Archive for grace

Why are we so afraid?

fear-not1Those of you who have heard me teach have probably heard me say that joy is the Christian trademark, well that and or grace. While there are a lot of really awesome teaching in most of the world religions, the idea of grace, the completely undeserved, unconditional gift that inspires a no holds barred kind of joy in the believers life.That said, I have to ask, Why are we so afraid?

When I hear Christians speak both amongst themselves and from the pulpit. We are afraid, afraid of other religions and what they might do to us, afraid of the devil and demons, afraid that god will punish us, afraid that we have gotten it all wrong, just afraid.

Isn’t it funny that gods messengers in the scriptures always starts with “do not fear”. Isn’t it funny that Jesus always speaks of love, grace and joy. There simply is nothing to fear. If god is so great then what could possibly scare us? If our god is all that, why are we afraid of Muslims, Mormons, Jehovas, Hindus, Wiccans, of Yoga, of Astrology, of secular music, Harry Potter books, of tattoos and any alternative anything.

Do we not have faith in Christos Victor?

It seems to me that Christians should be able to walk through life, and partake in all of life, fully,  without any fear; Without the fear of condemnation; Without the fear of contamination; Without the fear of the devil and most importantly without fearing god.

“Perfect love casts out all fear”

I think we need to quake with love, we need to be shaken down to our roots with love. So filled with love that wherever we go we bring love to that place, into that which we are doing transforming it in the process. Guided by the spirit of divine love I will transform anything I do into sacrament and worship whether it is a handshake or an embrace, yoga or martial arts, whether it is in a synagogue or a mosque, church or an oak grove.

Greater is the divine source within me than any opposition. If you dare greatly, you may recognise the same divine source of love operating out there in the wild just as it is inside of you and your church.

 

Love is not a theory

heart-love-you-are-here-Favim.com-266077We talk about love a lot, we say that: God is love! The scriptures say it over and over again, they even say that unless you are in love, saturated with love, bubbling over with love, you are not with god. And so we realise that love is necessary, it’s a fundamental part of our Christian faith and lives.

But among all this love talk, how much and how deeply do we actually love? Again in church we teach that love is a verb, love is action, love is giving to those in need. I agree with all of this but also realise that all those actions can be taken without love. It can be done for a myriad of different reasons some related to love and others not.

So among all this love talk and good deeds, I want to ask with the words of the profetess Fergie: Where is the love?

Love is not a theory, but it also is not an action. Love is a reality that we inhabit. Love is our origin, our home and our destiny. Love is what is at the core of our beings when we search for the divine, we find it in love. Love is not something we can accidentally fall in or out of, it is not something that is sparked by good looks or even a beautiful soul. LOVE IS! At the center of everything there is love and when we understand that we are all connected in and through this love, then we will understand that love is not what we feel, not what we think, not what we do, but what we are!

Only love is real!

So how do we enter this reality, or rather how do we wake up to this reality? We must practice love. We must practice slowing down and finding the depth and core of ourselves (so we can find that love within) and then we must reach out and touch the people around us, embrace them, cuddle them, kiss them, love them (so that they can be touched by love from without). And then we need to make love, lots of it, in all our conscious interaction each action should make love, generate love and grow love. Lets stop talking, start making love with ourselves and the people around us and watch the love grow exponentially!

Kiss me, I am a Christian!

thinkgeek-kiss-me-im-elvish-2014-530x627-1So I was looking at one of my favourite geeky webpages when I found this T-Shirt that said: “Kiss me I’m elvish”. Which of course is a rip of of the old “Kiss me I’m Irish” slogan. And it got me thinking…
Today Christians are so afraid of any physical contact, because we have fallen into the gnostic trap of the body and it’s desires are evil and the spirit and things spiritual (that is not material) that come from god  are good. But it was not always so. over and over again the apostles, Paul in particular, but also Peter and others write to the early followers of the way to “greet each other with a holy kiss”. Most Christians are aware of the fact that the kiss was the greeting used by the disciples when they met Jesus (evidenced by Judas kissing Jesus in the garden). But as good Christians we quickly assume that it is a holy (read not very physical) peck on the cheek with an embrace that is actually not an embrace at all.

How wrong we are, and how little we understand of our heritage and in fact how great god is. For who, to quote John Eldredge in Wild at heart, made a kiss so delicious?

Peter and Paul kissing

Peter and Paul kissing

The holy kiss was a full kiss on the mouth. It was the sign of peace (eirene) and a sign of complete openness and vulnerability. It was a mimicking of god’s breath bringing life to Adam and Jesus bestowing the holy spirit through breath. It was the symbol of us all being one in Christ through the mixing of breath and closeness of the body.

Augustine wrote the following in one of his easter sermons:

Then, after the consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of God, because He wished us also to be His sacrifice, a fact which was made clear when the Holy Sacrifice was first instituted, and because that Sacrifice is a sign of what we are, behold, when the Sacrifice is finished, we say the Lord’s Prayer which you have received and recited. After this, the ‘Peace be with you’ is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his. Hence, these are great and powerful sacraments.

Such openness and vulnerability, such love and intimacy. Only by being truly close to Christ and filled with spirit source and divine love could we handle this.

tumblr_static_richard_and_bobThe Irish slogan kiss me I’m Irish comes from the folkloric tradition of kissing the Blarney stone for good luck, if you could not get to the blarney stone, you took the next best thing, an Irish person! What if we would embody the love of the divine so fully and perfectly that we could experience the peace of god through the holy kiss. or if that is to sacred for our modern dulled sensibilities, a holy embrace. As Augustine rightly states, this is a sacrament!

Sinner is not our identity

True-selfI have heard it often spoken in churches, you are a sinner! We most often base this on a handful of verses out of scripture like the famous “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of god”. And so we fall into the trap where we think that we are what we do, that our identity is our personality or our ego is who we are.

