Broken for you

When I wrote about the Church as a dysfunctional family in my last blog post (https://frjakob.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/church-as-dysfunctional-family/)  I admitted that everything is not well within the body of Christ. I would suggest that our inability to see our brokenness as a body continues to be the proverbial log that prevents us from removing splinters in other people’s eyes with accuracy and efficiency. We struggle with recognizing our sin on a personal level which means that our sin affects the other person’s around us often without us even noticing it. As Church, as persons, we struggle together, if one member suffers all the other members suffers as well. Our denial of the presence of wounds in our body affects others, either we want it or not, by default. We were created as communal beings and when we deny this communal identity and misdirect the sacramental reality it holds, we end up blind to who we are as a body.

Would it help with some introspection perhaps? It might help with acknowledging the pain we have caused others. It might help to get a second opinion of our current predicament from a doctor as well. Admitting that the wounds are still there, that they have not been healed and that we need to go to the hospital. Wounds will not heal until they are recognized as such.

For this reason, I sat out to Vancouver to sit under Gordon T Smith’s teachings about the “Meaning of the Sacraments” for a week. During the time there I gained a deeper understanding of how these wounds came to be, why they hurt so much and what kind of wound the different parts of the body have. It is helpful to know each other’s history so that one can avoid offence and move towards an informed language and ways to communicate. During the week at Regent College in Vancouver, it became more and more evident to me that scholastic exercise and method helped in terms of diagnosing the wounds but falls short in terms of actual remedy. Study (which in a very real sense is incorporated humility) is needed in order to get to a point of understanding that we indeed need medicine, but it is not the fullness of medicine. Study and word points to the remedy, it might even be the beginning of remedy but it is still distinct from the remedy. It is interesting that we, as Church have been very faithful in studying but maybe not so faithful in terms of stepping out into the mysteries we don’t understand in faith and let the Holy Spirit do His work as only He can do. We have yet to share the fulness of the remedy…

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With this broken body, the Church, in mind, we approach the mystery of what Jesus says when He says: “This is My body – broken for you.” I believe that He is not only speaking about His own physical, historical body, nor only of the bread and the wine in front of Him. He is speaking about everything that has been broken due to sin. The universe, created by the Word of God suffered violence and brokenness because of Adams sin. In the Word of God, the new Adam, Jesus, that wound is first made manifest but also healed. Jesus faces the wound. He more than faces it, He takes it into Himself. He exposes sin and hangs it on the tree for everyone to see. Then, in a deep mystery orchestrated by the Trinity, the dead wood of the cross transforms into the path of the tree of life with an abundance of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The material, physicality, dead because of the fall, is resurrected to life once more. Inaugurated in the Church first but also unto the ends of the earth. (Just to be clear, I am not suggesting the guarantee of everyone’s salvation, that kind of calls we must leave to God)

When we confess Christ as Lord, it is this reality we confess. He is the Word of God through Whom the universe is created. Jesus body is still present on the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church because in Him heaven has landed on the earth. The Church’s claim to holiness (which have been somewhat overemphasized and turned into triumphalism through history) can only be incarnated in that she recognizes her own brokenness. Christ’s perfect nature is revealed through brokenness. If the Church must claim holiness (and claim it She must due to being the body of Christ), She can only base that claim in the process of repentance, in acknowledging that She is not perfect…

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

It is because of what Jesus says in John chapter 17 that Church unity can’t happen outside of sharing the body and blood of Christ. It can not happen by the study of words and a common definition alone. Just as we need word and sacrament in the local church, we need word and sacrament in the catholic (worldwide) church, otherwise, it is not catholic (proper). To pretend that we are at peace and in unity without sharing the Eucharist would be like being married to someone without consummating the marriage. Or to be baptized in water only, dismissing the baptism in fire (Spirit), or to preach the word to the crowds but withhold love in action (Sacrament), hence the possibility of new life is not possible, to use the words of Gordon T Smith; “it doesn’t take”. Nothing is transformed, it is cerebral only. As God’s family, it is of the essence that we find a way to eat together, to receive the body and blood of Christ together. As long as we don’t, the world will not view us as a family. It will not see our loving Father if we as children always are at odds with each other, that we can not even eat and receive the most basic of human needs, food, together. As children of the incarnated One, we must incarnate what we have have been given or rather we can not claim Incarnation (Christ, the Logos coming in the body) if we refuse to eat His body as children in His family. Diverse, off course but still one.

