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Compromising Purity – Corruption

water pour 2“Purity” – that’s the topic. We’ve dealt with “Adulteration” as a means for compromising purity. That’s watering down the good stuff with other stuff that makes no difference at all, except that there’s less good stuff because of the space taken up by the other stuff. Right.

So now, let’s consider the second way to compromise purity. There’s “Corruption”. Corruption is when the good stuff is spoiled by bad stuff that awakens or results from what is already in the vessel to begin with.

We usually think of corruption as “spoilage”. Food, meat, milk… get “corrupt” when they rot. When organic processes once a part of their life, or passively contained in their life, now activate in a new way and produce bad stuff along the way. We think of corruption in politics or business, when someone (or someones) inside an organization, start doing bad stuff that spoils the ability of the public to rely on the good stuff they have come to expect.

Jesus dealt with it. He addressed “Corruption”. He confronted the reality of people looking towards those from whom they should expect “good”, and instead finding rotten spoilage from within…

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother[’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:1-20]

Long passage, perhaps, but fairly short lesson…

The heart… the thoughts and feelings that generate our words and our actions. When the heart within is unhealthy, corrupt, death-rotten, then our purity is compromised. Our words, deeds, our relationships… defiled. And the placement of this lesson by Jesus is very telling. He doesn’t speak of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders“, these “things which defile the man”… while He is speaking with an adulterer, a Samaritan, a Roman pagan, dishonest tax-collectors, or even a thief on the cross.

Jesus speaks of these defilements, these destroyers of purity, among the hyper religious, among the churchmen teachers (pastors) and leaders (deacons). He speaks of these things embedded in a huge indictment of those who abuse their moral authority to guilt trip people with legalism, while their own hearts seek to fulfill their own needs and desires.

These were not notorious public scandal sinners. These weren’t lawbreakers. They didn’t engage in adultery, or idolatry of pagan gods, or petty common theft. Their sins, their violations of purity, would never have shown in an exterior view. Their impurity was inside themselves, from the heart, and showed through their fruit.

So how bleak would all this look?

What hope is there ever for purity, if it can be compromised both from without and even from within? Why would we even try to attain or maintain something so apparently impossible?

We’ll address that, next time.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Medieval Meets High Tech

candle book Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. [Matthew 19:8]

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ [Matthew 28:16-20]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have… “struggled” seems too dramatic a word… but I’ve seriously pondered whether or not to pursue a line of discussion that I’ve felt called to engage for a very long time. I’ve decided to open the question to you, Gentle Reader, and listen to your response(s). Feel free, if you wish to remain private, to direct any thoughts to me directly by email at Little_Monk_60@yahoo.com if you wish.

Spiritual warfare is real. Personalities of darkness and shadow are real. All of us interact with such shadows daily to some extent or another. (Do we experience temptation? Yes? Is that from God or any other entity of Light? No? Well then…)

K, now, having said that… there is lots and LOTS of drama that can be made from this fact, and lots and lots of stories, books, movies, and (nowadays) reality TV that can exploit that drama.

Right about there, all consensus falls apart on this subject. From that point forward, worldviews vary along a spectrum of “the collective consciousness of human ‘bad intention'” to the wildly frightened seeing of horned beasts behind every closet door and the need to wrap the self in bubble wrap and cotton wool before getting out of bed.

THEREFORE, the general “polite Christian response” to such matters… is to ignore them utterly. Pray privately, yes… preach by strict scriptural quotation, yes… go with the flow of the politically and socially correct fotm on matters of Halloween or the hottest paranormal movie, yes… but, in general, just hope all this goes away quietly when it comes up.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a real problem.

This “blind eye to the glass” approach leaves lots and lots of hurting people, really struggling in battles of spiritual warfare, cast off out there in a sea of uncertainty as to where and how to get help or support.

As a counselor, a minister, a pray-er, I am periodically deeply involved in spiritual warfare. Whether in the dramatic or the mundane, I feel that it is of paramount importance that Christians be aware and knowledgeable on this.

