RSS

Category Archives: If Jesus Did Church

Imagine what church or any ministry might look like, feel like, if Jesus were actually in charge of it. What would He think of ours, here, today?

Getting it “Right”

Back in the day, at the beginnings of my ministry life, but far enough along where I’d begun to question my own “omniscience”, I was privileged to intern under a very gifted teacher. I was quite driven, quite passionate, to “get it all right”. I wanted to be perfect, to make no mistakes, to minister the “right” way, with the touch, finesse, and wisdom I saw among so many of my elders.

(Been there? Remember those days?)

From time to time, more frequently than I care to remember, I fell short of this self-imposed standard. I came away from an encounter realizing that while it was “mostly right”, it “could have been better”. One or another place there had been a lack of grace, an injection of ego, or impatience, or my own content and wisdom rather than inspiration. These places would highlight in aftermoments, like “worn spots” or “scuffs” on the surface of an otherwise acceptable textile or leatherwork.

Time and time again, I would take such encounters in review to my mentor, with the question, “How would YOU have handled this? How could this have been better?”

He’d listen, carefully and prayerfully, without interruption… never a grimace of disapproval or disappointment crossing his features. Then he’d usually reach for his Bible and find a passage, and set it aside for the moment. He’d then speak, reviewing my narrative, agreeing and affirming what went “well”, and then highlighting and restating the “scuff mark” I was asking about. He always wanted to be sure that he’d rightly “heard” what someone thought they’d “said”. (These do not always match, I’ve since then learned.)

Then, he would teach two lessons. One was a lesson of “content“. He would, before we finished, address the specific question or issue I had come with. This lesson I had no trouble identifying, understanding, and implementing. But the other lesson… the other was a lesson of “context“. He would point out a fallacy in the way I envisioned the question and teaching paradigm. THIS lesson, this message, I consistently failed to identify, understand, or implement. Not until years later, when “all these words came back to me” and suddenly, it all made sense.

Amazing, isn’t it? Someone can repeat the same words to us, time and time again, but if we aren’t yet “ready to hear” them, they just don’t seem to impress themselves on the brain or in the memory? Such were these words, oft repeated to me…

“You ask how this could be done better, how you could minister more perfectly. That’s a great question, and we’ll address that. But, you ask ‘how would *I* have done this?’ Thank you for that, but that shouldn’t be your first or primary question. There is only One Perfect Minister, and He is within you and you have access to Him. The first question is, ‘how was He doing this…’ for the parts that you sense as ‘right’… and ‘how would He have done this’ for the other parts. A second approach, if we don’t know that answer, is to go to scripture and see how DID Jesus handle parallel situations, as shown through the gospels? I’ve never yet found a situation here, that He did not face there in some form or another. Once we look at THAT, have that exemplar of the Perfect Minister in mind, THEN, if it is helpful we can look at how I, or anyone else you learn from, might apply that lesson.

“Don’t look first at what *I* would do. For I, too, am frail and limited in my understanding. First look at how Jesus handles such things, and then… if application and example from my walk are helpful to illustrate, we can discuss that too. But I am not the exemplar of Perfect Ministry, He is. I am just another learner a bit further along the road.”

And we’d then begin to look at the specifics, look at the text of a parallel situation Jesus faced, and… often… he would share an illustration from his experience in applying the principle involved.

I always “got” the “content lessons”. I tended to make mistakes but once.

(My brother used to say, “The only person who makes no mistakes is a dead man. The trick is always to improve the quality of your mistakes.”)

But it took years before I actually caught on to the “context lesson”. The Holy Spirit who resides within us is the fullness of the Presence of Christ. He is not deaf/mute. He is not passive. He is not uni-directional, aiming and firing His divine nature towards the Father alone. He is Love, He is radiant (like radioactive), and He engages us in every way we are open to.

The more we can relax and flow with the love, care, and nurturance that are innate within the heart of God, the more clearly He can express Himself through us.

“Nothing missing, nothing broken. Graduated, complete and mature.” The meaning of “perfect” as in “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So to be Christlike, to be Christ-ian, we seek to let Jesus be Jesus in and through us. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing “proud” or “arrogant” about that. We are not claiming that by dint of our efforts, intelligence, will, or righteousness, we can equal Jesus. Quite the opposite. We’re saying that by embracing our own weakness and “letting go” our own life, He can fill us with His.

So dare to reach towards “perfect ministry”. Don’t let false humility foreclose us at the starting gate. Just let us embrace the template and realization that it will be in the same model as Jesus did, and does. And that is thrilling to explore.

Question: For those who preach, teach, and guide… What would Jesus talk about in your pulpit, your podium, your classroom, or your study… this Sunday. (or this week?).

Open Mike Time………….

 

Saved From… Marley’s Chain

Charles Dickens“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I recently had a conversation and was asked why it seemed that so much of Scripture speaks of being “saved”. Saved from what? Is it all reference to hell, to burning flames and eternal damnation? It seems SO central a theme that there must be more to it than that, but if so… what? In our lives here and now, being “saved” or “rescued” doesn’t seem a central theme and need, and clearly Scripture is to address our lives now as certainly as in those times, so… what’s up with this?

I didn’t have “good” reply at the moment. I could sense that in the times Scripture was written down, “slavery”, “bondage”, and the ownership (or long term lease, due to debt) of other human beings was a real, relevant, immediate truth in life. “Bondage” means something vastly more significant when it surrounds you every day and war could place you into it with no notice whatever.

For those of that time and place, the Incarnation of Jesus “setting free from the bondage” of sin and evil was an extremely clear and relevant paradigm. Today? Not so much.

Today, while kind of “free worshiping”… this line from Dickens came to me. “I wear the chain I forged in life.”

I sense the immediate, relevant, truth of this in my own life.

Jesus “freed” me, not only from the very common-sensical fear of “hell” and “eternal punishment” that would be a “just” consequence of my own violation of clear precepts of right and wrong that have dwelt deep in my heart since my youngest years…

But Jesus’ Redemption, the power of His shed blood on the Cross… not only “paid the price” of all my own crimes, failings, violations of other sacred people…

Jesus not only fulfilled the foreshadowed role of the First Goat (in the Day of Atonement Sacrifice)… But He also fulfilled the mission of that Second Goat (the “Scape Goat”) as well. Jesus has “carried away” my sins from me, and from “the people”, and the “church”, and even… Our Father.

Jesus not only made the “sacrifice”, but having “made purification of sin” He sat at the right hand of God the Father.

THAT’s the relevance, for me… of “saved”, “rescued”, or “salvation”…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s all about “Marley’s Chain”, you see.

All through my life I have made choices to harm, rather than nurture, others from time to time. To desire or take what is theirs. To offend them. To attack, ignore, belittle them. One way or another to wound them.

In such moments, I ignore and hold Our Father in contempt. I presume upon the grace and love of God. I yield to temptation and derive pleasure and satisfaction from it. I drink from a poisoned well, knowing it is toxic and not caring.

All that wounds ME!

We are all connected! Me with every other. Me with God. God in and through every other. God in me. It’s all one in Him. We are all One Family in Him, we are not members of separate tribes! For me to wound another is to be a “cutter” in the metaphysical sense. It harms me… injures me… scars me.

Such moments forge a link of chain… a wound… a guilt… a shame… a regret… a bad memory… a bitterness… a misunderstanding… a dark mote. And each of these I forge across life, used to link together… dragging me back, dragging me down, pulling me into a shadowy morass without love, joy, beauty, or truth.

What is “Salvation”? To me?

It’s the Glory of Jesus’ coming to “set free this captive”! It’s His heroism and sacrifice to pull that hideous chain off of me (and everyone else, who will release their grasp of it)… lay all of that across His Own Shoulders… and drag all those links to His Cross with Him, to die under their weight and dispose of them totally and finally… as far as east from west… in the deepest abyss of the sea.

I am, once and forever, freed of the weight of “Little Monk’s Chain”… and I for one, am glad that He has rescued me from its dreadful burden.

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I Believe… I Can Fly!


When you were little, didn’t you have great dreams? Great ambitions? Great hopes? The line blurs for a child, between “dull reality” and “vibrant creativity”, whether one sees a professional athlete, or astronaut, or the greatest singer EVER, or a knight in shining armor conquering dragons and saving those in distress!

But then, we grow up… We learn… There are limits to the possible. We learn to build our boxes. We learn the myriad of things we “cannot do”. We learn the bumps, the bruises, the batterings of the world and people around us. We learn… all there is… is this. Just little, dull, mundane, me… and you… and them… and this! (With a decidedly NOT “capital T” in “this”.)

But then, one incredible day, Jesus enters our own little, dull, mundane, me-and-you world. And He says things like… “To what shall I liken the Kingdom?” and somewhere, deep inside, there is a heart stirring… a tiny leap of hope… a whisper (too small, too timid, even to be fully “heard” or acknowledged, but still really there)… the child’s heart whisper of… “Maybe… just… maybe…” And old dreams, forgotten dreams of Kingdoms, and knights, and deeds of unrelenting courage and adventure rouse again deep inside…

Beyond this, on just as incredible a day,.. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” [Matthew 18:1-4]


What if….

What if your Father were King of the Universe?

What if He had crafted and designed you, from before the beginning of time, to live fully as Prince/Princess in Him, and your perquisites and authority came into play as you learned to embrace and wield them with grace, love, and wisdom?

What if all those “heroic dreams” of your childhood were not simply aspirations TO Him, but hints to your actual nature FROM Him?


What if all the greatest dreams you ever dreamed were the barest inkling, just the slightest hints, of what you truly are and can embrace right here, right now?

Because… I have come to believe that all those dreams of greatness, heroism, adventure… are simply true. I believe I can fly. I believe I once allowed the truth of my humble childhood to be dashed and devastated by those around me who taught of limits, and boundaries, and boxes for Our Father and His embrace. That those same people BELIEVE in “limits”… that there’s only “so much to go around”, and that for ONE person to acknowledge the reality of Infinite Grace… that must somehow “diminish the availability” for others!

This was the error of the disciples noted above. This was what they needed to learn to “see another way”, to “be converted” from…

They wanted to know… “Who would be greatest in His Kingdom?” Because for the answer to be “ONE” of them… the answer could NOT be “ALL” of them.

Little children do not worry about such things. Little children don’t think such questions.

Little children just ask, “Am I? May I be? May I have?”

They haven’t yet learned the shrewd and measuring “sidelong look” at others around them, and begun the calculation that… “If He gives ME this… then THEY won’t get it!”


Can you find and release your Inner Child?

Can you believe?

Can you fly?


He only awaits your testing your wings, for He’s always holding us up, saying… “Trust Me.” We LIVE in the fullness of His Kingdom, called and equipped to rescue, to seek and save, that which is lost. The greatest adventure any can ever know!

Joy and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Whom to Love?

I woke this morning with this song, this recording, playing inside my head like an earworm.  I had to go find it when I got up, listen and let it wash over me for a while with coffee. (It’s just that kind of recording… one of those “wash over” kinds.) Acapella is a wonderful vocal form, but to realize this is a “Solo Acapella” just fills me with wonder.

Simple, isn’t it?

Simple, yet wondrous.

All I want to share this morning is one other “Simple, yet wondrous” Truth.

It’s about “loving all”. Jesus command it, yet we resist. Jesus did it, modelled it, demonstrated in His walk among multitudes, and then accomplished the greatest act of love imaginable as He redeemed the very Cosmos… All of Creation… with His death on the Cross.

Simple commands He left us with, right? Love God the Father with all we are. Love our neighbor as ourselves. (When the “clever folk” tried to debate Him on “who is neighbor”, it came down to being our own responsibility to show compassion to those in need… “who was neighbor to the injured man?” The fact that a Samaritan was, by definition of the time, a sinful, depraved, unclean, idolator and pagan… just didn’t strike Jesus as meaningful.)

Here’s this “simple wondrous” thing that has struck me… Jesus tells us to love, countless times. He never once tells us to hate anyone. Friends, enemies, allies, family, strangers, pagans… anyone… everyone… love them. Simple.

Humanity doesn’t really like to hear that, in general. We want clear identifiers, lapel pins, labels… “love her, hate him”… “love them, hate these”… all according to our tribes and divisions and classes and colors and languages and cultures and how we perceive and respond to God.

Do you imagine we often make Him weep?

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” [Luke 6:25]

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; Though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]


I close with just this thought today.

Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote right there. Recall that in his own mind, his own memory, when he says “ungodly”, or “while we were yet sinners”, he speaks from his own earlier career of persecuting Jesus and killing His followers.

It’s all a matter of the “sequence” you see. GOD loves the “enemies” FIRST. (In fact, WE were “enemies”.. “ungodly”… use whatever label we choose.) Grace, love, relationship, the voice of Jesus the Shepherd somehow reached through our own darkness and shadow to melt our hearts and open the eyes of our heart with His love and embrace.

I, for one, am rescued by Grace alone, despite my own worst efforts. Jesus says that I have been given Life through Love by the boundless Grace of God. And, as His child, He wants me to do the same… just love… embrace… don’t judge, don’t sort, don’t label, don’t “fix”… just love. When I do that, He assures that He will take care of the rest.


The Father loves Children. That’s what He is, that’s what He does. He loves First and Best.

He sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost.


Have a wonderful day, Beloved Brother/Sister! Go love somebody, and let the Joy touch and wash over you!

Blessings and grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Steel Doors Clang!

Prison Bars Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the Big House… earsplitting sirens blared, the clank of great steel doors slamming shut assailed us from every direction, and a stentorian voice bellowed down every corridor, “Everyone stand still, stop where you are, and wait. This facility is now under Lockdown.”

For 70 or so good-hearted church volunteers, carolers, and choristers, there crept the growing realization that they were now, however briefly, actually incarcerated in a State Penitentiary. Corrections Officers on high alert, conducted civilians from our several buildings and ushered all into the Cafeteria where I (as the only Staff Chaplain in the Facility that night) was asked to help all remain calm and host our visitors, explaining what was going on.

Simply put, there had been an escape(!), we were now in Lockdown, and these wonderful church folk who had intended nothing more complicated at 10 p.m. than bringing comfort, Chapel services and worship, and music to cheer inmates in the late hours of Christmas Eve, were now the unexpected guests of the State, unauthorized and physically unable to exit the facility or get to their cars.

Why am I telling this story? Because that night utterly changed the ministries of some of those people.

An Inmate had escaped and was thought to be somewhere on the grounds. He had access to the Parking Lot, and could now be secreted in any of the MANY cars and vans crowding the asphalt on this busy night.

In order to leave, one carload at a time had to be escorted out of the Cafeteria, through a number of Control Points with an armed team, be escorted to their vehicle, wait while the vehicle was carefully searched, and follow a Prison Vehicle out the drive and off the property. Only thus, were we assured that they were not accosted by the escapee, possibly forced to give transportation away from the Prison.

  • This was a bit frightening
  • This was NOT what they’d signed on for
  • This was tedious and frustrating, with all the stop and go
  • One vehicle at a time, this was going to take a LONG TIME.

And so it did. It took hours, and I was the last to leave. But in those hours two amazing things happened.