Given that almost all expressions of Christianity have retained at least a remnant of the Eucharist testifies to the necessity of having a meal. What has been believed throughout time, everywhere, by all, we together with St Vincent of Lerin hold to be true. The issue that has been obscuring the partaking of this heavenly banquet in peace, love and joy seems to be based out of the family of God not agreeing upon the when, how, who and what of the Eucharist. And even though these questions do have value, (God wants to be known by our mind), they might just have gotten a little too much attention. When we give the mind the full attention, we often forget to listen to our heart, and when it comes to the mysteries of God, we must not forget the heart, the nous. We come to the table as adults, yes but we also come to the table as children. We know intuitively what is taking place. Maybe it is a revelation by participation rather than information by transaction?

Fundamentally, I do not believe Eucharistic unity/hospitality is a matter of getting the definition right. I don’t even believe it is about agreeing with the same statements of theology concerning the Eucharist. Fundamentally, unity is not attained by mental ascent. It is folly to believe that we somehow can encapsulate the exactness of how God is working in human language. (Even though these definitions most often arose as a defence of Christian faith. We should not let our passionate defence in war become the way we operate in peace.) That we somehow would be able to formulate a doctrine that we can apply carte blanche to every situation and person.

The way to unity is rather the way of love. The way to partake of the table together is for all of us to recognize that we all have fallen short in understanding and deed. It is a way of listening rather than assertion, of helping each other out rather than condemning. The way of speaking good things about one another rather than accusation and sharing each others pain rather than inflicting it. It is the way of covering each other in prayer, lending our space to one another and putting each other first. It is the way of knowing each other as persons, different but a part of one another. Trinitarian as it were. We need each other to bloom into our personhood. When we love each other, we actively engage the spiritual climate that is the modus operandi of the sacramental life. We lay down our lives for each other. We become broken for each other out of love for one another and at that point we become, in Truth, the body of Christ. Broken for the life of the world.

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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.

The foundation of unity

The following text was offered as a homily at Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church during the Sunday liturgy that concluded the Evangelical Orthodox Church Holy Synod 2015.

Some of the text have been edited to fit the blog format better.

August 23rd 2015

HOMILY

The foundation of unity

Ps 16       Gen 28:10 – 17        Eph 4:1 – 6         Matt 28:16 – 20

As a Church we stand at a cross road, as we also should. Or rather walking a road that is a cross. True Christian witness has always been revealed by the width and the height and the depth of the embrace it invites the world into, without loosing it’s centre. Four directions, One Centre. Fact of the matter is that we can not know east or west, north or south without a centre, a point of reference, Who is Christ. The point of reference that is a Person, that’s the point. The world, us included, is creIMG_1276ated by Christ, for Christ and therefor we can only hope to know the truth about the world and ourselves if we view the world and ourselves through the eyes of Christ. And what eyes He has for us!

When EOC was birthed it had a youthful seal of compassion to reveal a tangible Kingdom in the world. As the journey went on the revelation of this heavenly kingdom grew. We came to understand that God is indeed here. He is not far away. He is not closer or further away depending on how we feel about Him. He is here. We can in truth call all the earth “Bethel” because indeed God have visited this place, it is the house of God and He will not abandon His people. The angels of the Lord keeps ascending and descending for the ones who have ears to hear and eyes to see. History itself, symbolized in Patriarch Jakob, finds rest and purpose when resting on the rock, the Church.