The problem is… how? The fundamentals of worldview difference means that “dialogue in common language and understanding” is very difficult. Holding the “respect line” when speaking with someone of a radically different worldview is challenging. Denominational, historical, cultural difference… both on the fundamentals of cause, effect, etiology… and in the response and mechanics of ministry to need… The challenges to meaningful dialogue can seem insurmountable.

At the same time, the reality that there is “something there”, and the adventurous spirit of the young and their boldness… combined with the “spiritual vacuum” so often experienced from the public face of the Christian community… have made a situation where this deeply religious matter is more and more entering our homes and minds through the “scientific” application of technology to spiritual entities through prime time television.

For professional reasons, I watch such programming fairly diligently. I’ll be frank, some episodes just scare me to death. NOT as to the “reality” or “power” of the entities involved… I’m painfully aware of that quite on my own, thank you. Rather I am terrified for the risks many of these adventurous and curious persons are taking, often with only minimal awareness or acknowledgment.

Ironically, the “young and the bold” who undertake such endeavors, within a season or two, quite apparently “learn” to have respect for these risks and dangers, as “on the job training” bears fruit. You see initial postures of arrogance or omniscience, fairly quickly be tempered by learned respect for significant forces beyond one’s own control. My general response is to pray for these investigators, and those they help.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This blog seems a unique venue, if any exists, gently and carefully to begin such a dialogue. But I seek your input on how to meet a number of challenges…

How do we discuss such things without offending one another’s traditions or worldviews?

How do we discuss “experiences” without concern for mutual judgments of one’s “sanity” or lack thereof?

How do we discuss mechanics and realities of such warfare, as a matter of “equipping the saints”, and not see such discussion devolve into either a set of lessons on “DIY Exorcism” (disastrous)… or encouragement to “fear” (which is no part of the Christian walk)?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don’t have the answer to these questions, and I’ve known I didn’t have them for a long time now. This is not a “comfortable” area for discussion.

But now, I feel better at least to throw a light on this “elephant in the room”… fling it on the table (a big, sturdy table for this mixed metaphor)... and open the DISCUSSION to possible discussion. I don’t have a solution, but I’m at least “brave enough” (at last)… to ask the question.

So… *BONK!*… ball is served and in the air… heading for your court. Any ideas? By the way, about half our readership is “professional” in ministry, and about half is not. That’s PERFECT! It’s that MIX of viewpoint I so seek to hear!

So, please let me know what you think!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 

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Ripples and Birthdays

WisdomIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. [Genesis 1:1-2]

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,  in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke 2:4-7]

While I know that technically it is “Christmas Day” as I write, Gentle Reader, for me it is the ending of Christmas Eve for I’ve not yet slept. These several days, I’ve yet been struck with the awesome power of “silence’ and “waiting”. I know there are those who decry the customs and traditions of the Liturgical Year, and the cycle of holidays such as Christmas and Easter in the Christian Church. I realize, with all educated theologians, that the decisions to select the dates we have are more dependent on the incorporation of customs by pagan peoples into Christian practice, than any scriptural seasonal basis. But it has always seemed more to me an apt unification of God’s people, rather than any denial or wrongful compromise.

Paulfg (Just me being curious) speaks often of dropping pebbles and watching the myriad ripples that follow. So much of grace is like that. God, or one who follows Him, drops a pebble, and the Holy Spirit echoes and reverberates among many others like variations on a theme of music. I was recently struck by the rhythmic nature of reality, of the necessity of opposites. In order to know true freedom and choice of good over evil, we MUST of logical necessity, have the capacity to choose evil. In order to know light, we must have the ability to apprehend darkness. For me, limited as I am by my own culture and upbringing, I’m coming to consider this the nature of yin and yang. Even Paul’s ripples have peaks and troughs, a zenith and nadir to define them.

