Secularism & Gnosticism (that sounds fun right?)

Todays Scripture: Exod 9:13 – 35, 2 Cor 4:1 – 12, Mark 10:32 – 45

I have been following a thread on http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/a-path-beyond-secularism/#comment-55666 that speaks about secularism and that the world are already seeking something more, something else beyond secularism. This is natural because the world is not secular, so the answer can not be found within secularism. The post continues to say that the church (small c) has a lot to do with the spread of secularism because the church herself came under the influence of unbelief.

We (the church) say that Christ entered and upholds the world but we often don’t really believe this to be a true reality. It is more of a nice idea. Many parts of the church has reduced belief in the incarnate, eternal Lord to “coping with depression”, “it feels good therefore I believe” and “I have all my friends there”. Taken the symbolic, sacramental and mysterious aspects out of the life of the Church (as in many evangelical churches) reduces her to church (small c). Taking the substance or the flesh (like the Eucharist as real Presence) out of something is like eating pills instead of real food. We continue to live but after a while the pills taste awful so we stop eating them and during our time eating them we forgot how to cook. Taking the established frame out of the Church (Tradition & Liturgy, proper) to “be able to listen to the Holy Spirit” will hinder the Holy Spirits work because the Holy Spirit is not separated from creation. It does not matter what scholasticism tried to do with “defining the Holy Spirit”, the tries to define Him did not separate Him from creation. No, He gives life to creation. He is still part of the creative process of the universe. This notion that God is separate from His creation is destroying the church. This false piety that says that the world was to evil for God to remain here. This hate of the flesh (mis-interpretation of Paul).  So we find ourselves between two pit falls. On the one side we have secularism where we do not recognize the spiritual and we worship the flesh and on the other hand we have gnosticism where we hate the flesh and try to ascend to the spiritual realm leaving this “evil body behind”. Christianity has always fought against these two adversaries. It is very easy to fall into either one of them because of that particular reason that we are both flesh and spirit. The lord of extremities would gladly see us camp in either one of those two states. But the proper Christian way to walk is towards the centre. Towards Christ, both human and divine. If you confess Christ authority in your life He will put everything into the proper order. He will keep you in the center because when you look at Him and His light you do not pay attention to either side of the road.

Tomorrow is Lazarus saturday, Jesus raises His friend from the dead. We view this as a miracle. This is extraordinary, out of the normal. But everything Jesus does is to put Lazarus back in proper order. Life, not death is the ruling principle of creation.This is not a miracle for Christ but just the expression of how Jesus sees Lazarus. It is us, with our limited grasp of the universe that views it as a miracle. And the wonderful thing is that Jesus is your friend as well.

In Christ

Fr. Jakob

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The standstill.

Todays Scripture: Mark 2: 1 – 12

In tonight’s pre – sanctified gifts service we read about the paralytic that gets healed by Christ. This has been the Wednesday of the paralytic in the church year for many years. It precedes the Lazarus Vesper on Saturday and Palm Sunday for a particular reason. It summarizes our actual state and predicament if we refuse divine intervention. It also displays what will happen if we do. Because you see, we are all paralyzed. We can be paralyzed by fear, by greed, by physical injuries, by oppression, by money or by pride. We are paralyzed by the thing we give most attention to. Usually we are paralyzed by our ego because we do believe ourselves to be the most important person on earth. The modernistic creed shouts out “Believe in yourself!” As long as we do, we remain unable to walk. We remain paralyzed. We lay there in our beds and we wither away as time pass by.  Yes, you are important but not the most important. Yes, you are beautiful but not on your own. Beauty is only revealed when the light shines upon it and displays the colors.

The paralytic teaches us that lent in itself is not the solution to our “problem”. Many people remain paralyzed because movement hurts. They remain in a permanent state of lent because it feels familiar and “safe”. They accustomed themselves to feel pretty comfortable with “my time”, “my life” “my opinion about the world” and  “believe what you want as long as you don’t bother me” . People of secular society has learnt to cope with their affliction to the point of that they do not see it as affliction anymore. Secularism is the very definition on what it is to be paralyzed. But lent by itself is not the solution. Yes, we must go trough times of trouble, times of feeling paralyzed. Times of lent and suffering. Sometimes we even need good friends to carry us through those times just like the paralytic, but lent is not the destination. Christ is. His resurrection is what shines light people so that they become beautiful. It is His rising from the dead that gives new life, movement.