Today, almost 40 years later, a generation later, the seal is still here, the seal of compassion on the document of truth, but it needs to be broken. It needs to be broken so that the document may be opened. Once the seal is broken and  document is open then we can read the letters of life with new eyes again. A new seal, a new vigour needs to be birthed out of this transformational and sometimes painful process of handing down the document of faith. The document is the same. The book of life. There is One Lord, One faith, One baptism and One Father of all. But broken people needs to be allowed to break things in order to receive healing. In order to grow. This document needs to be read by future generations that offers their own mark and seal, their own time, as reveled by the living Holy Spirit. If we try to keep the same seal as past generations we will either fall in the ditch of nostalgia or in the ditch of nominalism. I will end up preaching to an empty building. We can not offer life to the world by living on the merits of our parents and past generations.

Past generations have given their all and sometimes I have resented them for it. But they, even if I didn’t like it sometimes, instilled in me an identity, a deposit. They let me now that I am loved, that I matter to God. They put themselves out there, laying hold of a Kingdom that reveled itself as they continued to love people around them. They offered themselves to see unity in the Church once more. Not a unity based on letters of the law but a unity based on sacrificial relationships in love. A unity that would have love and reconciliation reign in the body of Christ rather than divisiveness and politics. A unity that puts the Persons of the Trinity first. This is and always was at the heart of the EOC vision. How can the world believe that Jesus is present in it if we do not love each other as His body? It can’t. The unity of the Church plays, I dare say, an eschatological role in the faith of the universe. It must be given highest priority. If unity is sacrificed for the sake of conformity or individuality we, the Church looses Her power to transform the world by reflecting the mysterious glory of the Trinity.

What is unity? Is it a social construct of human imagination? Is it a organizational idea of worldly minds? Is it the adherence to the law only? No, It is the mystery seen by the prophets. It is the truth taught by the teachers. It is the faith handed down by the apostles. It is the care given by the pastors. It is the good news proclaimed by the evangelists. It is the service provided by the servant. It is the wisdom revealed by the wise. It is the love poured out by the parent to a child. It is the functions of the people of God coming together to worship Him in truth and love. It is when congregational (laity), presbyterian (deacons and priests), episcopal (bishop) structures within the Church realizes that they depend on each other to function properly. It is a meal. It is the mystery of the Trinity revealed in the world by the incarnated Son and His body through the Spirit. Unity can only be found and sustained in the Person of the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. It is the “two hands” of God the Father that brings us together.

EOC has always tried to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His promptings. To not lock any doors for eternity but to leave them unlocked as to remain open to paths that we maybe could not see before. Truth is One and eternal, but it is reveled in increments as we are able to receive it. We must allow for a structure firm enough to sustain prayer in situations of stress and emotional rollercoasters. At the same time there must be freedom enough to move where the Holy Spirit leads. This was always the tension in the Church so it remains as our tension. Freedom and the structure that is born from her must be allowed to dance in the dance that brings life.

We must remain a people led by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we are just another worldly organization. We might proselytize but we can not make disciples. Without the Holy Spirit, worldly power comes into play, denomination and dominion, and the greatest agenda of worldly power is to keep its power. For this purpose it creates systems of control. A system like that is unable to listen and be attentive to the unfamiliar and the surprising. It promotes conformity and clashes with the Holy Spirit Who fosters a life of diversity in unity and colourfulness, a life of true personhood. It is structured and it is free, in a holy paradox.

As long as the Christians refrained from assuming worldly power they conquered the world. When the Christians, when we, were dazzled by the power of the world that we assumed and started to make a system of the faith we were drained of our testimony. The Holy Spirit avoids intermingling with the one who desires to rule other peoples lives. Worldly power makes a person blind. Divine power is given to the humble. We need to be on guard, often the persecuted becomes the persecutor. As a communion we must always be weary of the person who aspires, on his own initiative, to carry spiritual authority. We must allow the Holy Spirit to move amongst us by allowing for our different personalities to bear fruit while remaining in the One tree of Life.

As we grew in understanding about who we are and as we learned more about the mystery of faith we also grew more confident and started to stand in our own ability as a Church. The tree of knowledge once again reared its ugly head. Once again we must go low, in service to the poor, in listening to the lonely, in recognizing our failings and shortcomings and in loving the broken. We probably won’t grow fast, In fact I pray we don’t, but that we might grow true. Truth sets people free.