This “silence”, this “fasting”, this preparation for the annual commemoration of the Great Events of the Nativity and the Resurrection that comprise Advent and Lent… these are important, and can do much to enrich our experience of God. Why? Because they are, in and of themselves, some sort of “magic times”? No. Because God takes special note of those who are devout enough to honor these penitential periods, and rewards the faithful with special Brownie Point Blessings? No. Because we have to “purge ourselves of our worldliness and sin”, in order to benefit from these sacred feasts? Well, such exercise may well bear some fruit, yes… but not in such a transactional way, no.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before, but let me say it again. I write from my own experience and subjective perspective. My opinions and conclusions are my own, and if they do not agree with yours I am NOT implying that you are wrong. For you, in your life, your world, your walk with the Lord, these ideas may not fit at all… and if that is the case, please cast them aside without hesitation. But perhaps these reflections will spur a new thought or idea to explore with Him, and that may bring additional grace or blessing. I share to expand our sense of the Possible in the realm of the grace of God.

This night, I’ve been struck with the Ripples of the Nativity. With this transition from Advent into Christmas. From pregnancy to parenthood. I was struck with those TWO texts quoted at the beginning of this post. All of “Not-Yet-Created” waited silently and darkly for “Creation”. The verb there for God “formed” is a word that means “brought forth from nothing at all”. This is not like a conjurer’s trick, the magician who unveils and releases a dove from a handkerchief and his “empty” hand. No, this is vastly more profound. This is God the Father and God the Son and God the Breath of God speaking, extending, and hovering over the expanse of darkness to bring forth… EVERYTHING. Birth!

And then, much later on, we see this scenario play out into our world, our time and space, as the Father sends forth Gabriel and speaks, the Son extends, and the Holy Breath overshadows Mary in her home. Nine months later, according to the rules of biology established in our lives, we have… Birth!

In my own life, this is a night each year when the universe itself holds its collective breath and gazes upon THE miracle of birth. It is God’s glory, God’s act, God’s love, God’s grace. It is entirely and wholly His, and it could well be said that He alone has the right to rejoice in it. But… just as He invited the shepherds and the maji so long ago to take part, to come, to witness, to celebrate… so too, He invites us. Isn’t that wondrous?

But watch this, it gets better! It is not only the celebration of the Birth of Jesus that is going on here.  Jesus said, “you in Me and I in you and together we in the Father.”  John the Apostle calls you a “Child of God”. Paul the Apostle waxes eloquent about “joint-heir with Christ,” including the training and discipline involved. We never see any of these texts grovelling in any sort of “worthless worm theology”, as so often undermines Christians in the name of humility.

The Nativity is not only Jesus’ Birthday… but ours as well. We are here to commemorate a birth… your birth, my birth… as sons and daughters of God… joint heirs… princes and princesses of kingdom… called to do the works of Jesus and greater yet because He is risen to the Father.

God Alone creates something from nothing. God Alone chose to lay down His divinity and become a man like us in all things but sin. God Alone moves the Holy Breath Spirit to dwell within us and among us. Why? Because He chooses to. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

And God Alone could make royalty of you and me. “Holy and Royal Priesthood” is all well and good as long as we speak of it in some vague corporate collective of “The Church”. But people become vastly less comfortable when one points out that means that YOU, are a sacred prince/princess priest/priestess. *I’m* not saying that… Scripture says that.

So… for tonight… let us continue to be silent, waiting, and ready. For, tomorrow, there will be Birth. And there will be a Gift. And the Gift will be an entirely new life… not just a “getting by” life… but a holy and royal life. A life filled with life, love, joy, truth, beauty, goodness, power, authority, and duty. Life that gives itself away and pours itself out for others…

Why? Because that’s what God has chosen to do. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

Happy Birthday, Your Highness.

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Advent Devotions, Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Elpis is in the House

arc For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. [Romans 8:18-25]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Greek word for “hope”?  ἐλπίς (elpis)

A friend and colleague called me a while back to discuss “hope”. He had encountered a very young man, a 20-something, who, in great anguish disclosed that he felt utterly without hope… that he had lost all hope in life. My friend dealt with this young man and his father, and then phoned me in his own anguish to deal with the question… “How? How can one so young, be living in such a vacuum of hope?”

I’ve worked long and hard with people who have come to lack hope, both through suicide work and a variety of destructive lifestyles… and pointed out how very common this view has become. It is amazing.

