Free will homosexuality?

 

The other day I was asked the question: “What does your Church believe about homosexuality?”

There are a many ways to answer that question, none of which are easy in anything less than a good sit – down – conversation. Yet, in the manner we attempt to answer that question as Church is of vital importance.

In a fast world of technology we want fast answers and if I as a spokes-person for my Church can’t deliver answers in a quick and speedily way, then I (and the Church) is dismissed. What I try to say is that big questions like this, that pertains to identity and purpose, must be allowed to take time. For instance, the question about homosexuality can not be disconnected from the questions of Grace and Law, Being and doing etc, and how they relate. It is a part of a whole and it takes time to look at the big picture.

So let us take a look at the big picture.

Many people, me included, walk around here in the West thinking that we are free. Free to choose what we want. Free to choose what to believe, what to eat, our gender, to have children or not. This is true, to a degree we are “free” to choose some of those things. What we have forgotten in this hodgepodge of choices is that we at the same time very much are slaves. We are slaves to the law. Our freedom is limited. We are not free in many ways. We didn’t choose our birth place or even to be birthed, some people can’t have children, we can not fly in our own strength etc. We are somewhat constrained by the laws and structure of nature. What does that mean, you might think and what does that have to do with our sexuality?

See the law,  works, physicality, body or just any kind of structure in general can not operate or find its fulfillment without the corresponding attribute in the realm we can not see. Structure is pointless unless it holds some content. Law is futile without grace fulfilling it, works are dead without faith and love and our body is just an empty shell if it is not filled with the breath of life, the pneuma. Our physical body as men and women reveals a spiritual identity as well. Physicality depends on spirituality (proper) for it’s function and purpose. In a post modern world, much focus have been on the material and the physical, the things we can see and in the supersonic development of contemporary science the spiritual side (the side that actually interprets the physical side) got ignored. Many of you that are reading this are so entrenched in the material way of looking at things that you are not even sure what I’m talking about. What I’m trying to say is that the spiritual realm is the realm that is yet to be revealed and is revealed more and more when we step out in faith, anticipating it’s existence. (Not unlike the movie “The Matrix”) This is how groundbreaking science works, a leap into the unknown based upon a certain calculation, anticipating a not yet revealed reality. And there is always more to be revealed. 

Once we got spell bound and hell bent on mapping and understanding the physical (the revealed) we started to ignore our spiritual origin that created all we can see in the first place.

When we ignore the spiritual things (not yet revealed) we tend to separate the spiritual from the physical thinking that they belong to different compartments. The physical belongs to the compartments of physics, biology, natural science etc while the spiritual belongs to religion, psychology, philosophy etc. Truth is that these categories can not fully blossom if they are separated from each other. Anyway…

We have created a system of choices, based upon an understanding of the world that heavily leans towards the physical (the revealed) and that has lead us to base our worth in what we achieve and do. We are valued according to our job, how we look, how we behave, our achievements and how much money we earn and spend. We measure success by way of progress in the physical. (We can cure this disease, we can feed all the people of the world etc) All the busyness of activity clouded our vision from seeing that our worth is not based upon what we do and achieve but rather on who we are.

If we base our identity on what we do then the power of self suggestion will eventually determine that what we do will give us the purpose for our being and the platform of our worth. I won’t argue that what we do doesn’t matter, it does, a lot, but it is not what determines our worth or who we are. Worth is determined by the eyes of the one that loves you without restraint and in this case, that’s God, your Father. We are created in His likeness and He is in love with us. That is the foundation of our worth, not what we choose to do or believe and how successful we are fulfilling those choices or not.

If you base your understanding of who you are on what you do, then it is logical to start to believe that you are self-contained, self – aware and self created. Hence gender for example becomes a matter of personal opinion and choice rather than biological appearance. The subjective/individual interpretation of reality takes precedence over objective/communal one. I decide who I am is one of the creeds that echoes on the street called Zeitgeist. Obviously the antithesis “You decide who I am” is not true either. But maybe we should give a third way some room even if it’s not politically correct: God created you and will continuously heal you until you become the true you.

The debate around homosexuality is often focused on the right of being true to what one feels is true about oneself. I’m not coming against the freedom of trying to be true to what we believe the reality of ourselves to be. What I would like to suggest is that maybe we put to much trust in ourselves in determining who we are? Truth is that we are not self – contained, we need food, water, light and all kinds of things. We are not self – aware, we only get to know ourselves in the face of the other. We are not self – created, we needed someone to bring us into this world. Yet, we have such a hard time actually letting someone else speak into the core of who they perceive us to be.

God is delighted when a woman forms and sustains a living friendship with another woman, the same goes for men. Love within the same gender is naturally a part of God’s great repertoire. But that does not mean that the same gender should sleep with one another as men and women do. Intercourse is the symbol of and the way in which the two that are different becomes one. Per definition, two of the same can’t have intercourse as it requires the biology of two different genders when it comes to humans that were created in the image of God. When two people of the same gender have intercourse it is actually not intercourse proper but a pseudo version of it. Saying that it is just reveals the determination by the individual to bend creation to the individual will and interpretation of it.