As we look into the future and learn from the past we must face the present moment and grab hold of it because it is in the present that the great “I AM’ is at work. Our body is the temple of the living God and together we form Jesus own body, embracing the world with a love that transcends time and restores space. I am with you always He says, even to the end of the age. Go and make disciples! He says, and Go we shall.

When talking fails, listening begins?

I moved and settled down here in Saskatoon because some of Gods people asked me to do so. I have come to love Saskatoon, her people, beauty and personality. As someone arriving from far away I was thrilled to recognize the imprints of the work by the Holy Spirit in the city, she is founded on the spirit of the aspiration of mutual understanding and cooperation rather than colonization and segregation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M–y1AEX9pM (Thank you Chris Randall for bringing this to my attention). Many spiritual gifts are at work in the Church of Saskatoon. The Holy Spirit is at work here and the Kingdom of God is just a perspective away. Like an orchestra the Church in Saskatoon is tuning up to play beautiful music, but before that can happen, before the full potential of the orchestra is unlocked, the orchestra needs to put it’s full attention on the Conductor first, not each other. When full attention is given to the Conductor then we are able to play at the right moment, giving our all back to Him, receiving instruction and life in turn. We are able to listen and hear the melody of the Conductor in the others of the orchestra when we are waiting in anticipation to play.

When the different members in the body of Christ (i.e. the orchestra) try to communicate and get to know one another we often refer to this as “ecumenism” or “dialogue”. Here in the city of Saskatoon there has been such a process going on between the Roman catholic church (RCC) and big parts of the Evangelical church (EC) for the last 3,5 years. A group of 10 representatives from each “side” have met regularly to try to find out what we have in common, where we differ and where we can cooperate for the overall good of our city. The group has been trying to “tune up”. I admire and feel inspired by such an endeavor and process and I respect the work of the group walking trough all of this as well as the many forerunners that made this conversation possible. The goal, as I understand it, is for the representatives to eventually sign a document that outlines the similarities, differences and how we can cooperate.

It just turns out that this is harder than maybe anticipated. There is a hold up. Leaders asked to sign struggles with signing it. They are looking for their instruments. They don’t even know that a tune up has begun. They don’t even want to play. Why is that?

I believe that the ecumenical dialogue, the tune up, will only move forward if Truth is put forward, and in this dialogue process of getting to know each other better we are discovering notes missing and instruments being bent and out of tune. Getting a symphony ready to play takes time. Truth is that under a politically correct and polite surface there are many, old and deep resentments lingering in the members of the body of Christ. If those instruments are played out loud, the world will hear an orchestra out of both tone and sync. The beautiful music She was intended to play becomes a testimony against Her, the audience and the musicians fleeing the scene. Then after a while we eventually start a new dialogue or a new attempt at “revival”…

It is pretty easy to sign a document but it is hard to be one. We can sign a document and feel pretty good about that for a while but unless we are actually prepared to go back and repent and return from the things that caused all this disharmony in the first place it will be just another “nice” document to put on the already overflowing shelves of “historical events in the church” in the “humanities” section in the “library of pride”, another concert that appeared maybe even nice but did not stir the hearts of the musicians or the audience.

Documents and notes worth their while, always need to be representative of an existing reality. This goes from everything from bills and bonds to creeds and sheet music. Money without trust or a functioning economic system is just, paper… Notes without a person with an instrument interpreting and playing them in tune are just ink… No spirit and no life. If ecumenism is going to remain true to it’s name and continue in the Spirit of the 7 ecumenical councils (to draw all the members of the Church to Christ by the Holy Spirit, to bring us home) it must seek what is true about how the church ended up in her current state. Ecumenism must not dwell on the sin and despair but it must aid the Church in acknowledging the history of Herself and repent from the things that seek to destroy Her from within. The members of the body must be prepared to remain in proximity to one another even when the worst sins are brought to surface. In a process like this, (and don’t get me wrong, the formulated document is very much stating the reality of our current agreements and differences), the different parties/members must be prepared to grow the environment in which the document is formulated in. It must be a living letter/document/covenant before it can be written. A document can never bring about reality but reality can bring about a document.

Sure there are 20 representatives in a working group that are able to come to an understanding of what the document is about but that is because they have committed to relationship. If the goal is to state the truth about our current situation then we must have representations from a greater and more diverse base doing the same. We must refrain from calling it a vision statement because that communicates that we share a common vision, we don’t. We share One Lord, One faith, One baptism and One Lord and Father of all, (Eph 4:4 – 6) not a common vision/understanding/interpretation of Him. God can never be grasped by our imagination or knowledge. He can only be experienced through a bond of love. He remains forever elusive to the proud but forever close to the humble. He remains the same but in His greatness we experience Him in different ways on a personal level recognizing Him in one another. So, rather than a vision statement I’d like to call the document “A current assessment of the Church in Saskatoon – a living document.” (Even though that might sound a bit dry. Other suggestions are received with gratitude!)

It is not that God is not at work in Saskatoon, He is always at work, everywhere. He Is. It’s just that we won’t experience (t)His reality, Him at work, until we submit to His will and authority. What is His will? That we love Him and one another (John 13:34 – 35), it is here that we fall short. We put our own, or at least I know I do, agendas/believes/egos before loving others. If we love one another, unity will follow by default, by divine decree. Why is it so hard to love one another?

In my own research about the history of the Church I have encountered two patterns, two spirits that seems to hold a tight grip, undermining every try to truly love and to reconcile. These two spirits are hard to identify because they have formed paradigms that many persons operate from within. Once within a paradigm, it is very hard to see it from “the outside”, hence it is hard to identify these spirits if one is operating in them.

One spirit I call the spirit of paternalism and this is the spirit that claims that it is only certain people with certain abilities that can have revelations from God or interpret what God says. The spirit of paternalism undermines true conciliar process, and the voice of every believer. It tries to regulate the Holy Spirit by definitions and protocol. It refuses to wait in patience for the Holy Spirit, fearing exposure. It hoards legal process, scholastic method and fixed strategies to be applied on diverse circumstance. The spirit of paternalism in many ways is the parent of colonialism. Paternalism says that the body of Christ is something to be ruled over, not membered into. It clings to status quo to a fault, it suspects creativity, spontaneity and diversity. It shuts its ears for anything that it can’t control, for the miracle and for the unexpected. It is addicted to nostalgia. Paternalisms creed is “No change.”

The other spirit that is roaming around is the spirit of independence, or rebellion. Some 33.000 denominations (http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a106.htm) testify to the fact that this spirit does not want to come in under any authority except its own. This spirit breeds church splits, dissent and emotionalism. It is the harbinger of restlessness, discontentment and confusion. It leaves and disengages rather than committing to the relationship. It seeks something “new” as to stimulate its appetite while discarding anything “traditional” as dead religion. It claims ownership over “new” discoveries while failing to recognize that this “new” truth had been present all along. The spirit claims that it is the guardian of individual freedom but it is a false claim since true freedom can only be actualized when we give our freedom away, binding ourselves to Christ. We need His authority as incarnated by the Holy Spirit in His Church to be free. This, the spirit of rebellion refuses to recognize. The spirit of individualism might say that it has Jesus as Lord but will often refrain from taking any instruction from Jesus very own body, the Church. It abhors repetition, structure, discipline and accountability. The creed of the spirit is “Everything must change”.

I leave it up to your conciliar discernment to determine what different doctrines these two spirits has put forward within the history of the Church.

When these spirits clash, murder happens, as we have seen in both crusades, post reformation Europe, inquisitions, slave trade, power agendas in worldly politics etc. They enforce each other in a vicious circle leading towards death. When we refuse to recognize that both these spirit are present within our own hearts we often choose to endorse one and “kill” the other but there is a different way. By acknowledging the presence of both they start to loose power over our hearts and eventually it becomes clear that we, as the body of Christ, in a mystery, must change to remain the same (to use the words of fr. Alexander Schmemann). It is our lack of love for one another that keeps us from seeing that structure and freedom are not opposed, that ritual and creativity is not mutual exclusive and that liturgy and spontaneity actually benefit from one another.

The problem was never that we didn’t know the solution. The solution has always been there. The solution is a Person and our hearts as parts of this Person has always known that deep within. We, as the body of Christ are the mission (Missio Dei). The Kingdom of God is standing at the ready to launch in and invade a broken city, one act of love at a time. The highway to His city runs through our hearts (Ps 84:5). The problem was/is that we never thought it might actually cost us something, or rather everything (Matt 16:25). Pure love, Gods Way, requires pure hearts (Matt 5:8) and in that area, I must confess, I have much that I must offer back to God for His healing. There are many stones in my life obscuring the path (Isa 62:10) to the gate that stands wide open. I just can’t make it on my own. I need my Conductor to be able to play. As churches we can’t make it on our own, we need our Conductor and one another to manifest the glory of Christ’s body, to find and reveal that glorious city right here in Saskatoon (1 Cor 12:20 – 22) Everything is ready, a feast prepared, (Matt 22:2) a robe waiting (Luke 15:22), gates swung open (Rev 21:25), the table set (Luke 22:29 – 30).

For the reconciliation of the body of Christ in Saskatoon, to be obedient to the will of Christ Himself , to be one, (John 17) I suggest the following:

  • Continuously pray for the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life, to be present in all of the aspects of the process. Allow for time to wait and listen for Him. Take a posture of waiting and expectation.
  • Continue the dialogue with holy tension. Invite more and more people to public meetings, talking about the different parts of the document, what they mean and how they can be applied. Create a place where relationship can happen and we can get to know one another. Do not set a “goal date” for when a document needs to be “finished”. The law is now written o hearts of flesh, not on stone. If we desire to love one another then we need to get to know one another, both blemishes and gifts.
  • If there are to be some joint services in this process, give them a language of repentance, vulnerability and sacrificial love rather than a celebration of a unity that is based on mental ascent. If we can’t share the Eucharistic table because of different believes or lack of love, this should be acknowledged rather than ignored as to not grieve the Spirit of Truth. In pretending that we offer our all, celebrating “unity” we (albeit maybe not intending to) commit the same sin as Annanias and Saphira, the sin of pretense, perpetuating the brokenness by never addressing the underlying issues. On the other hand, if we in joint service can be vulnerable and acknowledge the sins of the past that we have committed towards one another then the Spirit of Truth is at work and can begin His work of healing.
  • Don’t do anything together until we know who we are together. If we are going to function as a unified body we need to know what the different parts of the body are good at, what their identity and function is. For this to happen we need working relationships. Can we find a way to gather all (Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist etc) Christian leadership to pray together at least once a year?
  • List of things that we need to repent from: I won’t point fingers but will trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us what we need to repent from. If you feel bold enough I encourage you to write down what you believe you need to repent from in the comments below, maybe that can give us some clues about what the body of Christ is suffering from and then we can ask for His healing.

One of the first lessons we learn about discernment – from Jesus anyway – is that it will always tend toward concrete expressions of love with real people rather than theoretical conversations about theology and philosophy. Such conversations are valuable only if they eventually lead us to a more concrete expression of love for the real people who are in need around us. If such conversations don’t move us toward concrete action in the world, we become the proverbial noisy gong and clashing symbol. The disciples blindness to the work of God in their midst is sobering because it demonstrates that even those who are the closest to Jesus and on a serious spiritual journey can still miss things – especially if we are living and breathing the same cultural influences together.” Excerpt from “Pursuing Gods will together” by Ruth Haley Burton

It would have been easier not to write anything at all and just go about life as usual, life is fine. But, we are made for more than just “fine,” we are made in and for greatness. It is for this reason I have penned this text. It is for Jerusalem’s sake (i.e. the Church – the foundation of peace) I can’t keep silent. The Conductor is urging me to pay attention to Him and play my instrument together with you. In the end it is not enough to talk about Christ, we must be a part of Christ. I say that I love Saskatoon. Blessed is the one who does not have to use words to convince his listeners… Lord, have mercy. Holy Spirit, come with Your cleansing fire.