  • The singular characteristic recognized in suicide “lists” of signs and symptoms, as pretty much universal, is that the person has lost all hope. “Hopelessness” is usually top of the list.
  • The principal predictor of survival in a disaster or critical situation, is the hope held out by the survivor. Both tales of survivors, and journals of those who survived for a period after the disaster, show that longevity is strongly connected to the degree of hope held by the person.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]

A couple years ago, a friend prompted me to a serious study of the implications of this verse. That led to a number of realizations. Among them:

  • God Himself, cannot “hope”, because to be omniscient means that all is “seen”. Love can persist, yes. God loves. Yes. But God cannot know either “faith” or “hope”, as He “sees all”. (cf 1 Cor 13:13]
  • Hope may be thought of as “forward-looking faith”. Faith looks primarily to the present, hope looks primarily towards the future.
  • Hope requires trust. If one can no longer trust, one can no longer hope.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Only one more puzzle piece here, and then I can lay this before you complete…

Over the past few days, I’ve been drawn to consider the season of “Advent”. I’ve been challenged by a question asked of me by the Lord, as this passage buzzed through my mind and spirit…

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. [Galatians 4:3-5]

The Question: “What made this… this moment of Christ’s Incarnation… the ‘fullness of time’?”

In other word, “Why now?”

Israel was in an horrible state… defeated, occupied, garrisoned by Rome. Northern and Southern kingdoms in shambles. Hardly recovered from the Babylonian captivity. No longer a military force of note against Assyria and other nations of the region. Samaria constituting nearly a “nation within a nation” in their midst. Intrigues everywhere. A half-mad Herod mixing human blood in sacrifices, corruption of the Temple bleeding the devout dry, tax collectors and publicans making the most of Roman law to line their pockets.

And THIS… was the “fullness of time” into which Divine Wisdom and Love had chosen, from before the beginning, to let the Son of God take on the additional name, Son of Man.

I could not fathom it…

But slowly, a niggling thought seemed to inch its way to the surface of my mind. Perhaps this was, itself, the key to the answer. Perhaps it was the very pathetic hopelessness of Israel at the time…

I mean, what seemed ALWAYS to call God forth in the greatness of His power and majesty throughout the Old Testament? The sincere cries for rescue of His children in bondage.

From the flood, through Egyptian Exodus, conquest of the Promised Land, the wars of David and establisment of the Kings, and eventual relief from the Babylonian Captivity…  from the Burning Bush, through Shekinah, and Pillar of Fire/Cloud by Day… God seems to manifest and come forth the most clearly, when His children are in the greatest need of rescue.

So, why should it be different for the Incarnation?

And yet, when Jesus comes, we see an utterly new dimension of rescue occurring. He stated His “agenda” clearly in one of His first moments of public revelation and ministry:

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:17-21]

The “poor”, “captives”, “blind”, “oppressed”…. these were the focus of Jesus’ mission. This was the purpose of His anointing and the agenda of the Spirit of the Lord. Well, if THIS is the mission, then indeed one could say the fullness of time had come. Israel certainly had these in abundance.

But rather than restoration of Israels military, political, economic greatness among the nations… as so many people of the time anticipated, Jesus arrived as Messiah to work in an entirely other dimension. His concern was to reveal the Father in spirit and in truth.

So, how does this “fullness of time” thing relate to THAT? To the relationship between man and God in prayer and spirit?

Israel had “perfected” religion. Scribes, pharisees, priests, teachers of the law… had so studied what requirements it took, as to custom, tradition, behavior, food, and clothing… that it may be said that the Temple represented the absolute pinnacle of religious attainment. Every move, every sound, every crumb and thread, were legislated and covered by scholarly authority as to how it would be pleasing or displeasing to God.

The Law now permeated every institution of Israel’s life… business, family, education, relationships, worship, care of the old and care of the young… EVERYTHING had been infused with “what the Law requires” for man to be right with God. Every moment of the day, was clearly scripted, as to what would bring about the blessing and good favor of God.

Whatever else could be said of that moment in economic and political history…

“Religion… the Worship of the Law… had attained absolute Perfection by the efforts of man.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THIS… I realized…. could be thought of as the hallmark of the “fullness of time”.