Love is more then sex. Love is bigger than eros. Love is more than a feeling. Love is more than what we with our individual work and legal minded paradigm decide it to be. We are a result of love, a love revealed within the Holy dance of the trinity. Three different Persons in One eternal will and communion.

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Why is it important to spend the time answering the question of homosexuality? Why is it such a hot topic in the first place? Because it touches upon the questions of who we are and in Who’s image we are created. It’s controversial because it is important. So what do I say to the ones asking me about homosexuality and what our church believes about it? First I answer with a question. Do you have two hours? If not then I just say that we are a church that believes in the Holy Trinity and in the Incarnation and that that is our base for sexual theology. I welcome anyone to Church regardless of where they are at but I also try to make it clear that if you are looking for a Church (or a god for that matter) that will conform to what the you alone would like to see then we are probably not the best fit.

Sexuality is not a right that we can take for granted. It is a gift that can be received or rejected. Freedom is not a right that we can take for granted. It is a gift that can be received or rejected.

To you that are either struggling with sexual identity or not struggling at all but have concluded that you are homosexual I would welcome your comments or feedback as I am well aware that I have a hard time relating to the reality you face. We are created in the image of God and He loves us all with an everlasting love. The cross presents itself to us all in different ways and I pray that the Church would learn to talk about these things in ways that displays God’s love with integrity.

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The seeds of revival will only grow if watered by tears.

 

Job 16:16

“My face is flushed from weeping, And deep darkness is on my eyelids,”

There are many members within the body of Christ who yearns for revival. For the dormant and the stagnant to come alive once more. For the incarnation of the gifts of the Spirit. Many are the ones who have been praying and are praying for this to happen here in Saskatoon and all over the world. In many places it is happening, throughout history there has been many revivals, reforms and reconciliatory movements within the body of Christ.

Jer 50:4 – 5 ”In those days and at that time,” declares the LORD, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the LORD their God they will seek. 5“They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.…

If we look back at the revivals of our history we can quickly identify some common patterns, even though every revival has it’s own “personality’.

Often, before revival becomes reality, there is a period of waiting in expectation. Of living with the tension of the the true legacy we must not forget while at the same time opening our hearts for the growth God wants to bring. It is often a dry, desolate and lonely place, like the desert.

In the desert, we get rid of everything that is not absolutely essential for survival. We get exposed to the light and that brings new insight into who we are and what we are made of. We observe things about ourselves that we did not see before. In the desert, the springs of water are not obvious, we must dig deep in places we sometimes do not want to go, to find

life giving water. Food and drink is scimagesarce and so we must discipline ourselves to not live on bread alone. Our stay in the desert will eventually bring either complete trust in Gods provision and the revelation that we can not survive or find our way out of there, in our own strength. Or, it will bring our destruction if we persist in relying on our own perceived power. Food and water will eventually run out. The desert is a good place to be because at least it is real. There is no room for faking it, politics and obsolete debates. It is the place where we find out the truth about who we are.

Psalm 126:6 “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”.

When we reach the place of complete honesty, when we see the truth about ourselves and the state we are in, we are often brought to tears. When we see the depth of our sin in comparison to the plan that God intended for our life and all of creation, we cry.

Psalm 80:5 “You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful”.

The tears of repentance cleanses the eye so that it sees ourselves and creation as it was created to be. Tears is a sign of that God has been visiting. It is the “other side” of our baptism, containing the same water. “Tears made their way down my cheeks and I felt the presence of God so real as if I had seen Him”, testified Lewi Pethrus, the founder of the Scandinavian Pentecostal movement about his spiritual baptism on the boat to America from Norway in 1902. St Symeon the new Theologian writes about his overwhelming spiritual experiences in Constantinople in the 10th Century: “When someone lifts their gaze and sees all of creation in a way that he has not seen before, he is filled with wonder and falls into tears, without any external pressure and free from angst. The tears cleanses him in a second baptism”.

God brings forth tears into our desert heart landscape to bring new life, revival. The tears waters and softens the soil of the hardened heart. Tears makes it able to once again receive and nurture the mustard seed of the Kingdom of heaven. The hardened heart does not consists so much of intentional evil as of the loss of the ability of wonder and awe, the ability to cry.

When we embrace this gift of tears in truth, the sorrow we feel about our sin turns into joy. The tears of repentance and the tears of joy are the same, they spring from the same well. How we can go from sorrow to joy, with the same tears testifies about God’s transformative power when we open ourselves up to hear His Truth.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and so for Him to bring new life, revival, into His Church we must be honest and true about ourselves. How do we know when we are being truthful? Often by the sign of tears. The well of tears bursts forth from a dry crusted landscape, when we have exhausted all other options, when we are at the end of our rope. When we acknowledge in truth that our predicament is to great for us to bear.