Death is the standstill. Death is when no energy is exchanged. Death is the withdrawal of the spirit (air…) from the body. Death is the ultimate paralytic state. Death is secularism… But Christ shows today that He has the power to forgive your sins, to make you walk and to make you beautiful. The paralytic is living evidence of this. Life is movement. Life is the journey. Life is walking higher and deeper.

I wonder how many that confess the secular creed (I believe in me) that has friends that will carry them to the hospital and visit them there? I mean, in a secular paralytic worldview does friends really matter?

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

You are beautiful!

Todays Scriptures: Exodus 4:10 – 31, 1 Cor 14:1 – 19, Mark 9:30 – 41

I think we have an intrinsic desire for beauty. When I walk beside the river of south Saskatchewan and watch the sunrays play with melting ice. When I hear the sound of relief, of freedom from the birds in the sky, something inside of me connects with the beauty of nature. Feelings and memories erupts inside of me. It is amazing how we by our senses can connect with the world around us. The smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns in the morning. The sound of a thundering river. The sight of northern lights. The feeling of the breeze on the shore. The taste of freshly picked strawberries in early summer …

We have those experiences and the funny thing with humanity, really what makes us human, is that we sometimes try to depict those feelings and experiences. Some of us try to explain or share what we know to be good. So, art is born. All art is a description of a process  that goes on the “outside” of a person or something that goes on “inside” of a person. Art is our effort to contribute to the creative process that goes on all the time in nature. Or rather, our desire to be a part of that very process. After all, our cells are being replaced by new ones all the time. We are not static, we are changing. The creative process goes on, every second.

I find the “best” artists to be people who invites you into a process. They take you on a journey. You discover places that you would not have seen if they did not invite you in. I personally feel that one of the best books ever written is the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I feel drawn to his method of using beauty, nature and mystery to describe feelings that all of us probably feel. We all have “a ring” that we need to get rid of. We all carry this dark ego that overshadows our ability to see the good things in life. Frodo is not chosen as a ring bearer because his physical abilities, or his infinite wisdom about the world. No, he is chosen because he has not yet been corrupted by the power of ego. He still sees the simple pleasures in life. He enjoys the beauty that nature offers. In many ways he is like a small child. As he continues on his journey to destroy the ring, he becomes aware of the weight of it. It is a hard thing to confront your sin or ego. Just as beauty is intrinsic to our being so it seems ego and sin is. We have this tension within us. This tension, this journey of Frodo and Sam is beautifully described by Tolkien. His depiction reminds us of things that happens within every one of us. If we have eyes to see. If we still can see beauty. If we are not over powered by our ego, our sin. It seems like our own “smart answer to how reality works” often blocks our ability to see beauty.

I believe art, our participation and observation of the for ever on going creative process, is one of the main “venues” to get to know our Creator. God created and creates the world as His artwork. The world is His display of beauty. He invites us to be a part of this journey called life. He is the great Artist. Now, can I “prove” this? That He is the Creator. No I can not. But the question is formulated in a twisted way. The question is not if I can prove Gods existence. The question is if I can prove my existence without Him? If I did not have this canvas of the world around me, would I be able to see my own color? If I listened to a song with one single tone, would I be able to hear a melody? If I listened to the creed of post humanism, that we are a result of pure randomness, the expression of random chemical occurences. That there are no reason at all for us being here. Where would that leave beauty? Where would that leave our ability to be creative? Where would that leave our feelings of feeling connected to a reality outside of our ego? Post – humanism, the attempt to define everything in physical terms and formula, the digitization of reality, leaves no room for creativity. It leaves no room for mystery. It leaves no room for beauty because beauty can not be tamed. And really, when you think about it, is not those very things, what makes life worth living. It is not the defined things in life, our stuff (house, car, boat whatever), that brings joy to our lives. No, it is how we use those things. How we share them with others.

I encourage you to look at the world with eyes of charity. Be apart of the creative process. Share the gifts of beauty you have received (because you are beautiful). Because if you do you will receive gifts of beauty. It’s a beautiful day (as U2 sang). It is not a coincidence that the mystery of this life is described in art and in nature because it only in those expressions that mystery becomes accessible to us.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

Universal salvation?