It was now time for God become flesh to come and dwell among us… because man’s pride had now attained the ultimate hubris. Religion had now given us management of the means to become righteous before God. Religion… was perfect now.

And, of course, man had quite utterly missed the point. The Law, Religion, can never perfect. Law, in fact, highlights imperfection. The Law is the indicator of hopelessness.

Jesus Alone, Christ, the grace-filled Son of Man/Son of God… came not to bring peace but a sword. He fulfilled utterly the Law. He satisfied the demands of righteousness, and totally defeated Religion. Religion murdered Jesus, but in rising… He defeated it completely. “Religion”, the caring about whether one must worship God in the Temple or on the mountain… cannot stand in the face of the God of spirit and truth.

In the presence of Jesus, such foolishness withers as chaff in the face of a blazing furnace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line: The fullness of time came when religion believed that the Law could provide righteousness and satisfy God. Jesus came because such a view is not the liberty and freedom that the Father intends for His children, but simply another form of bondage and enslavement to 600+ rules and regulations that would determine one’s immortal fate.

When man’s bondage reached its pinnacle… enslaved not only to other men, but to regulations of men laid down in the Name of God… NOW, Jesus could come, reveal in His person the fullness of God Himself, and redeem all of Creation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is Advent? I’m thinking that Advent is the moment, the season, wherein we realize we are bound up and enthralled to enslavement of any sort… even to religion. When we cry out to God, in our own despair of powerlessness, it seems that it is simply God’s way… to appear, to manifest, and to reveal Himself in great power and majesty…

His is an ongoing mission of rescue of His beloved children… the poor, the blind, the captive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank You that You have come, Lord Jesus!

What is the key to hope? The permanent, life-changing key? To trust to the love and mission of Jesus. To know, beyond all evidence, doubt, and facts that seem to deny it… that God’s very anointing and mission, is to rescue any and all who are trapped and enslaved! Do you, or anyone you know, feel stuck and hopeless? Trust to the mission of Jesus… for He is worthy of our trust!

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Compassion

 

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

God-in-Me Loving God

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last year I had the honor of representing the Christian tradition at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville, Kentucky. Leaders of many faiths, including the Dalai Lama, came together to talk about the role of compassion in our spiritual practice. The following is what I shared from the Christian perspective:

The Christian who has gone to his or her own depths—not all of us, I am afraid—uncovers an Indwelling Presence, what might even be experienced as an I-Thou relationship (to use the language of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber). In Christian theology this would be described as the “Holy Spirit,” which is precisely God as immanent, within, and even our deepest self. Some saints and mystics have described this Presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” Many of us would also describe this as the True Self. It must be awakened; it is never “created” by our actions or behavior, but naturally “indwelling,” or our inner being with God.

Much of culture and religion encourages us to cultivate our False Self or reputation, self-image, roles, and possessions. It is only as this fails us, and it eventually does, that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us. The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already, and from this more spacious and grounded Self we can naturally connect, empathize, forgive, and love all reality. In Christian language this is “God-in-me-loving-God.”

The False Self does not know how to love in a very deep or broad way. It is too small and self-referential to be compassionate. The True Self also does not choose to love as much as it IS love itself already. Loving from this spacious place is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord, as Jesus promises us so beautifully (John 7:38).

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 46‑48

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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First Church of Mars

Mars OneImagine, if you will…

*use your best Rod Serling voice right there*

Anyway, imagine that you (and your spouse, if applicable) have been selected as an “Anchor Member” of the First Christian Church to be established on Mars, as part of the 21st Century Mars settlement project scheduled somewhere between 2025 and 2040.

Imagine that by whatever process you’ve been selected as part of a 10 person team to establish Christianity on Mars by your own denomination or other appropriate religious authority. Your mandate is unique. You have no denominationally specific theological constraints. Your mission is not to proselytize for your sect, it is to lift up Christ and provide for the needs of exploration teams and future colonists. Your assignment will be permanent, and you are establishing what may be a foundation for generations to come.

What would that be like?

What would be your goals and priorities?