The seeds of revival, of resurrected life, of the Heavenly Kingdom are grown with the tears of repentance and joy. Tears cleanses the eye from debris and clarifies our vision for creation. Tears purifies our bodies and gives a sense of relief. Tears is the sign of the broken heart and our hearts need to be broken for the Light of Heaven to shine through the cracks.

If you are praying for revival, for new life, then I encourage you to be honest and truthful with yourself. Repent from and confess the things that keeps you from the life you were intended for. With the words of St Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.”

Revival is the regenerated life of God, sustained by the Holy Spirit. We can not demand His presence or schedule His movements. All we can do is to offer a broken heart for Him to heal.

Matthew 5: 1 – 10

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Light & Life

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”   James 1:17

The days are short. The darkness long lasting at this time of year. Last Sunday we began the season of Advent once more. A time of preparation, reflection and expectation. A time of looking for the light in the darkness. A time of divine darkness.

As we get closer to the day of God’s incarnation we start to focus on lights in the darkness. It can be the advent wreath and the Christ candle in the sanctuary but it can also be the thousands of lights on houses, in trees and in the star sprinkled universe. We find comfort and solace in the warm glow of a candle, in the crackling of a fire burning in the fire place.

We do well in reflecting on the light rather than on the darkness, which seems so easy in days like these. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. it is actually only light we can reflect on… (How do you reflect darkness..?)

What exactly is light? We can reflect and observe the light but it will be very hard to actually understand the essence of the nature of light. We can steer it in different directions, we can measure it’s speed, we can describe it in formula as to how it seems to work but what it is escapes our capabilities. I believe we have a hard time explaining the nature of light because light itself makes up the properties of matter (atoms, ions, molecules) by it’s interaction with them. It is because of light that we can observe in the first place (sight) but it is also because of light we have anything to observe… And sometimes light becomes so bright that we have to shut our eyes and protect ourselves from it as to not go blind.

As I reflect (!) on light I am starting to realize that maybe we gravitate towards light rather than darkness because life is found in the proximity of light. Light gives life. Much like three wise men some 2000 years ago we also look up towards the sky in the hope to find light and revelation. We, like them (maybe) also seek an answer to the deep question of purpose. We like them look to the light for life and purpose. We, like them also come to realize that there are certain limited things we can do to seek light and revelation because we ourselves are revealed through the gift of light and life but when it comes to the essence of who we are and the definition of our person, Light needs to come to us rather than us trying to capture Light. We can not figure our way out of our darkness, we need something that is external from us yet apart of us, so that there are two points of references that we can ff42dbbcc5e393b6c8072a3e5103add2dollow. That is the Way out of our darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

This is why He is coming. This is why He enters the darkness. Because He is the Light that enlightens the world. He is the breath of Life that sustains the world. He revels the mystery of the divine darkness of the Father (it is dark to us because it is so bright) that we can not understand in a way that we can receive. The Father reveals His love for us in the Son through the Holy Spirit, because in that way we can see the Light without getting blinded by it. He c
omes in a way that is non – threatening. He comes as a baby. He comes as gift. He comes as perfect, receivable Light reflecting the glory of the Father. He gives of His divine life, for the life of the world.

Do you hear the angelic choirs buzzing with expectation? Do you smell the sweet aroma of the incense of heaven lingering here on earth? Everything is a gift of light from the Father, the photons of light are just going crazy, continuously shaping and creating the world as we perceive it at this very moment, because He wills it so. We would do well not only trying perceive and figure out but to receive and let
go, so that we might become a part of His eternal life.

Prepare your heart to receive Him. Prepare your eyes to see Him. Prepare your feet to walk His Way. Prepare your arms to embrace Him. Open up your heart to  His life. Then you will see that everything is light, everything is gift. Receive His gift and experience the power (dynamis) of transformation through the Holy Spirit.

God is with us. He is present here. He is Immanuel.

Suffering in the world – is religion to blame?

 

The bulk of the following text is from a talk I presented at the University of Saskatchewan at an interfaith panel. (Jewish, Christian, Muslim). The question that the panel was instructed to elaborate on was “Suffering in the world, is religion to blame?” It is written for that format. Thank you Gil Klassen and Tyrone MacKenzie for your input, prayer and support.

“To blame religion for the suffering in the world is a little bit like blaming the ink in a bad book or the body for being sick. “

First of all I’d like to say thank you for arranging a safe place for this kind of discourse to take place. It is so important in days like these.

Religion as well as suffering are complex in nature and therefor an answer of a more elaborative nature is required.

In trying to answer a somewhat leading question like this I believe we must begin with getting our bearings in regards to what we actually mean with “religion”. Many religious scholars today agree that it is almost impossible to define religion in any way that makes defining it worthwhile (http://www.britannica.com/topic/study-of-religion). The definition is either to broad or to narrow. The spectrum of definition ranges from a broad, often etymology based definition along the lines of Cicero, saying that it basically means to “thoroughly go over again”, to a very narrow definition of someone saying that religion is and can only be what I myself define it to be. Why is religion so hard to define? I believe it’s because it is connected to all other branches of the human enterprise, from psychology to physics. I believe that religion is intrinsically bound to who we understand ourselves to be. I would claim that we all have a “religious” side to our person, that we are all spiritual beings. This is why we often get emotionally engaged when talking about “religion”, “belief” and “truth”.

Hear me out. For pragmatic reasons I am presenting a definition that finds itself somewhere in between the broadest and the most narrow definitions, namely that religion has to do with a number of agreed upon beliefs or rules in action that makes us attentive to connecting our subjective interpretation of the universe to a more objective reality.

As you quickly realize this definition is applicable from everything from Eastern Orthodoxy and Indigenous Spirituality to watching professional sports and Facebookism. It depends on the parameters you set up around this definition. Different religions sets different parameters. (Maybe in a near future, if it has not already been done, someone here at the U of S will work on answering the question: “Is the Roughriders the biggest religious expression in Saskatchewan?) I believe that we are all religious to some degree in that we form beliefs about the universe that we act (with others) upon. We believe in the value of entertainment so we watch TV.  We believe in the benefit of knowledge and a salary so we study and work. We get with the hipster program. We try to loose weight. We go to prayer. We repeat scientific experiments and trial until we can substantiate and motivate a belief beyond a reasonable doubt in what’s occurring. (I mean, some of us follow Instagram and “House of cards” religiously.)

So are these the subjects, the individual’s, our,  process of trying to connect ourselves to a bigger reality and other people through belief and ritual to blame for the suffering in the world? I would say “No”. It is not our desire to know a greater reality, be it God, the Higgs particle, Nirvana, or Rider Nation that is dangerous in itself. It is when I try to direct this desire towards something that has already been decided by my own parameters to be the “whole truth”, when I claim that I know the full truth, I am irrecvocably and logically pushed towards forcing that truth on others becuase truth proper is all encompassing and when I do, religion becomes dangerous.  We make ourselves “god”.

Classic Christian thought teaches that we can not know the depths of God, He is shrouded in mystery but His Son has reveled Him. I can not know God as in comprehending Him. I can only know Him as in having a relationship with Him. In the very moment I do try to coerce my belief on another person (either by direct force or manipulation) I, in essence, if I employ this current definition of religion, leave the area of religion and enter the area of ruling because now I am not trying to connect my subjective belief to a greater reality. Now I am trying to enforce my reality, my law, my truth upon another persons reality. I no longer come in humility, I come with pride. And pride turns all neutral things (like religion, or a fruit, or a knife) into a tool of oppression.

This does not mean that religious expression should not be allowed in public forums because it is in the public forum, in the open, that we have a chance to get connected to the very reality we are looking for. Now more than ever do we need to peacefully safeguard the structures of human discourse so that differentiating beliefs can interact in mutually beneficial ways. We must be allowed to be presented with the alternatives so that our choice can be real. What if our scientists wouldn’t have the opportunity to corraborate their findings? What if we only could “vote” for one party? We need cultures, religions and political parties mature and secure enough to present themselves with conviction but without condemnation and violence towards the “other”.

The suppression and ignoring of religion, this seemingly innate notion of wanting to be part of something greater than oneself, can itself take “religious” shapes and forms as in Stalins Russia, Mao’s China or currently in North Korea. That’s how deep this religious notion goes. The to narrow enforcement of “our truth upon all” will only lead to violence as in the historic and modern day slave trade, the crusades and the current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria and France. A freedom to choose and to express your preferred religion must lay as one piece of the foundation of any nation that claims to respect the nature of the human person.

Given this definition of religion the Christian answer to the question. “Suffering in the world – is religion to blame?” becomes this: Since we believe that our work could not perform perfect religion (the law) in truth, God Himself needed to fulfill the law for us. His Son, Jesus Christ fulfilled it perfectly in His divine and human Person, we don’t believe that faith in this Person is to blame. Rather I as a Christian believe that I have failed in fulfilling the law, what I was intended to fulfill, on my own. We failed at enforcing perfect society, we failed at formulating heaven on earth as seen in everything from Constantins Roman Empire to the Khalifats to Christiania in Copenhagen. We could not regulate our way out of our predicament of suffering. We can’t even suffer well. We failed at conjuring up a state recipe for ending suffering. As Christians we believe that Christ fulfilled the law in His Divine and Human Person, reconciling and transforming failed religion into restored reality in His own suffering and sacrifice. I am Christian because what I believe to be the True Objective, God Himself, touched a suffering world with His own Presence in His Son so that we can know and re-enter this Reality that was lost. We could not reach up to God with pious works, sacrifices, holy wars or fasting, so God sent His Son down to us. Jesus became the subject, after we had failed at religion, this connection point between the physical and the spiritual, the known and the not yet known, so that we could become a part of His body again.

He never enforced His belief on others but He acted out His faith in public. (The ones that encountered Him were grown ups and could make up their own mind about what to believe!) He never condoned or encouraged war, slavery or violence. He helped the outcasts, sick and dying. He gave His life for others. In His Word it says that true religion is to help the orphans and the widows. Is that kind of religion responsible for the suffering in the world, no. It’s alleviating and transforming it. Is the twisting and abuse of this kind of religion responsible for the suffering in the world. Yes.

Belief is a powerful thing because it connects our inner person to our external  expanding context. The interesting question to me is where we direct our belief? Do we direct it towards things that are already seen and measurable? If we do that, well that kind of limits the potential of new discovery. Do we place it in political personalities or economic wealth? Do we deny belief altogether with an absolute claim? Do we place it in Jesus Who says: “I love you, regardless of what you believe or do.” I don’t know about you, but I choose to believe in Someone greater then myself to be the arbitrator of Truth. Someone that offers eternal growth and mystery to pursue. To conclude.

Your body can be used to hurt someone, it can also be used to help someone. We have seen both recently in the media. Your belief, your religion can be violated to do violence towards others. It can also be honoured by loving others in truth. What belief, what religion is secure and mature enough to allow for freedom of choice to happen? In the end it is not religion, technology, law or politics in themselves that are responsible, it is how you and me choose to use them. That freedom to choose is protected and upheld in forums like this. Will a world void of religion and belief have less violence and suffering like John Lennon alluded to in his song? I don’t think so. However, I do believe that a world without belief and religion would have less music, art, educational institutions like this one and freedom. Jesus didn’t judge people, He offered them the choice to follow Him. Hence I believe that religion without being in Christ following His example causes suffering, but religion as part of and restored by Christ transforms it. But that belief does not give me the right judge others, it gives me the privilege and opportunity to love others.

However, love requires that we tell someone that their fly is down and that we do privately as to avoid embarrassment.

Suffering in the world is not caused by religion, it is caused by people placing their desire to belong in a by them, predetermined place. Suffering is caused by pride and ignorance. Ask Adam…

I finish with a quote:  “-If you judge people, you have no time to love them” Mother Theresa

The issue behind the issue

The root words of “Pornography” means to “write down and then sell”. For “Prostitution” it’s to “stand before, to expose publicly”. Poverty means “to produce little”. Trafficking means “touch repeatedly, handle”. All these words and their root meaning have a very ‘physical only’ connotation. They are basically void of a spiritual meaning. They are about product, profit, property and production. This is not mere chance because as long as we talk about these things with physical language and words only we won’t be able to tackle the issues. How we talk about something shapes how we think about something. How we think about something shapes how we feel about something. How we feel about something shapes how we act. How we act shapes who we become.

Our minds recalls and brings to mind different images and pictures when we hear words like: Poverty, Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Pornography. If we close our eyes and if we empathize with victims of these aforementioned situations of brokenness we actually might begin to cry.

If we ourselves have been victims of abuse, addicted to porn, trapped in a cage or sold as a product by other human beings we re-member these events with much more vividness. We might even throw up. We might get a panic attack. We might fall back into patterns that were forced upon us.

Why is this so. Why are we able to “re-live” a reality that has past into history? I believe it is because our body, our mind and our spirit operates together, as a small “trinity”. It operates in the image of Who it was created by either we chose it or not. Despite our best efforts and attempts to separate the spiritual realm from the physical realm, these two sides of our person are still two sides of the same coin. They are intrinsically bound to each other independently of how much we try to split them apart and treat them as independent areas of our person. This is why we might begin to cry simply by remembering a certain event. Our body is intrinsically linked to our spirit. We are body, soul and spirit. A small trinity, three different aspects of the one person that is us.

U.N as well as the Human rights commission has declared that every person has the same value. U.N got this not from socialism but actually from Christianity because it is only Christianity that has the philosophical base and logical explanation for that idea. If we perceive the world with the secular/material or the sectarian/legalistic eye we realize quickly that every person is not at all of the same value because value is determined by production or contribution or position with these paradigms. We may say that everyone has the same value but by simply observing how reality is playing out in secular society or in sharia countries we see that this simply is not true. If you have wealth you have access to more rights, better protection, better lawyers and a better life all over. If you are born a man you have a better chance at life over all. The idea of equal value can not be incarnated in a world that understands itself as material only. Christ changed that paradigm when He became human. When the Spirit touched the physical.

Equal value of persons can only be made real if we accept the idea that we are equal because of who we are, not because of what we do or what we produce. Who are we? Physical manifestations of a spiritual reality that God has created out of love. We are equally loved that is why we have the same value. True value can only be determined  by the One Who created the work, and we are the work of His hands. We are persons because we are loved. Not because we perform. We were nothing but became something because of His love. Love is the undergirding constitution of the reality we find ourselves in. We lost that awareness in the fall but we are able to meet and see God through the physical once again because God has reclaimed the work of His hands by revealing Himself in this work once more in a way we can comprehend, namely as Person. Jesus.

Now, what does all of this have to do with human trafficking, prostitution and pornography? Everything. Since we are able to see God and discover Him and His reality through the physical, by our senses, the devil twists our experience of the physical so that we won’t recognize God at work in the world. He tries to bend creation which is created good into something that will hinder us from seeing Gods fingerprints all over. He tries to turn Love into lust. Serving each other into consuming one another.  Music into noise. Bodies into commodities. Therefor the devil constructs his chief attack around the two paradigms that forms the  structure from where we perceive the world.

  • Knowledge (our mind) “Do you want to be like God?” (Objective view of the world)
  • Relationship (sexuality, our body) “The fruit is delicious” (Subjective experience of the world)

Once these two main sources of revelation are “out of tune” it becomes hard to see the spiritual reality that finds its expression in physical revelation. We start to see without seeing and hear without perceiving. Once we have “separated” the physical from the spiritual with our mind, trusting our own knowledge, we can easily fall into one of two ditches.

The first ditch is legalism and sectarianism that seeks to control the body with rules and laws (no freedom). The second ditch is secularism which claims that we can do whatever we want with the body because it won’t effect anything else because nothing except what we can see, feel and measure exists anyway (no boundaries). Once we loose the connection between the physical and the spiritual we are easy victims for the forces that operates in the spiritual realm because we don’t even believe that they are real!

For instance, we often believe that we are the authors of our thoughts. That might be true to some degree but our thoughts are triggered and stimulated by our surrounding and what our senses are picking up from the world around us. Ideas, thoughts, messages and information gets into our head all the time, often without discrimination. We often find ourselves to become like the people we surround us with don’t we? Addiction itself always starts with a thought. And the thought is triggered by either a memory or by our current context. Marketers knows this. CEOs knows this. Weight watchers, McDonalds, pimps, traffickers, pornography producers knows this. The devil knows this. They know that the mind has a very hard time resisting repetitive sensory stimuli. We have actual chemical reactions to visual imagery and colours. This is how we are created to bond and interact with the world. Eventually the mind gives in, even though it knows it’s not the best choice or even a good choice. Once the cigarette, the porn, the food, the violence, the purchase of sex or whatever addiction, is consumed the connection between the physical and the spiritual is done and the cycle reinforced. Next time we need more to get the same effect because what we incorporate in our body shapes who we become.

We used to think that the best way to avoid bad choices is to make the choice of not being in the environment they are being offered in. This becomes harder and harder today as we have instant access to lots of information. It’s almost impossible. We believe that the best way to avoid porn addiction is to avoid the context where you have access to porn. The best way to avoid sexual addiction is to avoid the circumstance where sex can happen. The best way to avoid addiction to food is to avoid exposure to the food you know are not good for you. And in some sense this is true but it is not only the physical environment we have to avoid, it is the spiritual environment. What does the spiritual environment that addiction can thrive in look like? It looks like not feeling good enough, loneliness, being disconnected, unloved, not being heard or seen, being abused, being disrespected, being cheated, feeling worthless, like nothing etc. It is only from a void, an emptiness, a lack that addiction can take hold.

Ever since the fall we crave the very thing we lost, that we can’t get on our own. Perfect love. To be connected to one another in Truth. The devil tempted us with the only thing we could not have, to be like God with the tactic of separation. To understand that we crave the perfect peace, love and harmony that we once had, lies at the foundation of understanding the nature of addiction. Our thirst is unquenchable, our greed is unsustainable, our soul is restless until it find peace and rest in God. It is His love we are searching for.

Addiction is so hard to break because it fails to recognize the spiritual reality (loneliness, separation) that caused it in the first place and makes the physical the only battle ground. If you are one of the many people that has tried to defeat addiction by saying with your mind “I will not do it again”, “This is the last time” and find yourself even worse off, you are not alone. This is the very nature of addiction. Addiction, or lets call it what it is, repeated broken actions separated from the good Reality from where they originally came, are hard to overcome because we are left with the belief that it is only by more actions, more work without faith, that we are able to defeat them. But, spiritual enemies can not be defeated if we only use physical tools. Addiction can only be defeated by addressing the very thought pattern and spiritual environment that it started in. We see this all the time in successful rehabilitation and restoration. It is when a person is able to recognize the cause (be it an abuser, one self, social circumstance etc) and forgive that cause that healing begins. It is at the moment of forgiveness that we recognize our inability to defeat our addiction by our own strength.

Remember, no one, no one is beyond redemption. No matter how far down the road of : “Who you are not created to be” you find yourself, you think beyond recognition, God loves you. All of you. He sees who you actually are, not what you have become. He sees beyond the hardened surface and under the filth. He sees the glorious potential and not the accumulated shame and guilt and He says:  “I have and will always love you, no matter what you do.” It is a  revolutionary message. It is hope, joy and peace. It is the message of love. And it is this message that we have been put here, right here to share, so that no one have to resort to behaviours in isolation they were not meant for.

Who is the greatest?

Homily, September 20th 2015 AD

Psalm 54:1 – 7   Proverbs 31:10 – 31  James 3:16 – 4:8       Mark 9:30 – 37

When we listen to the words of the gospel today it is easy to be tempted to believe that Jesus somehow wants us to lay aside our desire for greatness. I don’t know if you have this desire. To improve your life. To live with excellence. To set a goal and attain it. This is very much a part of the North American creed. Do and then improve, on your own preferably… This pursuit of greatness. I believe we all, to some degree have experienced this. This desire for greatness is in us because we know, subconsciously, that we were made for greatness. It is interesting how this desire is usually stronger when we are younger (we want to change the world, discover, learn, improve) and then as we grow older it seems to fade a bit. We start to think “realistically”. I wonder why that is?

It is not the desire to be great that Jesus has anything against. Rather it is the disciples perception of what greatness is. How it’s defined. “If anyone desires to be first he shall be last of all and servant of all.”The great ones

Along with the disciples we struggle with the same misconceptions about greatness. I tend to believe that greatness is 10.000 churches in “our” denomination. That we would have a new building filled with 1800 people every Sunday morning. That I am given worldly influence and that I can effect peoples lives with what I say only. I believe it’s having this blog read by 1 million people. Maybe you believe that greatness is to have your children succeed, to live a life without any discomfort or to receive your peers recognition for hosting a great party. Maybe you perceive greatness as being able to have the wealth to do what you want, when you want. Right about now you might start to think that I am coming against these things. I am not. Jesus isn’t either. He wants us to enjoy all these things in proper balance, but not as the measure of how good or great we are. It is not progress (as the world see it) money, success or even what we do, that defines greatness. We are great by nature. By simply being created in the image of God.

The disciples, and let us be honest, we as well are thinking with a worldly mind when we are debating about who is the greateast and who is not. Who deserves to be first and recognized by Christ. St Peter? Usain Bolt? Mahatma Ghandi? The truly great ones does not need to argue about this. They don’t need to compare, be jealous or concerned about who is hosting who. Who is in and who is out. Jesus does not hinder the disciples in their pursuit to be first, He wants them and us to strife for something higher. But He does not want us to forcefully impose ourselves as to obtain the highest glories and purposes. No He wants us to find true greatness by the way of humbleness. He is for greatness, but only true greatness. Greatness only remains great if it remains pure. And to remain pure, void of any worldly agenda, it needs to be discovered in meekness and humbleness.

You can try to impose your will on others, say your children, but chances are that you will only grow a distance between yourself and them. You can try to push your faith on others but don’t be surprised if these others quietly start to resent you. Greatness in the true sense can only remain pure if it is motivated by self sacrificial love for the other. We do not testify to people by forcing doctrine upon others, by “being great”. Jesus didn’t force Himself on others, He testified by way of living. Listening to the needs of others. We, as Christ followers must do the same. To truly listen requires a humble and peaceful heart. It is in this light we must hear St James in Chapter 3 and 4:

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Who is great? Our desire for greatness stems from the time when we were one with the Kingdom of God, before the fall. But this desire have been misplaced so now we believe we need to build a kingdom on our own. The Kingdom never disappeared and it has been revealed to us again in Jesus. It’s just that it is very hard to see (t)his Kingdom and enter it if we are preoccupied, building our own little kingdoms. The Kingdom of vanity, the kingdom of greed. The kingdom of pleasure. The kingdom of consumption and so forth. We can not serve two masters. That is why we must become like little children, they don’t have their own agenda, they just see reality for what it is. This is why it is so very hard for the rich, and lets be honest again, thats us, to enter the Kingdom. We, I am, preoccupied with building our own kingdom of money and influence. Not only that, this is why there is strife, and murder and division in the world because everyone says that their Kingdom is the true one. Be it a kingdom of science, capitalism, marxism, foodism or sectarianism. “My kingdom is better than your kingdom”.

But remember, a true Kingdom does not have to impose itself on others. It just is. It does not have to use violence or election tactics to prove validity. It actually grows by self-sacrifice, by giving itself up for others. It does not depend on peoples emotions or opinions about it. It just is. And it reveals itself through the ones who do not have to claim the first spot because they know that in the Kingdom, every child has their Fathers attention.

This is a struggle for me I must admit. To remain faithful to God’s plan for His Kingdom rather than my interpretation of it. Or in other words, to submit my preconceived notions in what I want out of life, to His will. I struggle because often I am so focused on what I have failed at or what I should have done or what I want to do that I forgot that the life I live is not my own.

As we enter this new church year I have chosen the word AUTHENTICATION as our annual theme word. This word means the process of determining whether someone or something is, in fact, who or what it is declared to be.

Are we who we declare ourselves to be? Are we Christians, followers of Christ? If we are, then that means that we to need to leave our homes, our Kingdom, just like Christ, and meet the broken where they are. It means to become the last. It means to be rejected and despised by many. It means to give up our lives for the sake of the world. Jesus became the last one, the servant of all. He did not do it to pursue greatness or impose Himself on others. He did it because that is Who He is. The greatest.

In Christ,

fr. Jakob

Deferred responsibility?

“- What happened to Christianity?” we ask. Nothing, it remains the same. The culture that surrounds it shifts slightly as time goes by, (even though cultural fundamentals also are slow to change).

There is a great designation to be made here. It is not the Church, the body of Christ that is effected by the changing culture. Jesus did not get stained by sin. His nature remained the same. It is actually Jesus and His body the Church that restores culture to it’s proper purpose and place. So beginning on a light note like that 🙂 where am I heading with this?

Myself and many of my peers sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that something must have gone terribly wrong with “Christianity” or with “Church”, especially when we read the latest “10 – list – of – something – that – made – me – leave – the – church – and – start – my – own – charitable – save – the – world – project” or about the sacking of Constantinople for that matter . We read on our devices about the personal experience of someone we have not met with angst and horror, hoping that we won’t experience the same thing. Or maybe that we will…? (Sometimes we want an excuse to leave the Church…)

We are scandalized by the Church’s inability to be relevant, forgiving, transparent, acceptant, honest, hospitable and loving. We know that if the Church only could muster the ability to apply these things, her true calling, the contemporary person would be drawn to Christ and His body. I believe this to be true. If the Church could apply these things it would very much offer what is needed in the contemporary person’s life, namely real relationship. We need to love and we need to be loved.

This need will not be satisfied by us sitting in front of our screens and voicing our concerns and/or our reasons to celebrate. The studies being done in this area, how digital interaction/connection affects us are starting to show this. We need more than the likes on our status updates. We need more than the FaceTime conversation. We need more than following the news on a distance. The development of the experiential travelling business is evidence enough. This generation of mine (and all generations for that matter) want to belong to something, want to know that we matter to someone and that we can contribute to the betterment of humanity. Our creative capacity and the tools available to us are astronomical. But , (there is always a but) I believe we are going about it in the wrong way.

We have been taught that we can consume whatever we choose to consume, including Church. We have been fostered to believe that whatever I prefer should also be my right. Whatever I choose, and the choices are endless, is what is true for me. So when we choose the Church we attend it is often based upon what this Church does for me. Yes, we have heard this before and we know that this is not the best way to go about choosing what Church to attend (only to our own preferences) but the deeper issue is not that we choose like this. The deeper issue is that we treat “Church” as something separate from ourselves. In essence, Church is not something to be chosen by the individual as we have been taught. Church is the personal encounter with restored reality, and we can only have this personal encounter in the light of Someone else’s face. Church is not a individual preference, it is Personal immanence.

See all these things that “the Church” struggles with; relevancy, transparency, integrity, honesty, acceptance, hospitality and love is really my struggle. The Church struggle with these things because we people comprising the Church struggles with these things. The moment we start to blame “the Church” for all the hurtful things done, in that moment you are increasing the distance between yourself and the Church. As a Christian, as someone anointed, you can not distance or cut yourself of from the body and still believe that you are going to have any intrinsic effect on Her life. It is easy to criticize and judge something you do not view yourself as being part of.

I don’t think it is mere chance that a lot of the blame that the Church is receiving is shared online. It is one thing to write generally about the dismal state of the Church on the anonymous Internet, it is quite another to talk in confidence and trust with another person about it. And this is the point of being Church in the first place. We need the real, physical encounter. We need to be encouraged but also held accountable by other real, physical beings. Short of that we will eventually escape into the pseudo reality of “gnostic internet”.

God knew that we would not be satisfied until He had revealed Himself in the flesh. We need to see, hear, touch, smell and taste love to be able to trust that it is real and true. We needed Him to share our life in the flesh. So God sent His Son to heal the broken world and to reveal His love in the world. God DSC_0022knew that it would not do with updating His status through the prophets. He knew that it would not do with just “liking” the likes of David and Jonah. He knew that it would not do to reply “maybe” on the invite from the Jews. He had to show up, in the flesh, and show up He did.

Would not His very own body do well if we did the same? If we actually showed up and were present where God is planting us? If we took all the time we spend online (ok, maybe not all the time) and used that time to build other people up? If we said “yes” or “no” and meant it? If we made promises and kept them? If we lived in covenant where we would be grateful for honest appreciation and admonition?

To act with integrity and inline with what I have just written, I then must invite you. If you do not already attend a Church I invite you to visit us here at Holy Covenant. We are trying (and failing) to live somewhat like this. We are here, present in the midst of North Park, Saskatoon and we would love to get to know you. We are in it for the long haul. We can not offer new emotional “super experiences” every week (or month for that matter). But we do offer what we have. Real people wanting to share the blessings and burdens of life. A steady prayer life. A helping hand. An encouraging word. You can visit our webpage (off course, here we go again…) but don’t stop with that, come visit us in real life because that is were Church really happen. And… if you are about to make big judgement calls concerning the “dismal state of the Church” please take a moment and read up on the actual nature of the Church, you might be apart of her…

It is about grit you know. About putting our hands to the plough. If you desire real relationships and real people it will claim your life, it takes work (lots of it). But then on the other hand what else would be worth giving your life up for? Welcome to Church, it will always be here, even after you have written your last status update…

In Christ,

fr. Jakob