Todays Scriptures: Exod 2:23 – 3:15, 1 Cor 13:1 – 13, Mark 9:14 – 29

Drawing closer to Pasha, to Easter, I can not avoid to start thinking about salvation ( from Lat salvus meaning whole, sound or intact.) If we look at the world with sober eyes we see that the world are in a state of Lent. The world is in a state of suffering and awaiting its resurrection. The rich people of the world has a hard time seeing this because they do not experience physical suffering or need (but many has an identity crises when they get sick… hmm). But the poor people of the world knows that the world needs to be restored, they need to be saved. Their hunger, their hurt, their loneliness and their pain has made them realize that they are not whole. They are not intact, they are not sound. I myself had the hardest time seeing that I was in a state of despair because I had my physical needs covered. I couldnt see that I needed salvation. But I was put through pain that made me realize that the opposite is true. And if we are honest, all of us goes through life bouncing into those things that just are hard and painful. And this pain, this suffering of ours has led our thoughts towards the following questions. Why this pain  and suffering if there is a good God? Would not a good God desire for everyone to be saved and to be without pain? Is not God (if there is one) very angry cruel and mean when He allows for all this pain to continue?

But pain is one of the last resorts for God to remind us that without Him there is no wholeness, peace, intactness or salvation. Pain is the smoking gun of that something is wrong. And remember , it is not God that inflicts pain but rather it is humanity that refuses to turn to God for help. Pain is always redemptive if we choose let God deal with the pain. This experience of pain, and the incorrect handling of it has led to many evil things. The pain of loneliness has led to distorted relations. The pain of death has led to a hunt to remain young forever (at any cost). The pain of sickness and hunger has led to a very big injustice concerning the distribution of the worlds resources. The pain of betrayal has led to many acts of vengeance. The pain is there, this we know. How do we handle it correctly? The first we need to realize is that pain is just a signal, it is not the actual wound. It will remain in us if we do not heal the wound properly. We need both healing on the surface (physical) and healing within (spiritual). And there is only One that can transcend both those realms because he is both human and divine. We can not do it ourselves (which we tend to believe).

The pain in some people has even made them claim that the Healer is only there for “us”. The Healer of our souls only desire certain people to be saved, to be whole. They use a language that proclaims that Gods saving power is dependent on the faith formula they make up. But the God I believe in actually said that he desires all people to be saved. And who am I to go against Gods desire? God has made it very clear that He came to the world to save that which was lost (that means everyone because all of us where/is lost, we still have pain right?). So who am I to put a limit on Gods grace with my limited knowledge? False religion is dangerous because it puts a legal requirement on salvation. The Greeks seek wisdom and the Jews require a sign but we (the Christians) preach Christ crucified. All those formulas of human wisdom and religion are empty without Christ. Christ preaches true religion with His life. He helps the poor, he feeds the hungry, he touched the lonely and He sacrifices Himself so that we can have life. This is true religion. And it is true religion that will heal the world. When we start to do those thins, healing (salvation) becomes real does it not?

So will everyone in the world be saved? (universal salvation) I do not know. It is not really my task to know. I know some people will continue to walk the way of pain. Probably in this life and the next. I know some people will start to walk the way towards healing, towards salvation in this life and the next. I know that the more people who does this, the more people get helped. I also know that God desires everyone to walk on this latter path. So I, in my smallness and very limited knowledge, can just not see how I can refuse to have the possibility everyone’s salvation open. To have this door open (like many church fathers before me had) makes me slower to judge others I realize. It makes it easier to see others as children of the same Father. Yes, they may walk a different path right now but who am I to say that the Lord of time and space  can’t  shift some roadblocks around?

So today at the annunciation, when we are reminded of Mary and Her response to carry the Salvation of the world within herself, let us also respond with the same attitude. Let us carry Love within ourselves so that we may spread salvation and healing to as many as we encounter. Let us have Christs attitude towards the broken. The attitude of gentle healing.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

Science and religion.

March 22 – 2012 4th week in Lent

Todays Scripture: Exodus 1:6 – 22, 1 Cor 12:12 – 26, Mark 8:27 – 9:1

I realize that I’m from a secular (as in: not concerned with spiritual or eternal things but concerned with things seen) perspective probably look a bit radical. I do not mind this because it confirms that my life is not secular to the same extent. But people wonder why you “have to go to church” 3 – 4 times a week? Why one is concerned with fasting and prayer? Why do you wear a collar? and so on. On the other hand people seem to be fine with the humanitarian efforts my church is involved with in central Africa. This people seem to understand. But, as I said when it comes to “religious activities” the secular mind, and this is a very natural consequence of secularism, do not understand.