How would you develop consensus with other members of your team from other Christian denominations? (In this… how, in fact, would you DEFINE ‘Christian denomination’?)

If your only agreed upon standard of unanimity were the Holy Bible itself, how would you approach this task with your team?

Open to ideas, questions, and discussions now…

 

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Journey – Timothy Leary Meets the Borg

Desert CaravanTherefore 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]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Forgive me my absence yesterday, Gentle Reader. Combination of both work and being a bit under the weather conspired, along with the nature of the day’s travels. The Lord did not identify the “stuff” to be disposed of in so clear a fashion as He had thus far. Not that there ISN’T something to be released, but rather that it’s not so simple a matter as “reputation” or a spider or scorpion. It wasn’t really until this morning that I could “identify” the encumbrance.

Having identified and disposed of my scorpion and spider, Don Merritt did a wonderful article on this same topic in The Nature of Debate. A comment to that article included the following words by fairyneedle:

Christians have become so afraid of losing their kids to the culture, that they don’t even see that that very mentality is making Christianity seem weak!! I know there is a proper defense of the faith since the Bible speaks of it, but debating political issues or retrying the Scopes monkey trial over and over again is not it! The Church will prevail over the gates of hell and greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world. I personally believe that none of this has anything to do with the Gospel but rather that the American church world bought into the mentality of empire long ago.

Now, the issue is not whether I agree or disagree with this position. (That would simply be to enter into another debate.) What was meaningful to me was something very deep that clicked in my soul at the underlined phrase. I realized that for years I have been part of a movement… a not-so-popular movement… an underground resistance movement… in opposition to what I now call the Imperial Church.

Let me be very clear here. I LOVE the Church! I love the Body of Christ. I love the Bride of Christ. I love a body of believers who gather to encourage one another and stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). I have been blessed, across my life, to worship and to serve on staff of such churches. These are places, “houses of God”, where the mission and passion is to lift up Christ in every way He sees fit, and greet, feed, and heal people with His words and touch, in His name. These are love-driven places, ministry priorities are dictated by ministry to the needs of both congregation and community, and where grace raises and equips “ministers” from among the people, more than “administering programs” of the management, into which the “people” will fit like neat cogs in their ecclesiastic machine.

Sheep… in such flocks and sheepfolds… THRIVE. They grow, they dance, they bleat and leap and laugh with the very JOY of service and sainthood. Imagine, if you will, a flock of sheep constantly moving upstream towards a mountaintop. Imagine them surrounded by cool water of a gorgeous river on their left, and fabulous glades of delicious grass on their right. See them bounding and prancing along upstream, with a shepherd laughing as they walk among them. Sometimes they nuzzle that shepherd. Sometimes the shepherd pets one or another, with no reason but love for flock. Now… imagine THIS strange thing… sometimes you see the shepherd become a sheep… and you see sheep become shepherds. And this vibrant dance, this joyful adventure, always moving towards the Source of the River. I have known, and been part of such flocks… known and been one of those “mutable” shepherds. Yes.

But now, as you imagine this in your mind’s eye, imagine the camera panning back to more of a “wide shot panoramic view”, and see that between you and your point of view you see an endless row of “other flocks”. You see before you a number of other flocks all walking in circles, as if circling a running track around a drinking pond. Their heads hang down, they follow nose-to-tail. There is no dancing, no singing, no bounding… the shepherd “herds them” rather than dances with them… and they never EVER break out of their lines. They don’t dare. The shepherd and the sheepdogs will hurt them if they do. Not to mention the other sheep.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me this. I came to understand that churches differ, pastors and shepherds differ. And I was to understand that to which I was called. So I have sought to serve Him.

But just now He has added a new element to this picture. I see one small oval flock, overrunning and trying to absorb another. Sheepdogs wander far and wide seeking sheep, not for their care and protection, but simply to grow the flock’s numbers, and to gain the yield of spring lambs. Sheep are kept in their boundaries and in line by fear. Fear of the shepherd, fear of the sheepdogs, and fear of the monsters they are told about in the wilderness.