In Christ

fr. Jakob

“God, sex and the eternal longing”

I don’t know about you, because I don’t really know you, but I have this longing and desire for being known. To be seen and valued for just being who I am (not the “pretend people” we usually act like). I think everybody has this desire. It would be so relieving if the pressure to be “this” or “that” could be taken away. It would be so liberating if we could just be what our heart desired rather than what our parents or our society tells us to be. I say this because down deep, your heart desires to be true. Down deep we all desire true love, true communication and true bliss. It is this desire that makes us try everything to gain those things. We try different religions. We try sex. We try drugs. We try money. We try work. We try, we try and we fail. The more we fail, the more jaded we become. We stop to believe in that true love is possible. We stop to believe in beauty and in “fairy tales”. We stop to believe in knights and princesses. We bury this eternal longing for true love, communication and bliss under the stones of “reality”. We stop to believe in romance and in giving our selves to the other. Instead we focus on satisfying our own wants and needs.

I went to an event called “Fill these hearts” this Saturday. A man named Christopher West talked about “God, Sex & our eternal longing”. He draws most of his teaching from Pope John Paul II and his “Theology of the body”. I think the pope wrote this book because Christians for so long has presented the body and sex as something sinful and “unchristian”. The pope (and Christopher West) makes a different point. They claim that our bodies are theology (not only biology as secularism would have us think). Our bodies are a “way to know what God is about”. Our body is one of the best ways actually, since they are a big part of our person which is created in the image of God. It is not mere chance that you have this feeling of non-satisfaction in your life. That you crave more. It is not just survival instinct, and you know it. If it was just that than everybody would stop the hunt for more when they produced offspring and had “food security”. But man continues. Man desires more. Bono sings about it: “Still havent found what I’m looking for”. Jagger sings about it: “Cant get no, satisfaction”. We keep searching, studying, inventing, abusing and hunting because we are not satisfied. Our bodies and minds craves closeness. If we look at our bodies we see that the male and the female body is made to fit together. They fit into each other for the purpose of entering intimate communion. This communion can be so close that it begets new life. Our bodies and sex is not sinful, it is the twisting and abuse of them that is. A relationship between a man and a woman who works properly is as close of an icon of the Trinity you can see. It is giving and receiving and giving back. It is the enjoyment of each others differences. It is total unity yet still remaining who you are. It is eternal communion.

Art, music and movies speaks about this relationship all the time. Something in us wants to express what love should look like (because we do know what it should look like). We hear songs like “Endless love”, “Eternity”, “Eternal flame” and so on. We know that we long for this on an eternal scale. Do you hear songs that touches your heart that goes like “I will love you for 48 hours, then I will leave”. We are not touched by songs like that because we know that is not really love. That is twisted “love”. We know that true love has eternal implications.

To borrow some terminology from Christopher West. We have this hunger (for true love). Some people are starved because they have been raised on a starvation diet. This starvation diet is when you are told as a child that you can’t eat because all food (sex) is evil. This is very common among Christians, “Sex is bad”. Some people are raised on fast food (sex all the time) and can’t get satisfied because it tastes the same, and it is not very nutritious (this is very common in secular society). They have forgotten the flavour of true, homemade food. They still crave solid food but they have forgotten where to get it or how to make it. The starved people will eventually go to the fast food line if they have to choose between starving and fast food. They will start eating the fast food. The ones that are already trapped in the “fast food” addiction will eat and eat and never get satisfied (ask Jagger).

The truth is that sex is not evil, it is good. It is part of our make up. It is the desire to be close to the other. It is our eternal longing. To have true communion. It is an icon of the eternal dance of the Trinity. But it is also true that this relation must be based on and in the Spring which it comes from. It must find its strength in the One who make communion possible. Without God as the anchor in our relationships they will fail and we will remain unsatisfied. Because ultimately your eternal longing of closeness is a longing for Him. If you have tried all the venues to find peace, closeness, intimacy and happiness but ended up still wanting, why not try something you have not tried before? Try asking God to satisfy your eternal longing. He will satisfy you.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob