What I have learned so far…

Virtues - Louis Comfort Tiffany

Virtues – Louis Comfort Tiffany

At sixty-two years of age, I know now that all Christians are more alike than they are different.  The things in which we differ are few but strongly held AND by focusing on them appear to radically different from those over there who (as they differed from us) must therefore be wrong.  There is a safety (even smugness) in such certitude.

Love is Faith PersonifiedOne of the problems with such is that it promotes the opposite of the thing desired or at least claimed. Certainty is not faith!  In truth certainty is the very opposite of faith.  The Epistle to the Hebrews puts it like this, [11:1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. As a priest, how many times have I have listened to the quasi-confession of some believer who tells me their doubts and struggles in following Jesus ending with a line like, “So John, I just can’t live the Christian life!”  I say, “No, what you see as unfaith is ACTUALLY the life of faith.  The doubt you have is an essential part of the economy of salvation.

Because it doesn’t feel certain they feel they don’t have faith.  In truth they appear to me to have faith in contrast to those more certain. So long as we live in pure contradiction by definition someone must right and wrong.  That is not to say that there is neither right nor wrong.  It is necessary to choose.  What is unnecessary is to make a point of view into an ideology!

Beloved, Let us make faith our constant companion and she will joined by her closest confidants, hope and joy. Against such company there can be no condemnation.

JWS

The Spirit and Body are One

Christ is Risen! Death is no more.

resurrection-02

On that great day we shall be free from consequence and sin and the end of all ending shall end.  We shall be one, even as the Father, Son & Spirit are one, for so our Lord commanded and what he commanded is true, not almost but always, for the spirit and body are one.

No longer shall we find division in ourselves, no contradiction nor even paradox be found for the spirit and body are one.

For all shall be raised, as our Lord has been raised with body the same yet new; so shall our bodies and spirit reunite, continued yet new for the spirit and body are one.

Fallibility and consequence, fact and value, concept and expression; indeed all pairs of opposites will be present yet welded/layered/melted/completed for the spirit and body are one.

On that great day, the dead in Christ will rise, meeting the Son in the air, the living caught up with the dead and reunion and union; all nuance, unique and rare, elegant and spare completed and there and then the Spirit and body are one.

No sleep, fatigue or pain; no peculiar debris remain for the will of the one, yet three, holy one, from to age to come, our spirit and body are one.

JWS – April 14, 2013 at  2:44 AM

Overcoming the Split Between Fact and Value

One of the fates of spending six years and three denominations in theological education was to come to a place of not taking any point of view all that seriously as people seem largely to think in the style in vogue at the time they were schooled.

Reared in an evangelical (pre-fundamentalist) Baptist Church, I was impressed by the unconscious allegiance to the Gospel as we had received it.  The Bible spoke we believed to the real situation of people in their lives and that the text was reliable in how it spoke of God. It never occurred to us to think otherwise.  I was largely unaffected by the hermeneutic of suspicion, as it was called, seeing what I call a hermeneutic of hostility, a militant regard that the scripture speaks in a hopeless superstitious way, with a sort of arrogant assumption that we now had it right being post-enlightenment and all.

I also observed that the reactivity to this hostility was to retreat into a rigid, sterile fundamentalism.  The thinking of liberal Christianity is formed; best I can tell, around a commitment to the fruit of faith without regard for the vine that bore it.  Anglicans, especially American ones have spent the patrimony on a “feel-good,” hearty hospitality inviting people to a sacrament having form but little power. Actually, that is not true.  They invite people to the mass, denigrating it by discounting the very sacrament of hospitality, namely baptism. A priest colleague of mine once responded to my stated commitment to classical Christianity with a dismissive, “Oh, John, we are redefining everything.” What?

Or as a priest, who dabbled in ministry, said by way of invitation to a Jungian seminar, “All of you who like me, cross their fingers, when they say the creed, please come.”  The same cleric while teaching confirmation class told everyone to stand and as the Nicene creed was read aloud to sit when something they did not or could believe was read and promptly sat down as it was barely underway.  My reaction to that is that we do not judge the creed the creed judges us.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neither the extreme fundamentalism of the right or left has life in itself.  I found myself deeply attracted to the Anglican tradition.  The radical middle, pulling the extremes to the middle seemed good to me at the time and serves me still.   At the same time at the age of nineteen I had a life affirming charismatic experience in the 1970s again observing that while I counted that experience real and valid that the interpretation of that movement produced a “rigid flexibility” (as Ed Friedman once put it.)  What I longed for was a way to make sense of what had happened to me so I searched for what I called a “religious psychology” seeking to understand why such a powerful and creative experience seemed to produce a neurotic state that in some cases left the person worse off than before. Embracing non-dual thinking, giving up the comfort of contradiction, all the while knowing that what we know is not all to be known will bring us closer to the Kingdom than all the certainty we could ever muster.

JWS

Aside

“We in the West have been trained and conditioned since childhood, firstly by over-anxious mothers and then by the values of society, to be afraid of pain, to see it as an enemy to fight and repel. Television advertisements don’t say, ‘Relax and learn to ease it’ when showing someone in pain. They say, “Take this pill or that pill and they will make you relaxed enough for your headache to go.  They implant attitudes which make us think we have to buy our way out of pain. In subtle ways they tell us that we DESERVE relief from it; that it is one of our rights to lead a pain-free life.”

Ursula Fleming  — Grasping the Nettle [pg. 33]