Where is the proof that prayer works? Is not religion and religious practices responsible for like, 80% of the worlds conflicts and wars? Have we not, by our scientific achievements taken the way beyond religion and “things unseen”? Those are the secular questions. But if you look closely, those secular questions springs from a non secular source. If there was “nothing unseen” in reality we would not be concerned with questions like this at all.. After all science moves forward by moving the border of revealed reality forward. By looking closer or further, at reality, we realize that there will always be more things unseen that we can explore.

No, what kills a persons “spirit” or rather what stops a person from being a true person (persehone, a face) is not asking questions like this. Asking questions is a humble action, it allows for us to grow. It shows to others that we do not have “all the answers”. We still want to learn. No, it is when we stop to ask questions that we shrink from our potential to reach true humanity. When we say that we have landed in this “doctrine”, “truth” or “rule”. When we say this, then we stop to grow. Then we stop to see new horizons. Then we stop our journey towards new life and we start to shrink and die.

Now, this approach of remaining “open” to new thoughts, facts and truths is something that most well renowned universities claim that they encourage. Religions on the other hand, monotheistic ones in particular, is being accused of locking in on one truth, one law or unchangeable doctrines.  So we see this conflict arise between the secular (universities, science) and the theocratic (church, religion) but I just wonder if this is really the case? We have been led to believe that science and religion are “at war” with each other. That they are separated forever by their emphases on different “realities”. But I started to see similar patterns in both those spheres.

A scientist who looks upon a pattern in nature he or she hasn’t seen before looks a lot like a Christian who sees a pattern in the human soul he or she hasn’t seen before. An astronomic that strives to learn the mysteries of the stars looks a lot like a believer that draws closer to divine mysteries. A person that tries to figure out the age of the earth looks a lot like a person that seeks to move beyond time. And all ends up with the question that the secular reality can not (because it lies beyond the scope of secularism)  answer; What was before?

So once again we realize that our pursuit in the revealed side of reality (science) to find answers pushes us into the unrevealed side of reality. We can only go so far in the physical side of things. At the border of revelation (11 billion years according to some) we need to stop and when we do, the question remains. What was before? Why are we here? And these questions are not secular, they are philosophical, theological and theocratic questions.

I see science (the physical world) as a springboard into the religious (spiritual world). I see the spiritual world (The Spirit, our questions, our person, our being) as a revealer of the physical world. They are in co-relation. No scientist would have discovered what they discovered without these questions (which are spiritual or non-secular by nature). It was the church that founded the universities of the world and the church had good reason to do so. By seeing reality for what it truly is, a synergy between the seen and the unseen, it came to discover a larger reality.

So, am I radical when I go to church or when I pray? I don’t think so. Not more radical the one who attends university. It is just me paying attention to at least “half” (I realize this is very dualistic language) of what our reality consists of, and really, who that has an open mind can shut the door for a larger reality? Galilei, Descartes, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Pasteur and Lennox (and many more) all kept this open mind towards the unseen, the divine, the spiritual. They went to church and they prayed and things were revealed for them.

In Christ

Fr. Jakob

Light & Fire.

Todays Scripture: Gen 49:29 – 50:14, 1 Cor 11:17 – 34, Mark 8:1 – 10

I attended SEMF (Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers Fellowship) today. It is good to meet with people who share a lot of the same joys, strifes and situations as oneself. To bounce ideas, get inspiration and just get together to pray. But I also find that as we meet we are treading on the unavoidable line of “political correctness” and we meet with the understanding of certain unwritten rules.

These unwritten rules or this political correctness makes for a pretty pleasant meeting. But it also stifles honesty, vulnerability and responsibility. I realize that all cooperation between churches (as well as other organizations) takes time and proximity but sometimes you just would wish somebody (not me!) would “rock the boat” so we can “get some results”! If somebody would do that, I envision this awkwardness and  unrest in the chairs at the meeting. Pastors would get uncomfortable and raise the concern that “This is not the forum for questions like these?” And that is probably correct. What I’m getting at is that sometime a “rocking of the boat” or “kindling the fire” is needed for us to seek Christ. Sometime a storm is needed before we ask for His help. Sometime a pang of hunger is there before we ask Him for bread (like in todays gospel reading). So let me ask you: What is the occasion you dread? What will rock your life? Where does the fire need to be lit in your life?  I encourage you to think about it because it usually holds a hidden way to Christ.

