The return of the transformers

The Evangelical Orthodox Church realized very early that there is a tension, an energy, between the things that change and the things that do not. It realized early that, for the Christian testimony to remain the same; it must change. The saying of fr. Alexander Schmemann “the Church must change to remain the same” is in a way our core “slogan”. It is not our slogan because it sounds good and kind of paradoxical, even though that is true. It is our “slogan” because Jesus Himself is the Metamorphosis Symbol of what this paradox entail.

sg15-10761

Monarch Butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis

It does not mean that we change into something else. It does not mean that we become static and jaded. It entails that Jesus, in His resurrection, transformed us with Himself into the person we were intended to be. The change that happens to us is a restoration, a return to our “unchanged” origin before the fall as it were. Death does not have the final word but has become a doorway into life eternal. We change (i.e die) to resurrect into  who we are supposed to be. As a part of His body we are apart of His resurrection in the most real possible way, every day. The resurrection is evidence of the continuous  transformation and restoration of the whole world, the metamorphosis that is taking place everywhere. The transformation within our heart.

Life abundant is now the default mode rather then just “getting by” until we die. Life is possible once more. And life is found where there is energy. Energy is found where there is tension. Tension is found where there is proximity. And proximity is found where there is covenant. So let us be true to both our name, Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church and our borrowed “slogan”, they are both expressions that re-minds us of the transformation, the metamorphosis that is taking place in our lives right now because of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Christ is risen from the dead. Trampling down death by death and on those in the tomb bestowing life!

God’s own fool

Some 30 years ago a Christian artist and song-writer, Michael Card wrote a song called “God’s own fool” for which he received some critique for. Michael Card used a language that some people thought offensive. A language not appropriate to use when describing God own Son. You find the song at the bottom of this post. Personally I love the song and the idea it presents, namely that the ways of God are so much higher than the ways of the world that they seem like foolishness to the world.

With Great Lent around the corner many Christians in the world (but not of the world) are starting to evaluate their liturgy, their way, in life. Lent has the potential to shake us up from a status quo that has turned nominal by shifting the routine, tempo and strategy of our life. Lent lends space for us to think about where we are headed if we continue the path we are on. Lets use food for example. If our normal routine is to eat seven times a day and that routine has brought us into overweight then Lents rule of fasting creates a space where we can start to see why this is so. By changing the routine we can expose the routine that does not bear good fruit. It seems like foolishness to the world to voluntarily abstain from food but then God’s strategy is different from the strategy of the world. It seems like our person as a whole is better of if we do the things that are counter intuitive to our passions.

Lent can become another ‘to do’ list if it is only utilized as such. Lent does not try to introduce more laws and regulation (don’t drink coffee, don’t do Facebook). No, the purpose of Lent is to re-introduce the purpose of the law. And what is the purpose of the law, to reveal our utter failure in trying to fulfill the law by our own strength and therefor our total dependency on Christ. The purpose of the law is to reveal our weakness and our poverty. It almost seems contradictory does it not? ‘Follow these Lenten rules so that you may realize that it is not the rules that will set you free and give you peace’.  Why follow rules if they don’t solve the problem? Why obey when the act of obedience is not the solution? These are hard questions that theologians have pondered ever since Paul wrote his letter to the Romans (probably before that as well…) The Christian paradigm proclaims that we are not saved by what we do, perform or accomplish. It states that we are being saved due to Gods good will towards mankind. We are being saved because He loves us. This being the case does not mean that what we do does not matter. We will turn more and more into the thing we worship and love. Works does not save us, but that does not mean that works does not matter. Works manifests in the physical what is going on in the spiritual. The law regulates works, our action, our liturgy, so that we may realize that our works always fall short of the glory of God and the purpose He has for our lives. Fact of the matter is that we will always do something. Even if we say that we are ‘doing nothing’ we are doing that. If we say that we are worshipping nothing well then we are doing just that as well. The human person is a living creature and therefor she operates, she is active whether she wants to or not. She can’t choose to operate or not. Her freedom is limited to how she operates. Do we choose to follow our own set of rules, our own law? (Contemporary individualism) Do we choose to live after a religious system? (Judaism, Islam) Do we choose to cling to Christ in a living relationship so that we no longer see the law darkly but clearly? So that we may see, ‘from the other side’, what the purpose of the law was about all along.