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What is wrong with this picture overall? Is it the mood of the sheep? Is it the “management” of the shepherd? Is it the trajectory of the flock’s path? Clearly grace, is present with the first flock, and not nearly so apparent with the second. So what is the difference? Well, it’s easy to “point at the management” with an accusing finger, and that has been my struggle over years. And there’s truth to that, no denying it.

But I’m coming to see in a new way… it’s not the “management” that is the “cause” or the “root” of the situation. The pastoral outlook is also “fruit”, just like the attitude and posture of the sheep, and the aimless circling. The issue is “navigation”, “destination” and “focus”.

The First Flock is focused on a real destination… the Source. They are moving forward, scattering across the face of the earth, being fruitful and multiplying. They aren’t HUNTING, they’re MULTIPLYING and there’s a world of difference between the two. Multiplication and fruitfulness results from love, acceptance, intimacy of heart, and creativity. Only God and grace can bring about multiplication by fruitfulness, where people come as attracted by light, love and joy… to find safety, encouragement, and LIFE. How does this come about? They look BEYOND THEMSELVES, even beyond their human shepherds… they seek, and pursue, the Source. They seek and build the Kingdom itself, as His joyful children.

But the Circling Flock can realize this doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no new life, no joy, no grace, no growth. They can turn predatory, focus on themselves, and determine that their imperative is to grow… by consuming others if necessary. God says “grow”. God says “grow is good… big is good… small is bad”. (Where this idea comes from, frankly, I’m not sure… but its a powerful belief system in church management). God says, “if you do right, if you manage right, if you administer right… YOU TOO can have a MEGACHURCH!” And as we all know, bigger, better, badder is where it’s at! Where is the focus of this flock? On themselves, on their pastor, on their finance committee, on their programs, and on their campaigns. “Just keep them dollars rollin’, folks!” And when we’re big, bad, shiny, and rich… we’ll know God has BLESSED US as a church!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the tension I’ve felt for a whole career. And it is not quite right. It is ALMOST right, but not quite. Until I released my spider and scorpion I couldn’t SEE clearly enough to find the flaw in my thinking. My spider and scorpion had to be let go, before I could let go of today’s encumbrance.

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Leary PosterWhat is that? What is the item the Lord points to for me to drop along our wayside? It’s a neon, glow-in-the-dark poster. A “vintage” 1960’s psychedelic poster, memorializing the face and mantra of an icon of the times, Dr. Timothy Leary. The saying expressed was his oft-quoted motto: “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Now, please understand, I didn’t even KNOW this was in my pack. Am I a “child of the 60’s”? Well, *cough*, to be truthful, yes… yes, I am. But I wasn’t exactly a “hippie” either. I was a bit of an “overachiever” type, scholastically, well-behaved, yadda yadda. So at first, this poster confused me as the Lord and I looked at it.

BorgBut as I looked at it, the Lord held up a model in His hand, and smiled at me. The model was a bit less “vintage” than my poster… but still a symbol from an earlier time. It was a plastic model of a Borg ship. You may, or may not, know who the Borg are. They were an adversarial race on Star Trek: The Next Generation. They were a hive-mind culture of predatory nature, dedicated to absorbing technology whenever and wherever it was found. Rather the extreme of Deus ex Machina.

The Lord didn’t accuse at all, in fact He did not speak. But just standing there, looking at this model… the Borg mottos: “Resistance if futile. You will be assimilated,” echoed in my mind. I realized that across the years, this was to a large extent, how I can come to see the “Imperial Church”. Impersonal, bureaucratic, mechanical, predatory, determined to assimilate all competition, having forgotten “why”, except in the most cliche and abstract terms. I mean, it’s all well and good to SAY “scriptural things”. But when you continue, day after day and week after week, to pass by the starving Lazarus at your gate, barely looking down at him with disdain (Luke 19:16-31), driven to glorify covenant, pastor, council, and denomination by constructing a more intimidating campus than anyone else… well, I’ve struggled more than a bit to keep my attitude balanced across the years.

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It is a hard thing… for me at least… to see a “bias” in myself. A “prejudice”, an “unfair judgment” of someone or something. Only recently have I come to realize that the essence of “judging” is NOT in criteria of measurement applied to a subject, or the manner of applying criteria to a subject… but rather the believing one “looks upon a subject of measurement” at all. It’s not a problem “out there”, it’s a problem “in here”, in believing one has the standing to judge another.

Intuitively, I’ve known this, though I’ve always struggled with it. Knowing my heart was out of order, knowing that to judge in this way was definitely not Light, my own “coping mechanism” was “avoidance.” I do not do well with conflict, whether violence is physical, emotional, or spiritual. My upbringing was filled with conflict, and I learned, as one friend puts it, not to so much be a “peacemaker” as a “peacekeeper”. To maintain stability in the environment, to placate aggressors, feed predators, palliate those who wound others… whether me or someone else. After all, this controls chaos, this makes for peace, this keeps everyone’s voices calm and reasonable. Right?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, in my own way… in my own (what’s called) “passive aggressive” way… I learned to “Tune in. Turn on, and Drop Out”. I could see only “conflict”, in my own form of “straw-manning” the Corporate Culture Church, the Six Sigma, Church Business. I could see my “spider”, and could not resist transformation into “my scorpion”. My only acceptable alternative was to “look away” entirely, to “ignore” the conflict and fail to engage. To avoid the arena of “church politics” altogether and focus on individual discipleship and spiritual direction. Was this, is this, a BAD thing? No, not entirely. But it is an INCOMPLETE thing. It is an approach that fails to embrace all people as equally sacred.

So… what’s changed?

It seems that for me, at least, the “sequence” has been important.

  • First, that “judging” is not just to draw the conclusion of value… but to reach for the specimen in the first place.
  • Second, that “dispute” is a meeting of two “aggressors”, without  much difference between them, once both are armored and loaded for bear.
  • Third, that when faced with the Borg Imperial Church, I was both judging it… and fleeing from it as overwhelmingly powerful at the same time. Rather than surrender, or be defeated, I would flee.

So what about today?

Today, I will stop fleeing in fear… either of the Borg Collective, or of my own reaction to it. Jesus did not flee, nor did He fight. He told us, time and again, to keep our focus on what is Real and what is Important, and let the winds and waves of the meaningless just flow around us without regard. Jesus interacted with His own Borg Collective constantly… the monolithic religious establishment that said, “you will believe as we believe, or you will be assimilated or eliminated. You will act as we act, or you will die.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Isn’t that amazing, Gentle Reader? THIS is what He is showing me to throw away, today. He did not “fight, fly, or freeze” in the presence of the Collective. He just stood still, stood strong, stood fast, and spoke the Truth. He tells us to do this, to love one another as He loves. To forgive as the Father forgives. To love without taking offense, counting cost, or expecting anything in return. He assures us that when we DO this, when we love with the Father’s heart, follow in Jesus’ steps and love as He loves… He assures us that we will be reviled, persecuted, put out of assemblies, rejected by both friends and family. Why? Because we will love no matter what, and speak Truth no matter what.

Love, real love, the Love that God gives us, that He gives us to touch others with… That kind of love CHANGES people. It changes lives. It changes hearts. It changes agendas. It changes institutions. Therefore, THAT kind of love is very VERY threatening to the “smart” people, the “clever” people, the “power” and “control” people. For those who must constrain, control, and micromanage their environment within close boundaries and rules… this kind of love is not acceptable.

My response to all that has simply been to close my eyes and look away from it. But now, finally, I can be free of that. Fear of conflict, constraining love, is just one more constraint. Jesus did not have this, did not yield to this, and… it is His preference, if I’m ready to face this… that I don’t either.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yup, my poster is now gently set on the fire. “Tune in, turn on, drop out”… even with regard to the Imperial Borg Church… will no longer dictate my responses. I will simply decline to enter that dimension of dialogue… having hung up my Lab Coat… and work to love, embrace, and accept ALL people as sacred, speak Truth, love and serve them… without regard for response.

Apparently, He would not have me constrained any more by fear of “myself”… than of my fear of “others”.

“Tune In, Turn On, and Drop By”, Gentle Reader.

 

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