First, there were longer conversations and interactions between these visitors and Prison personnel, and even the Inmates (who had been assigned to the Cafeteria for the evening), than these loving Church members had ever had before, or expected to have. Many had the chance to actually make FRIENDS with these “Prison People”.

Second, for perhaps the very first time in their lives, they were truly INCARCERATED. Granted, they’d done nothing wrong, but they COULD NOT LEAVE. It was no longer their choice, not in their control. There are few such feelings short of aircraft travel, for we who live lawful lifestyles. Of course, the few hours of inconvenience do not compare to years of imprisonment, but for many, the experience of hearing those doors slam, seeing (now) armed officers preventing them from leaving or getting to their cars, did a work in their hearts.

After such a traumatic adventure, frankly, I never expected any of them to return, but in that I was quite wrong. For many, the experience had the exact opposite effect. They’d found themselves, for the first time, imagining what it would be like for this to be an “every single day” state.

Some of these visitors became our most faithful chaplaincy volunteers, as the social isolation of incarceration had become concrete and real to them. They teamed up in projects of Prison Ministry, and came to conduct Bible Studies, Tutoring, Literacy or other classes, and provide worship and music.

The Church (Body and Bride of Christ), and YOUR Church (no matter where or how big), can make a difference in the lives of incarcerated people, in the lives of former inmates returning to re-enter the community, and/or in the lives of families (and children) of those in jail or prison.

Over time, I hope to document different ways any Body of Christ can lift Him up in the community, and share grace, love, light all around them. It’s amazing how many creative ways Jesus has found to touch others through churches of any size and composition.

What have you seen, experienced, or heard about folks doing through their church that have touched lives in an unexpected way?


 

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [Matthew 25]

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Martian Chronicles: To Infinity… and Beyond!

Mars OneWhat if… what if… God were Infinite?

Yeah, yeah, I know… but what if… what if we BELIEVED it?

Yeah, yeah, I know… but what if… what if we REALLY believed it?

What am I talking about, right? lol

Well, think about that for just a moment.

Richard Rohr writes of the two halves of life… the first half where we struggle to acquire “stuff” and establish our identity, and the second half, where we struggle for meaning and significance. We think of “competition” or “conflict” as somehow a part of our hard-wired nature. We think of the “work ethic”, the struggle to accumulate or to do some task, to take care of ourselves as innate drives or characteristics. All these things.

How many times have we heard someone say or pray something like… “I know You’re really busy, God… taking care of the universe and all… but if You could just spare a moment, I’d really like You to…” *fill-in-the-blank*..

Or how many Christians struggle to be righteous, or worthy of God’s love and grace and kindness… or NOT to be UNWORTHY of it?

Or how many times do Christians consider God to be “paying attention” to them when they pray, or when they’re doing something wrong? (Only).

I guess all this is kind of following from the “Father’s Day” reflection, as combined with the Mars Mission. People, by and large, who have gone into space, have come back profoundly changed. Some have had deeply spiritual experiences, some write poetry, often careers change radically. We can get something of the flavor of this if/when we can get out to a space without artificial lights on a clear and cloudless night. There is something quite mystical about lying in the grass (or on the hood of a car), looking up at literally billions of stars twinkling at us in the darkness.

Infinite… Infinite… what does this even MEAN? Now combine that with God… with love… with grace… with… with “FATHER”?

Have you had the privilege, in your life, of watching your daughter marry? Have you ever seen a picture more beautiful before or since, than she was in those moments, dressed in her bridal gown? THAT is the Father’s heart towards you, towards me, towards all who engage Him… Infinitely.

Have you stood at the altar as a groom, watching that bride approach you to vow your lives together forever? Has your heart ever pounded so with anticipation and joy, before or since? THAT is Jesus’ heart towards you, towards me, towards all who engage Him… Infinitely.