Christ in His Person fulfilled the law. He did everything that the law required. He bridged the rift between our ‘being’ and our ‘doing.’ In Him, our doing is a natural extension of our being. Without Him we say one thing and do another. It is when we trust Him for our salvation (healing) that we are able to perform the true liturgy and the acts of charity that are characteristic for His very own body. Not out of compulsion (As a Christian I have to be kind) no, but out of a natural desire found in knowing that your good action is only a natural consequence of being in Christ. These works of love and charity will probably seem like foolishness to the world because they more often than not do not fulfill the requirements of what the world believe to be ‘a success’ or a ‘good investment.’ God’s wisdom seems foolish to men who rely on their own definition of the law. Not because the law is ‘bad’ but because I make myself the final judge and interpreter of the law. Lets pray for poverty during lent so that we may see God. Here is the song.

Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life

As the wisest of all of mankind

But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men

He must have seemed out of His mind

For even His family said He was mad

And the priests said a demon’s to blame

But God in the form of this angry young man

Could not have seemed perfectly sane

 

When we in our foolishness thought we were wise

He played the fool and He opened our eyes

When we in our weakness believed we were strong

He became helpless to show we were wrong

And so we follow God’s own fool

For only the foolish can tell-

Believe the unbelievable

And come be a fool as well

 

So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son

For a madman who died for a dream

And you’ll have the faith His first followers had

And you’ll feel the weight of the beam

So surrender the hunger to say you must know

Have the courage to say I believe

For the power of paradox opens your eyes

And blinds those who say they can see

So we follow God’s own Fool

For only the foolish can tell

Believe the unbelievable,

And come be a fool as well

Where is the Church?

Based upon my own subjective experience of growing up within the evangelical orthodox Church I have been always attracted to the question: Where is the Church? This question is one of the most politicized questions throughout Church history and efforts to answer it have been made many times. One of the most common answers is found within the doctrine of apostolic succession. Where the Church is, is guaranteed by the proven lineage of ordained bishops all the way back to the apostles. Where this lineage can be traced, there is the Church. Given that we can’t trace the physical line in the Evangelical Orthodox Church (the laying on of hands in ordination) I would suspect that I am not very objective in the following text (even though I will try).

I believe in the lineage myself. I believe that it can manifest in the physical what is a reality in the spiritual. I believe that the Church is found where this lineage is found (despite bad popes and bishops throughout history) because I believe that the Holy Spirit is bigger than human frailty. Where I differ from the canonical teaching concerning this is that I don’t believe that the Church is limited to this definition. The spiritual takes precedence over the physical. As I said before, I believe that the work of the Holy Spirit is greater than our definition of that work. Who are we to limit the work of God throughout the ages? Who are we to limit His very body the Church, into a lineage of bishops? After all I think we all agree that the Church is the Body of Christ. It is interesting, almost perplexing that the canonical Church has such rigid defined lines when it comes to Church and at the same gives so much room (and rightfully so) to the things of God we can not know. It is also perplexing that an entity, in this case the Church, can know so many things pertaining to the objective attributes of Herself (where She finds herself, what Her borders are) when Her experience is subjective. She is testifying about Herself when She says the She decides where She can be found and where She can’t be found. Maybe more to the point, how concerned and involved She is with these questions rather than just being the body (and not the head…) Now it seems that I’m contradicting myself because I am involving myself with these questions but I’m not because according to canonical law, I am not part of the Church, I am outside of it and therefor it is easier to look objectively (wouldn’t you agree? 😉 and also, in that case I should be very concerned with these questions because my salvation just might be on the line.

Often I find myself starting my thought process about God just with that, what I think about God. This is not all ‘bad’ after all, He created my mind and thirst for knowledge. But if we aim for the posture of humility, which is the posture that Christ have, then it has to start with us listening to what the Spirit ‘thinks’ about us. The revelation of God needs to be revealed to us by the same Spirit that ascended on Christ. It is not the Church herself that may make the final decision about where She is found, it would not be fitting because it is her Head that decides that by the Holy Spirit. We really need not be concerned with that. It is the Spirit Who defines and sets the boarders of where He moves and Who He uses. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church. It begins with God, not with us. “Out of nothing”, right? Jesus said that He could ‘make sons of Abraham out of these stones’ if He wanted to. Throughout Scriptures we have a range of examples in prophets (Nathan), judges (Samson), outcasts (Josef) and anomalies (David was not the oldest of his brothers, Paul was not given the ‘right hand of fellowship’ until after he already functioned as an apostle) who did not fulfill the legal requirements for proper succession but who God used for His purposes anyway. God, through the Holy Spirit maintains the succession despite fallen man so why can’t the Holy Spirit raise up a plant in a barren wasteland if He so chooses? Why do the plant need to fulfill the legal requirements to be named a plant if it shows all the attributes of a plant? God just might have roots of succession that we just not can’t see yet? I believe that the lineage has become a stumbling block for many in terms of recognizing Christ redemptive work in others. If the only problem the canonical Church has with other communions is that they can’t trace their physical line of succession, then maybe that communion is not the problem? Then maybe the Law is not functioning in the way it should?  Could it be that God reveals Himself when we try to see Christ in the other rather than dismissing them before we get to know them because they do not fulfill our limited definition of what the Church is? When we make ourselves the legislator of hidden mysteries then we are boarding on becoming like the Pharisees.

As I said before I don’t think that the lineage of bishops, confirmed by the Holy Spirit is something to dismiss. The Church is found there. We see great emphases on the traceability of Mary’s and Josef’s blood lines. We see it in the diligence of keeping records over who reigned where and for how long. In many regards one can compare apostolic succession to a bloodline of kings inheriting the throne in a royal succession. But the royalty is just one aspect of a thriving kingdom is it not? And the king must rule with love and justice, inviting lost and broken peoples to his land? Even the uneducated, the peasant, knows this, by heart. If this is not the case well then the king and his family maybe a royalty on paper but everyone knows that they are not royal for real.

I believe that the Spirit moves where He wants to and that He is recognized by His fruits. He can’t be contained by our definitions and legislation, praise be to God! If we limit the inheritance of Christ and His Kingdom to a lineage then we tell people that they must believe in our definition of the kingdom before they can hope to belong to it and that makes for a shrinking, nominal Church. It hinders humility towards the mysterious side of the Church which transcends our definitions of her. I think Christ wanted people to belong so that they might believe so that the Church may grow. The bloodline intact, apostolic succession, is one fruit of the Holy Spirit because only He can maintain a lineage that has been so stained by humans missing the mark. It is not the only fruit, other fruits are love (towards other communions and people), joy (in others celebrations), humility (listening to others), patience (with others lack of understanding for Gods mysteries) amongst others. To finish this post I have a short story to tell:

The Prince: Oh, I’m so hungry I wish I could find something to eat.

The peasant boy: Well, I can show you where to find some food.

The Prince: Are you talking to me? You don’t even understand what I’m saying.

The peasant boy: Yes, I do. I understood that you were hungry.

The Prince: Even if you did understand me I cannot talk to you. You are a peasant.

The peasant boy: Yes I am. It must be boring not to be able to talk to anybody. Even though you are talking to me right now if you haven’t noticed.

The Prince: Oh, well. I can talk with other nobles and my parents of course. And I’m not really talking to you. I’m more talking to myself.

The peasant boy: Well, if you are still hungry there is a farmer over there that sells the most wonderful loaves of bread.

The Prince: I cannot really get over there because I have to guard the treasure I carry.

The peasant boy: May I see the treasure? Maybe I can help you in some way?

The Prince: You may not, it is not for sharing or viewing. It is for the betterment of the Kingdom. Anyway I need to go now. So the Prince left hungry while the peasant boy tried to figure out why the Prince did not ask him to guard the treasure for a bit so that he could go and buy some bread.

In Christ,

fr. Jakob

The Christian paradigm, the Christian claim.

The Christian paradigm, the Christian claim.

by Fr. Jakob Palm

To be or not to be? We, just like the English play writer, have asked the question before. Because it is the question. Christianity claims to have the answer, or rather be the answer. Christianity proclaims that there indeed is an existence. It also proclaims, and it is this very claim that is exclusive, that without Christ, there is neither true freedom, being or meaning/purpose. Without Christ there is no reality. How can Christianity make such a claim? And if the claim of Christianity is true then each one of us must answer the question, “will we be Christian?”

 

While there are many ways to approach and discuss this question.1, the answer to them can, only end up in one place. However, there are several ways to formulate this answer for Truth is both complex and simple and it is of some benefit to begin with the method that the Hellenistic world presented to us, the method of logical reasoning in a cataphatic system. So let us begin by observing the world and record the observation. Lets look at the different parts of the whole. And then later, try to interpret what these observations mean.

We recognize by way of intrinsic moral values and in the experience of pain that the world is broken. People of the world are broken on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. By casual observation and personal experience this is undeniable. Brokenness is a fact as real as any other. And everyone is more or less involved. The brokenness is ontological, a part of our nature (but it is not our true nature). Real peace, joy and happiness eludes people.

Christianity proclaims that everyone is broken except One.- the Christ, the “anointed one”. That  He alone is whole. He is peace manifested in the mystery of the two natures that He brings together in His Person. So the logical, cataphatic, argument is that if everyone is broken except One, it is only rational to somehow become a part of that One Person who is whole, since we know by observation that everybody is seeking wholeness, meaning and peace? Would it not be rational to be as close to the source of peace as possible? It seems logical that people would rather be a part of  a successful company than imitating it’s concept, hijacking the idea, so to speak.  Why would one try to invent the wheel again? There is only one reason to reinvent the wheel and that reason is pride – the evasion of God as Lord of the universe and of our lives. So Christianity makes the claim that there is a way to wholeness, that we can truly participate in.

Imitation does not work. Participation does. Teachers know this. There needs to be both a physical and a spiritual connection between two entities to make them one. Marriage is the ideal example. In reality, if one is able to see behind the veil that tends to darken our eyes, the physical and the spiritual constitute the one true reality. It is only in seeing that the two (spiritual, physical) belongs together that we start to experience the true reality of Life. And mere imitation of this “rebirth” by means of incorporating the physical alone (deeds) will not heal our wound. The divine origin of humanity has always caused her to recognize the brokenness, almost seeming inherent within. We are intelligent observers of the physical side, or manifestation, of reality and we easily see that something is wrong. Even animals know when they hurt. Since the fall, humanity has  attempted to repair this “brokenness” by way of deeds, by way of law. The law is the revealed “tool” for humanity to diagnose it’s fallen condition, it’s “brokenness”. It was never intended to do more than that yet we have formulated religious structures, edifying systems and morally uplifting deeds. Science also is born out of this ability of man to name, label and structure things.  The existential incompleteness in man, revealed by way of morality and law urges man to find an answer to the emptiness within by forever expanding the search into external (space) and internal (soul) reality. But morality, residing in man, will not allow for the discovery of peace until he realizes that it is not he that can solve the “wrongness” by way of action. It is not man who possesses the solution. Sinful pride in man makes him believe that he can walk over the bridge of peace to wholeness in his own strength. That somehow he, by way of physical action can perform his way back to the union of the physical and spiritual. Pelagianism, holiness attained by self effort, still roams the streets of contemporary religious thought, although often unconsciously. But how can the two entities, physical and spiritual, become one if only one side, the physical, is incorporated in our plan of healing? If the problem is ontological then we need an ontological relationship with the answer.

The divine remnant in us, morality, is the subjective reminder from the Objective reality. Our morality, or rather our notion of having a morality, is the personal experience of our divine origin. It is morality that makes us remember that we are no longer in our former state of heavenly bliss and peace. The religions of the world have tried to make sense of this notion of incompleteness within our subjective experience. This, yearning towards wholeness or morality makes us aware of our mortality. We have invented many antidotes – naturalism, atheism, religiosity, sports, work, addictions of various sorts but these all come up short of true healing. Why, because they can only imitate the “solution” they cannot truly be the solution as they are invented by man in the context of corruption.2And if they cannot be the solution then they are rather part of the problem. Every religion, except one (and that religion is really a Person) tries to economize the physical and the spiritual into a harmony by way  using solely the physical “side” of reality. Becuase without that Person only the physical is avaliable to use.

The law, the right way of conduct, can never in itself bring salvation or wholeness because that was never its purpose. The law’s purpose is to shine light on the problem. To display the brokenness by  reminding our heart what perfection looked like before the fall. To draw our attention to the wound. The law reveals reality as it now is, both by describing the world in scientific formula and by nagging our conscience. The law was put forth into the world so that the world would realize that is in dire straits and in need of help. And it has served this purpose well. Hardly anyone  would claim that the world is at peace or whole.

What makes Christianity exclusive is that it invites broken people, weak people (that is everyone), to be a part of the solution. Instead of imitating the road to peace you actually become  a part of the road of peace itself. Instead of panicking in pain from the wound, seeking a quick relief by way of painkillers (legalism) or denying reality (atheism, secularism) we are invited to use the pain, revealed by the law, to get to know the eternal solution to our problem. No other religion offers this, they present ways and efforts to imitate a  “solution” – deeds or they offer an escape from reality. The more contemporary (yet ancient)  philosophical thoughts presents ways to hide and run away from healing. Only in Christianity an offer is made to become a part of a body. Only in Christianity a connection is made with both sides of reality, with reality as a whole.3 The reasons behind the great reluctance to partake of salvation,rather than imitating it, I believe, lies in the world’s false belief that it is no longer salvageable. After trying with deeds, without success, we have embraced the lie that we cannot be saved. That we are not loveable or desirable. That there is no such thing as true Grace. We believe that Paradise is indeed lost and that the City of God is just a dream to keep us in control. Given that false belief we think that now it is every man for himself. Save yourself by works or escape reality, seems to be the two extremes that humanity uses to find a subsidy for peace.

Our doubt in the world to be able to find peace and our suspicion of a reality that does not seem real at all due to our stained vision, has led us to either flee or invent our own structure of righteousness. Rules and routines (word, Physical, Structure , Logos) as well as emotions and stories (Wisdom, Spiritual, Content, Sophia) are easy to invent because those “two sides” are found in everything. The sides are real, but we often fail to adhere to both. It is comfortable to either have a structure to follow or “nice” to give in to emotion only. But it is hard, a baptism of fire, to have both “sides” present. In fact we can’t do it. We must cling to someone Who is able to accomplish what we cannot. Given our ability to deny tension mystery and paradox a fair chance to bring peace into our life, we usually walk right into the thick of extremes. We tend to choose either structure or content. In our experience of pain and suffering, regulated by the Law, we look towards the quickest, easiest way out. The two ways out void of any real work and tension. One way does not challenge our so preciously formulated philosophy of life, our structure or rather our religion. The other way is to escape and hide.Pride and ignorance, those two ancient sins represented in the genders in the garden of Eden still are present in legalism and secularism.

So we misuse our ability to exercise choice. Choice, the reminder of what it was like to have liberty. This ancient remnant of the Objective left in His Subjects. We use this (in) ability of choice to flee pain and suffering rather than to face it. We make time the most determining factor for choices that concerns life and death. How ludicrous that is in a reality that has eternity as its playground. We long for non-suffering, which we see as peace and wholeness, so much that we are prepared to go to the extremes to find it. But in the extreme, away from the Centre, away from balance, we only increase our pain. Following our desire for wholeness (and this desire is also one of the prime marks of what it is to be human) we try every alternative, we try every action imaginable to satisfy this desire. We want more. We find fictive solace in addiction. We numb ourselves towards reality. We view truth with jadedness. We try to do things to appease our soul rather than facing the reality of who we truly are. This panicky reaction from ignorant and prideful man has manifested itself in a world that is segregated. Man has been hiding in the garden, and run so far from the tree of life that the world is torn apart, dualism presents its ugly face(s). The very language I use in this essay is a manifestation of this “torn – apart” circumstance. When I reference two sides, the physical and spiritual of what really is one reality I display with my language just how ingrained the segregation is. We are the ones tearing the One Symbol apart, sacrificing4 Him on the cross. Instead of using the tree for life we have torn it down and made a tool for death out of it. By pushing extremes we have torn apart the “Structure”of reality (physical)  from the “Content” of reality (spiritual).

When we take out content from structure we have created what we today call “Nominalism”, the denial of any true Spirit, Presence, meaning or emotion in the physical. When we deny the framework of structure and only give ourselves to content, we have created what we have entered into the old heresy of Gnosticism (“I dont need any structure of religion because God told me!”) We are not running away per see but we pridefully, in the face of our Father, build our own structure. Thus re-constructing the church into either nominalism or secularism and by doing this the church is no longer the Church, the true body of Christ.

We have created an illusion that says that the “world” is separate from heaven. We have relocated heaven into a place “far away in the future”. Leaving the earth with little hope of spiritual/divine presence. We have segregated the divine from the human with the secular notion that everything real must be measurable and defined by scientific law, to be real. Hence the separation of science and theology followed. We have separated the physical from the spiritual hence people behave more and more like animals making the body and its pleasure the prime idol of today and also the excuse to deny life to come forth. Life is compartmentalized due to the separation of cataphatic revelation from apophatic mystery so now we live a horizontal or vertical life, with time or space as measure instead of a life that is present in the eternal moment, hence the Sacraments have been abused almost to the point of non-recognition. We managed to separate time from eternity with our addiction of always living in the past or in the future but never in the now where they both meet. We have separated our heart (as in soul) from our body so that we don’t run the risk of facing the truth about ourselves both in relations (content) and in regulations (structure). We have separated the wisdom of the east (Tradition) from the word (Scriptures) of the west in an attempt to find salvation in one of those paths but we have been found wanting because these “two” only manifest Truth when they stay together. We have separated the evangelical part of orthodoxy by killing the spirit with politics, legalism, false dogma and pride. By our trust that we ourselves, can bring all these things together again, if we only do the right thing. Wrong! Again! The separation is so fundamental on a ontological level that we, after the fall, only have our bodies, works, the physical, left to work with. And the multitude of religions and philosophies is a significant sign of this. We, bringing creation with us, fell from holiness. The same pride that made us fall is still telling us that we can fix the problem we caused. The fall is not only a past event it is a current one as well. And there is only One that can catch us and stop the fall. The fallen, dead, physical body cannot rise up from its fall without filling its lungs with the air of the Spirit.

So what should we do? This is the wrong question. The proper question out of a soteriological vantage point is; Who to be? Our value or purpose for existence as humans, are not determined by our “stories” or our actions. Our value as humans is determined by whom we are. Who are we? We are created in His image. We are heirs to the Kingdom. We are the crown of creation and the joy of our Father. That is who we are. If we are all that, would not the Father seek us out, even if we have separated ourselves from Him in the worst, most obscene kind of way? Would not the loving Father reach out His hands to His child even though the child spat in His face? Muslims do not believe that He would.5 Jews do not believe that He has done it yet. Pantheists are claiming that they do not have a Father (possibly a “mother earth”), Gnostics says that the Father is to far gone for us to be able to “reach” and Atheists have stopped to ask the question; Is there a parental institution at all? (And we wonder why the breakdown of family is so rampant…)

But Christianity claims that “Yes”, the Father does  reach out His “hands” of Logic (Logos, the Word, Western approach) and Wisdom (Sophia, the Spirit, Eastern approach) even if we spat in His face. Because our Father is full of grace and love for His children He has never abandoned His creation. We are the work of His hands, not our hands. Salvation cannot be “attained by works” because we are the work. Hence nothing we can do or say can change that. He loves us for what we are, not for what we think that we should be.

Christianity claims that the only way to the Father (to wholeness/salvation) is through Christ. This claim has caused many arguments and wars by people who limit Christ to fit their own  religion or structure. “If you are a true believer in Christ, you behave like this, you follow this liturgy” or “if you want to be saved you have to be born again and being born again looks like this…”. Now, these actions are not necessarily bad,  but we would be wise in remembering that Christ is so much greater than our actions and attitudes towards or against Him.  He fills all things. His power is not dependent on us believing or not believing in Him. Our very existence is the evidence of His transcendent power. He sustains our life with His will. He spoke and the earth was made. And because we are a part of His creation, it is only He that can truly heal the things that we have broken in our life, for He knows us in and out. He can heal our essence because He is the author of essence. But never against our will. In the Divine gift of freedom, which each of us possess, we have the capacity to refuse His love for us.

So let us set aside all the doing until we have discovered who we are. Let the works of our hands flow as natural consequence of us discovering that we are a part of Christ very body. Let Church be a mission to the world. Let us see clearly. Let us pause from creating smart theological systems explaining how salvation works until we in faith believe that we are a part of that very salvation. Let mind and heart be together. Let Logos and Sophia marry. Let Structure and content travel together. Because all systems tend to sway from one side to the other if they are not anchored in the One Who revealed logic (Logos). Wisdom (Sophia) without the Logos creates segregation, forgets the holistic nature of reality, and separates itself from reality. Theological systems without a true and personal (not private) connection to the Christ eventually forget their origin, that Truth is a Person, not a system. That the Christian path is not a philosophy of love but a love affair. Christianity is not observing a body but an entering into a living body and moving on a journey.

Christ is the head of that body. Therefore, the name “Christians”. The “anointed ones”. It is an exclusive label even as we, persons, are exclusive. We are unique! Really, the whole world has been anointed by the Chrism (Christ) from above. The world has been salvaged, is being saved in this very moment. When we fall, we are falling into His arms. Christ has overcome the deepest depths of the fall. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord”6 Christ has pulled together all the separated pieces into Himself and pruned them into a whole. He is the chief symbol (proper) of salvation, He throws together (symbol, sum (together) + ballos (throw), He unites all that has been pulled apart. He is the One being pulled apart on the cross to heal segregated reality and segregated people because in the mystery of the “morning before the morning” He can not be pulled apart. He makes the invisible, visible again. He binds content and structure together in His Person. He, the Objective, becomes the subject. All out of His great love for us. And He asks: “Would you allow Me to love you, son? Would you stop your hiding in the garden? Would you allow me to show you what Wisdom is? Would you come and be a part of My Kingdom?”

Christianity makes the claim of having the Truth because that is its very nature. Truth is Three Persons in One, eternal, good relationship as reveled to us through Christ.

Is it not time that the “two sides” (Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, Structure, Liturgy – Western Protestant Evangelical, Content, Emotion) of Christianity fell down in humbleness towards Christ, and realized that it is only in this position of humbleness that Christ the Head, will do His work through the body?

This essay is the first in a series of twelve that will be published during the church year 2012 – 2013 with the pace of one per month. The author, Fr. Jakob Palm was born in Sweden but now lives and works his vocation out as a parish priest in the Evangelical Orthodox Church in Saskatoon, Canada. He is 31 years old and took his theological degree at St Elias School of Orthodox Theology. The essays have been edited, read and approved by the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, Bp. Jerold Gliege. They reflect the theology that is present within the Evangelical Orthodox Church. The essays, as well as the Evangelical Orthodox Church, wishes to stimulate a deeper communication within the members of the body of Christ.

1 Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Language studies, Divine revelation, Method of Prayer, Science

2 Rom 3:9 – 26

3 Only in Christianity the religiosity of the East and the paganism of the West is reconciled or put in proper balance. It is not mere chance that Christ became incarnated at the geographical meeting point of these two.

4 The etymology concerning the word “sacrifice” is still full with “tension” (prophetically so..) One school of thought claims that the word comes from the  word “secare” which means “to cut” or “separate”. The other school of thought claims that the word comes from the root sacr-, sacer (sacred) + facere which means to do, to make complete, whole. Maybe the word sacrifice, more then we realize, contains the mystery of the cross. Christ being cut apart, separated, to make the world whole.

5 Those who believed and did good works, We shall blot out their transgressions and shall reward them according to the best of that which they used to do.” (Qur’an 29:7)

“And He (God) answers those who believe and do good works, and gives them more out of His Grace.”      (Qur’an, 42:26),

-which of course is not grace at all if its dependent on actions.

6 Romans 8