Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

WHAT IS FAITH?

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from idpinthat.com

…the Christian world must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western ‘can do’ world.

The only problem is that it devolved into our modern private and personal ‘decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a ‘good work’ that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

In the above paragraph Rohr has summed up the largest elephant in the room of Evangelical Christianity. It’s about time we had a long, hard look at ourselves. And yes, I do consider myself Evangelical, partly because that is how I came to faith, mostly because I believe this is something so wonderful how can I not live it and breathe it (and thus share it)? That’s what loving Jesus looks like: loving my neighbour, seeing Jesus in the people I meet even if they have active antipathy towards Him themselves and, of course, sharing the Good News.

Grace Now, Consequences Now

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NRSVA)

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…our decisions do have consequences and meaning in eternity…

Threat and fear is not transformation. [Christianity has become] a soul-saving society for the next world instead of a healing of body, soul and society now and, therefore, forever.

 

All of Jesus’ healings, touchings and salvations… were clearly about now. He never once said, “Be good now and I will give you a reward later.” [There is not] one prerequisite that Jesus ever has for a single one of His healings. The healing… [is] an end in itself and has nothing to do with earning it. For Jesus, all rewards are inherent to the action itself and all punishments are inherent to the action itself, but we largely pushed off all rewards and punishments into the future. I sometimes wonder if we clergy and preachers do not have an unconscious but a vested interest in keeping people co-dependent on us by holding [the] carrot [of heaven] always out in front of them. It is clearly ‘now and forever’ talk in Jesus, but we’ve made it into ‘not now, but perhaps forever if you play the game right’.

~ from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr

 

I can’t decide whether it’s stupid, wicked or just plain sad that for so many (especially we evangelicals) Christianity is about life after death instead of Life now. If Faith was just about ‘salvation’ (i.e. what happens after we die) then Jesus would not have spent several years preaching and teaching and healing and revealing the very nature of God.

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture [i.e. NOW, not just after death] I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 from John 10:9,10

 

Also, for some this Life is misinterpreted as legalism, e.g. if I follow the list of rules I’m ok. This is understandable, especially when we’re young or have a new faith. We all think if we can be told what to do, we’ll be different. Sorted.

But grace isn’t about rules. First, there isn’t a list long enough that it could hold all of the ‘rules’ if they existed. Second, you haven’t got a hope of following all the rules if they were all written down (did a single person manage to keep the Laws of the Old Testament?). Third, Jesus made it simple. He broke it down:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34,35

 

Legalism is a replacement for grace and one that, I sense, makes God sad, because we can never live up to it. It becomes all about what’s on the outside rather than changing what’s on the inside. Legalism results in shame and guilt, or a wrongful sense of pride (see Matthew 23:27-28).

Fourth, rules allow us to feel in control. It is scary to give everything over to God and to trust Him with every aspect of our lives! But we must relinquish our desire for control (whether of ourselves or others) when we follow Jesus, because grace is free.

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Trusting God is a bit like jumping out of an aeroplane wearing a parachute. Only you haven’t seen the parachute – you’ve just been told it’s there. It is scary! But the views are astounding. And you’ll never be the same again. (image from idpinthat.com)

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:27,28

 

Liminal Spaces: Church as Renewal

 

…[I once saw] these shocking words in chalk on the sidewalk… ‘I watch how foolishly man guards his nothing, thereby keeping Me out. Truly God is hated here.’ …I knew there was some truth in what that person wrote, especially in a country where most people are quite comfortable churchgoers and almost all of us do ‘guard our nothing’… It is a knowing that we folks inside the system are not privy to, whereas the beggars to the system see it clearly…

What Jesus and all of the prophets are trying to do is to make sure that all of us have that experience somewhere in our lives of being on the losing side, knowing how much it hurts to hurt… or being someone who has been looked down upon for any reason. That place outside of the system is a liminal space where transformation and conversion is much more likely. 

Isn’t it ironic that most of the gospel has probably been preached and taught by people who are very comfortable? 

~ Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

I don’t live in a country where most people are churchgoers. A century ago that might have been the case. WWI saw many British people lose their faith, probably because of exactly what Rohr writes in the above extract. However, there has long been a general complacency within what’s left. Church in many cases has become (or has always been) ‘something we do on a Sunday’. It’s about committees and jumble sales and wearing nice clothes: very middle class and comfortable.

No wonder I left the church I grew up in! Thankfully I did it because I wanted more of God, not less. No wonder the young have, generation by generation, left what they knew of Christianity. Even as a child I could see the gap between what was taught by Jesus and what was actually occurring. They weren’t awful people. They were all very well-meaning, but it was all built around something which had no substance. A puff of air and it all falls apart. This is not what it means to follow Christ. ‘Love one another’ has to hurt.

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…’

Romans 12:2a

Reblog: To Throw Our Pebble Unceasingly

Dorothy Day is featured in the book ‘Streams of Living Water’ by Richard Foster. A fascinating figure, especially because she wasn’t a nun (not that there’s anything wrong with being a nun!) but was just an ordinary lady. I like the pebble analogy. I can cope with pebbles. Kindness could be a pebble – a smile, a friendly face. Too often we put pressure on ourselves because the world is such a sad place and we so desperately want to share God’s transforming love. So we try to ‘save’ the world and then everything becomes overwhelming. Dunno why we think we can ‘save’ anything since Jesus already did that, but… pebbles. I can do pebbles, by grace. Thank you, God, for changing pebbles into waves and waves into tides. May we never underestimate what you can do through one small act of love. Amen.

Contemplative in the Mud

dorothyday4What we would like to do is change the world… by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.
Dorothy Day (1897–1980)

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