Have you held a baby in your arms, covered them in your love, your protection, your provision? Have you ever felt both so powerful and so protective, before or since? That is God’s heart… well, you know the rest… Infinitely.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What if we believed this? What if we REALLY believed this? What if we were utterly free of the fear of His disapproval, or His absence, or competing for His time or attention or blessing? What if we never worried about displeasing Him with our flaws and frailties… but really believed that His is always there, always guiding, always providing, always encouraging, always correcting… always in utter love, and grace, and provision?

What if we really believed that… Infinitely?

And what if, in the vast vacuum of terrifying space and endless stars in the darkness… What if THIS were the Gospel we felt compelled to share with all those who would hear?

What would that be like? If we believed it?

Or even… what would TODAY be like, if we really believed it right here and now?

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Martian Chronicles: Respect

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

Today I want to look at what some would call a “meta-issue”. Neither content nor context, but the process we are using.

Over the past several weeks I have been amazed at this project. Amazed at the number of people reading it… at the number of people commenting… at the amazing diversity of readers, commentators, participants… and at the “fragrance of grace” that has perfused the commentary.

In case you are a “casual” or “intermittent” reader of The Postmodern Mystic, let me assure you… we do NOT all agree. Many of these commentators and the bloggers that cross-talk among our blogs come from extremely different traditions, worship in vastly different ways, and even differ on some generally hotly debated topics of theology.

And yet… it takes very little time indeed to sense the great sense of “amity”, “harmony”, “accord”, and “familiality” (not familiarity) that exists in these writings and among these opinionated disciples. (And believe me… we ARE “opinionated” disciples, indeed.)

So… if we’re all so opinionated, dedicated, fairly passionate… how does all the “amity” and “accord” come about? Well, obviously, the “textbook answer” is “the grace of God”, the “spirit of Christ”… all that. That’s a GOOD answer. That’s the RIGHT answer. But sometimes even a good and right answer, isn’t terribly helpful. My peculiar ministry, pastoral counseling, teaching, healing of heart… rests in my effort to take what is “good and right”, and find words to make it “helpful” and “pragmatic”.

For example: take the question… “How do I live a righteous life?” Answer: “Stop sinning.” See? True, good answer, right answer. Not necessarily helpful for most people. I myself have needed a bit more pragmatic structure to an answer to work for me. The ultimate answer I’ve found that helps ME (not to say it should work for you or anyone else), is “treat all people as the sacred children of God, fashioned in His image by His hand in His love”. Doing that seems to avoid most “sin” in my life, and address my challenge of righteous living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I am manfully resisting the impulse to launch into a detailed essay about “one accord”. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture ENDS in what are among my very FAVORITE verses, describing the nature of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. But that same passage BEGINS with the most challenging and difficult verses that I have struggled with my whole life, let alone career…

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11]

It’s this “regard for one another” thing… this defeat-of-the-ego thing… that so arrests my attention. It’s not to say that one’s own view is wrong, or another’s more right. This passage really treats such issues as irrelevant. It’s all in the relationship… it’s all in the context, not the content.

Ignatius of Loyola, in his manual of exercises for spiritual growth, sets out what he called a “Presupposition” as he opens his work, thus:

In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.

Please bear in mind that Ignatius was writing in Spanish about 500 years ago, and some phrasing does not translate smoothly.

Anyway, I said I’m not going to prolong an essay here, so I shall not. But suffice it to say that one of the most difficult truths I’ve ever had to learn was that someone can disagree with me, even profoundly… and still be “right” because of their own experiences and understanding, without me necessarily being “wrong”.

Herein, I think, lies the mystery of the “amity” and “harmony” of this table and discussion. We all seem willing to grant respect to one another, to consider one another’s views as valuable as our own. In doing that, our words “give life” and “give value” to the other… rather than taking it away.

I work to bring this view into the everyday world around me, but it seems much easier when directly discussing God and obvious matters of spirit.

Anybody else out there find this to be so? Or is it the opposite? lol. Is it easier to be “calm and understanding” in matters of “the world”, and more adrenalin-filled when dealing with discussions of God?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: