A basin and a towel.

Todays Scripture: John 13:1 – 17

On this Mandy Thursday (western calendar) I find it fitting to post a quote from a very good Christian musician and song writer, Michael Card. He has a way to describe the mystery of this evening that really makes it “come alive”. This is his song, “The basin and the towel”.

Verse 1.

“In a upstaris room, a parable, is just about to come alive. And while they argue about who is best. With a painful glance, He will silently rise. Their Saviour and Servant must show them how by the will of the water and the tenderness of the towel.

Refr:

And the call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free. In humility to take the vow that day after dat we must take up the basin and the towel.

Verse 2.

In any ordinary place, on any ordinary day. A parable can live again, when one will kneel and one will yield. Our Saviour servant must show us how by the will of the water and the tenderness of the towel.

And the space between ourselves sometimes, is more than the distance between the stars. By the fragile bridge of the servants bow, we take up the basin and the towel.”

This mystery of the King of all Who picks up the duty of the lowest servant. The washing of feet. This is the way to heal the world. This is how faith becomes incarnated. It does not matter how well I argue about faith or works (wanting to sit next to Christ) or how “well I know the Scriptures”. This will not touch people’s hearts. But if I wash their feet, if I serve them instead of arguing with them, it will touch them. It boils down to if we are willing to follow Christs example. Are you willing to get down on your knee wash your neighbours feet? Christianity is about incarnation. It is about the infleshment of what we have learned. It is about faith being implemented in works. It is about works being awakened by faith. It is about the infleshment of the divine into the human, about given the world “its soul or life back”. It is about wholeness. The healing of a world that has been divided, broken and dismembered. And this is why the Christian road is narrow. Very few people (I among them) are willing to actually do what we say that we believe. To incarnate our faith. We think that as long as we wash our own feet we have done our duty. And Christianity is Christianity just because it takes the calling beyond your self or your own. Realizing that we fall short of our calling (the law…) is a first step, but never let that become an excuse for not actually serving, in a practical way, your family, neighbour and community. God Himself was incarnated for our sakes. He did not deny healing and salvation for the world. He is prepared to wash our sins away by humbleness. We, as a part of His very body, His incarnation should than not deny the world the incarnation of our faith and hope?

How do you incarnate (making real) your faith in Christ? Please share your stories and thoughts.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

The message of oil.

Todays scripture: Matthew 26:6 – 16

A big piece of the global economy concerns oil. We get rich if we have it on “our” (s)oil, we try to take it by force if we don’t. We start wars over it, our logistics and means of transportation is dependent on it. It is our greatest source of energy.

Today when we re-member (as in being inserted into the body once again) the anointing of Jesus at Bethany in the service of unction, a different use of oil is displayed. The woman anoints Jesus for the preparation of His burial.

And it seems like oil, (chrism, cream, creme) is always a part of when something or someone is going in the ground. From the earliest of days the people of the earth have tried to cover up the smell of the decaying body with fragrant oils. We have tried to preserve the body from decay with oil and ointments. This putting oil on the body for preserving and healing purposes  before it returns to the earth is rather fitting because oil is taken from the depths of the earth is it not?

Oil springs forth when we put pressure on the earth. Oil coms out when we squeeze the olive or the nut. Oil seems to be the burning fuel, or the essence of the fruits of the earth. The energy of the earth herself captured in liquid form. It is high concentrated energy and so we eat it, fueling our bodies and we burn it for the warmth of our homes. The cycle of oil is an interesting one. It is the liquid result of things that once where living…

Oil is not only mentioned in Matthew but is also being used to anoint the things that was set apart for worship in Exodus. It is used for the setting apart of the kings and priests in the old testament. It is used for the lampstand, to shed light. James write about the usage of oil for the ones who are sick. In a way oil becomes a great symbol for holiness (healing) and light, for regenerating life in things that has been dead or the ointment that reveals the spiritual significance in material things. Because who can speak about oil without mentioning the fire it produces.

Oil and fire are inseparable. Jesus gets His anointing so that the Fire will come. “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49). We must be baptized with both water (baptism, death and resurrection) and fire (from decay towards theosis). Think about it. Water and fire do not belong together but if you pour oil into the water the fire will burn on the water. Baptized in fire I say. Yes, immersed, dipped down in fire it means. What other material is better to describe this mystery than oil, you can be dipped down in it and yes it contains the energy of fire. Fire was what led the Israelites through the night of the desert. Fire came fourth from the burning bush. Fire is the mark of the sun spreading light and the inside of our earth. Fire is what God sent to answer Elijah’s prayer on mount Carmel. Tounges of fire is put forth at Pentecost. Fire gives warmth, energy and life. It is also the great process of transformation of material formula. It purifies unclean things and it consumes unseen things. It is not  coincidence that God reveals His Holy Spirit through fire. It is not chance that the preparation of the Holy Spirit (Fire) contains the ritual of ointment with oil. I mean, Who is it that Is Being poured out on and into the world for the healing of the world? It is Christ. It is His burial. He Is the One Who is going into the ground. The Holy Spirit is revealed as a result, bringing the baptism of fire regenerating life rather than ending it as in the days of Noah.

To this very day the woman is re-membered where the gospel is spread for what she did for Jesus. She is re-membered because she is recorded in the Scriptures but also, to no less degree, is she re-membered because the Church to this very day is repeating this sacrament, this mystery of unction. This liquid of “middle ground” between water and fire being poured out for the healing and life of the world.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob    

God is not angry with you.

Todays Scripture: Matt 21:1 – 46

So it begins, the most Holy of weeks. A week that is set apart. A week that is whole. A week that has ultimate glory as its destination. Within this week the whole of time is contained. The beginning and the end is present in the Now. The eternal touches time. The Divine cloth Itself with the human body and blesses it (I lack the language to correctly express this great mystery so excuse my inadequate language). The Light of Christ shines upon the things that has been hiding in darkness and He exposes it. He faces it and eventually He “outshines” it.

To me salvation is not so much about “letting Christ take away my sin and God sacrificing His Son because He needs His anger to be satisfied”, salvation is not about substitutionary atonement. For me salvation becomes the re-joining with and into Christ. It becomes recognizing Christ for what He Is. When we see Christ for what He truly Is, salvation is a natural consequence. Because it is only Him working within us that can reveal His true identity. The Word reveals the Word both in Scripture and in the Sacraments. Sometimes we have this wrong notion that our Father is an angry God Whos wrath needs to satisfied by sacrifice. This notion is not very beneficial from a soteriological point. Because this notion does not transmit the ultimate Truth of Who God is. God is not angry with us but with sin. He is angry with the way we fail to be truly human. How we miss the mark and goal of what it means to be created in the image of Him. He is not so much angry with us as with our inability to bear good fruit. Maybe this is why He curses the tree in the gospel today. Maybe punishment is required for the tree to find its roots again. If God was angry with us He would not have entered the world as a servant. He would have come with the whip. Instead He is being whipped.

No, the message of Holy week is that God loves you. And He is prepared to show how Love operates so that you will understand both with heart and mind. He breaks His body and sheds His blood for you, ever eaten He is never consumed, making Holy (whole) those who in faith receive Him. For what and where would we be without food and drink? What and where would we be without nutrition for our souls and bodies? We would be like the cursed tree without fruit. We would be nothing. We would be lifeless. Christ gives life to all. He gives growing power (or withholds it) to all fields and all trees. Yes, the Eucharist is set apart as the chief symbol for all of creation to gather around but make no mistake, He is sustaining life or withholding it from all the food and drink we consume.

Holy week contains services of presanctified Eucharist to remind us of that all of creation has been blessed and presanctified by Christ. Trough Him we once again see that everything was (and still is) created good.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

The lent of a shepherd.

As a pastor (shepherd) of a flock your main concern and work is about the flock of sheep you have been put in place to care for and protect. You repair fences to protect from wild animals (a living tradition and theology), you look for new pastures when old ones does not feed your sheep any longer (pastoral care and prayer) and you feed and nurture the sheep  (distributing the sacraments and the Word). This is your main task and concern as a shepherd. Sometimes you spend time investigating or thinking about how you can find lost sheep (evangelism). How do you find the sheep that does not have a flock? You meet lost sheep from time to time and your heart desires to see them fed. To see them protected and in good care. I myself am from Sweden (one of the most secular countries of the world and also with the not so flattering title, “The loneliest country of the world”, hmm maybe there is a connection between the two?) so I run into sheep like this quite often when I visit my home country (in Canada, where I live now I meet them quite often as well). My heart goes out and wishes to see them whole not because I am extra “pious” but because I know that I am lost without my Shepherd as well. I know that until we find refuge in the Shepherd we will eat and eat from the table of the world and never be full. So you long to tell the lost sheep where the pasture and where the water is. Not so much because you want to have “a thousand sheep in your flock” (this is “pastor hubris” and a very common affliction in the Church today) but because you desire to see them whole and at peace. A shepherds heart goes out to the lonely and hungry sheep. At the same time you do not want to leave your flock of sheep unattended for to long. You need to be able to fight of animals and fix the fence. So this tension is created for the Shepherd, this movement but at the same time remaining. This tending the flock and seeking for lost sheep. It is no coincidence that the pastor finds himself in this tension. The Shepherd of all is in the same “tension” and He is the one Who can really do it. He remains what He Is as He enter Jerusalem (the world) to find His lost Sheep. He tends the lost sheep, seeking them out at the same time as He is keeping close attention to His flock. He faces the enemy (the ruler of this world) in a fake trial but at the same time He remains faithful to the task that lies ahead.  His task of entering the roughest place of all. Looking at Him I realize that I am lost without Him. Without the Tree of Life I am just a broken off palm branch, a lost sheep. But He seeks me out, He invites me in to His flock, to His family. My desire as a pastor becomes to imitate Him as much as I can (and I fail all the time), to remain with the flock but also to seek out the lost. And when Christ seeks out the lost He does not come with a “ready to sign pamphlet in what and how to believe”, He comes on a colt of a donkey, close to the ground, so that He can hear the concerns and prayers of the lost. He comes as a servant, to attend to your soul (what an awesome mystery this is). He comes as a caring Shepherd ready to lie down His life for you, His lost sheep. If we that are pastors truly wish to see the lost sheep healed, there is no other way than this. We also must lie down our lives for the flock and for the lost. We must follow His example, entering the world (Jerusalem) in a humble manner.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

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

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

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