I am also a part of the planning team for the Global Day Of Prayer here in Saskatoon. The event is a 10 day chain of prayer leading up to a 1 day big event on the Sunday of Pentecost, May 27th 2012. People from all over the world gather to pray during these days. The purpose is to display Gods glory. In the planning team we have people from different backgrounds and churches. In this group there is sometimes a bit of tension, fleshing the work and responsibilities out. But I think that is healthy. The boat is rocked so that we do not put our faith in our own abilities but only in His ability. The tensions are resolved when we turn to Him. When we come together in prayer. It’s funny how the journey towards something (in this case Someone) becomes a part of the destination when the destination is Christ. We tend to believe that He will only appear at the end of our journey, but when we embark to seek Him we realize that He was there in the beginning as well. He is Alfa and Omega.

Easter is getting closer and closer and we start to see the end of the tunnel, the end of Lent, we realize that the light from the fire of the resurrection guided our way through this very tunnel. And when we see our life as being the real Lent, that gives us a whole new perspective of what life is. Through the light and fire of Christ we begin to see that the struggles, the tensions and the sin all can be transformed into wepons that we can defeat the evil one. Christ light and fire exposes those deeds of darkness for what they are, and being exposed they can not remain. The Light exposes, the fire consumes. So it is with trembling that I enter into different situations of tension (Like SEMF or Global day Of Prayer), because we all know what nature has taught us, it is tension that brings about fire…

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun (light & fire) has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. “ – C. S Lewis

If Gods Spirit can be described with “Light” and “Fire” I believe that light and fire will shine and burn on everything that is not light and fire until it becomes light and fire. And naturally burning hurts a bit so that we realize what is going on. Naturally our eyes hust when we stare into the sun because it is so bright…

Seek the light and the fire of Christ and He will come to you. But also be aware of what you ask for, it may burn a bit.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

What bridge do you walk on?

I live in a city full with bridges, Saskatoon. This city of bridges is currently booming. It is growing so fast you can see it. Being a city of growth both population wise and economically it goes against the current trend of big parts of North America. Soon a new bridge will be finished for the reason of accommodating more traffic and more people.

The header of this blog is a picture of a bridge as well. It is very different then the one being built here in Saskatoon because rather than business it has an ambiance of calmness. It transmits the feeling of maybe going into the unknown rather than to work. It almost looks like it is a bridge to another land. We tend to view bridges as tools to get somewhere else. We walk or drive on a bridge for a limited amount of time. Once we are on the other side we are not concerned with the bridge until we use it to get back. We never (or rarely) stay on the bridge itself. Yet, from the bridge you usually have tremendous vistas of nature. The 360 degree display of nature or skylines. But no, we usually only use the bridge as a means to get somewhere.

Sometime we view Christianity or Christ as “a bridge”. We see the crucifixion as the greatest bridge ever made. Stretched out on the cross, Christ embraces all of reality, east to the west and north to the south with His limbs. When we believe in Him we can “walk over” from death to life. From the world into heaven. We say that we walk over the pit that sin and death “made” on the bridge made out of the wood from the cross of Christ. This picture is not totally wrong. That we are saved by the economy (proper) of Christ. But this picture, which is very pedagogical and powerful is also kind of simplistic. It leaves a whole lot of the mystery and awesomeness of Christs death and resurrection by the way side.

The cross of Christ is stretched out, Christ is stretched out to bind together two realities (which is really one reality proper), heaven and earth, human and divine, spiritual and physical, grace and law. Yes, He builds this bridge between “countries”. But, He calls us not only to walk “from earth into heaven” and once we are there we do not need to walk this bridge anymore. No, He calls us to pick up our own cross, to follow Him. He calls us to walk back on that “bridge” so that we can spread the light of heaven into the world. We are a part of His body, we follow Him by being a part of Him. And Christ did not “blow that bridge that He built up” after He ascended to heaven. He is eternal, the bridge remains. We remember Him by being re – membered to His body. His body (the Church) remains.

We are called to walk on this bridge. We are also called to remain on this bridge. We are called to be a part of Him. We are called out to endure winds and storms on the bridge. We are called to show other people the way to this bridge. To be a bridge is to live in tension. And when we live in tension we must seek the strength given from God.

Walk and remain on that bridge of His,

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob