the one with. (To be honest, this is a horribly anemic way of seeing each other. We all have disabilities, some are just more visually identifiable than others.) Instead the learning of life and love is reciprocal as one develops the eyes and ears to see the life and love emanating from those we normally would deem life and loveless. This has been a lesson I have had to learn over and over.

I plan on writing more from this space of learning from those deemed weak and insignificant. Jesus has quite a bit to say about this reality and thankfully I have come across Vanier and his rooted wisdom from actual life. Before I write about the lessons I have been graced with, I beg you to watch these short videos.

Watch them. Listen to Vanier. Reflect upon what he is saying and the community he is saying them out of. He is a light.

Home, Homelessness, Homecoming Part 3

Here is the final installment of Brian Walsh’s video series from the folks at The Parish Collective. If you want to know more about Walsh, check out his blog or his books or the dialogue his wife and he presented entitled “Outside a Small Circle of Friends: Jesus and the Justice of God” at Wheaton’s Theology Conference 2010: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright.  They are all great resources.

For more on the great work from the people at the Parish Collective, check out their site. If you like what you read, talk with me about working on some collaborative for the Syracuse area. I’d love to chat. You can always check them out on Facebook and join their online community full of resources and dialogue. Again, great, great stuff.

Enjoy the video.

Home, Homelessness, Homecoming Part 2

Here is the continuation of Brian Walsh’s video below.

As always, very thought provoking ideas and realities being brought to light. In particular, for me at least, are his thoughts on covenant, marriage, and the violence of humanity towards God. I wrote my Masters thesis on the biblical imagery of marriage, especially in the gospels with Jesus and the church portrayed as bride and bridegroom. Very, very loaded images and analogies happening there.

Check out the video.

Any thoughts?

Home, Homelessness, Homecoming

Here is Brian Walsh – theologian and author – discussing the epic narrative of Scripture in terms of “home, homelessness, and homecoming.” It is from the Parish Collective’s Vimeo site and is well worth the 3 minute watch.

I especially enjoy the “earthiness” of his metaphor. As one who is thinking through Scripture, church, theology, and all of their public practices I find this very helpful.

Any thoughts?