It is commonly agreed (among Christians and theologians) that out of the over twenty different words used for sin in the New Testament the most often used is hamartia missing the mark. From this point of view sin is whenever we act, not according to our true self, our essence, we sin. And while it is true that we all do this and sometimes we do this a lot, almost all the time. The truth is that it also means that we are not sinners, we are in fact children of god. We are loved by god and it is when we act not according to this true identity that we sin.

It also means that most of the time our definition of sin is sinful (miss the mark). This is true because it is when we are sad on the inside and plaster a fake smile on our lips that we sin, when we pretend to be strong and courageous, while on the inside we know that we are vulnerable and fearful. It is when we allow ourself to feel what we are really feeling deep down inside and express it that we are being true to ourselves. For example, when you hit yourself on your thumb with a hammer and you let out a litany (swearwords or not) that is a true expression of what we are experiencing in the moment, not sin. when we loose ourselves in lovemaking and we become one with our beloved with no hidden agenda or distracting thoughts we are being true and not sinful. But when our ego getsto dictate our actions and we act based on fear and unnecessary self preservation that is when we miss the mark, that is when we do not express our true identity (child of god, beloved of the divine, part of the oneness of creation).

You are not your personality, you are not a sinner not at your core, it is not your identity. John Eldredge writes in his book Wild at Heart: “Your sin is not what is most true about you.” The scriptures assert over and over again that you are loved, you are holy, you are sacred, you are divine.

This is why holiness is such a relief. Holiness is taking of the masks and relaxing into who you truly are, your essence, your origin and your destiny. It is why Jesus says come to me all who are tired and sick of it (tired of pretending, sick of playing games) because the path I will show you is easy and will give you no burden to carry, no role to fulfil. No more pretending, no more acting, no more grandstanding or posturing, no religious games or shallow piety. It is living deeply out of who you truly are giving your unique gift to the world by manifesting your essence.  Scripture tells us that we are works of art (poema) created for good works that are prepared along the way, nothing we must accomplish or make happen but moments that become beautiful just because we show up as ourselves giving our unique, deep gift, being who we where meant to be as integral parts of gods spectacular creation.

Ministry is not a program

Spirit-of-Ubuntu-photoMinistry is an interesting word for many reasons, the most important reason is that it does not mean what most people assume it means. For me as a Swede it has double significance as it is one of the Christian buzzwords that do not exist in the Swedish language. The closest we get to the the word ministry is “tjänst” which just like the english counterpart means job in the common vernacular but the word actually means service or favour.

In the same way the english word ministry (which for evangelical Christians seems to be a very important word) is assumed to mean my job in the church or the church program/outreach I run/am a part of.

But just like the Swedish word ministry actually means service as in “to serve“. That is why both political leaders and clergy are called ministers because they are called to serve the people.

Therefore ministry cannot be something I do a certain day of the week or between certain hours of the day. Ministry, I think, is part and parcel with who you are: A gift to the world, and more specifically, how your unique gift to the world is presented. Your ministry (your service) happens every time you meet and see another person and love them. It happens each time you care for the planet, the animals or the people around you. It happens each time you are moved by the divine to do something beyond your own sphere of interest but also when you love your self.

As we are all part of the great organism called kosmos (in John 3.16), ministry is the serving you do as a part of this organism. Ministry is the sacramental life (an outward sign of an inward grace). Ministry is life lived in ubuntu, in fellowship and community, recognising that we are all one and all I do, I do, in service, for the one.

 

Grace has no exceptions

GraceGrace, it’s such a beautiful concept. Grace an (undeserved) gift freely given. We read in the scriptures that god loved us before we knew about god, before we saw god, before we had our first god experience.

God’s grace is scandalous, outrageous and completely free, for EVERYONE. There are NO exceptions! There are no conditions, nor rules to follow, no magic prayer to pray, no special ritual or spiritual hoops to jump through. You are loved! God’s grace is there for you, no matter who you are, where you are from, what you believe, whom you love, what you have done, what you are going to do!

The whole thing about unconditional love is that there are , funnily enough no conditions. No if’s no buts, only love.

This makes grace not only all encompassing and scandalous it makes it as Brennan Manning said, downright vulgar. It is grace given freely to the worst, most evil without hesitation or condition.

And now all the pharisees have awoken and scream at the top of their lungs, such outrage, you are peddling cheap grace!

As if! There is nothing cheap about unconditional love or unconditional grace. In fact in my experience there is nothing that is so costly as grace given to everyone regardless, loving the ones that clearly are not interested or throw that love back in your face. The road of judgement and conditional love is easy, the road of unconditional love, love in the face of brutality, greed, hostility, contempt, now that is a hard road that will cost you everything. To love people even though they mock you, hurt you, even though they crucify you, seems to be the way of the divine. Love and grace with absolutely no exceptions!

Christianity is not a checklist

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It’s not! Ask yourself this, are you a Christian? If so, why are you a christian? Is it because you believe certain things? The right things? Is it because you do certain things? Or are you a Christian because there is a divine reality of love and you live or at least wish to live in it!

At the center Christianity states that: god is love and that we love, because god first loved us. This would lead us to a Christianity that fundamentally is about discovering divine love, living loved and loving others.

The early Christians did not call themselves Christians (little Christs) but rather, followers of the way. What way was that? Well first of all it was not the way of the existing Jewish community: legalism or religious observance. It was not the way of setting up specific criteria for belonging to the way. It was Kurios Christos; Jesus is lord not Caesar. Love is lord not law!

The most quoted text of the bible: John 3.16, makes it clear that gods incredible, scandalous, unconditional love is for gods creation (kosmos) of which you and I are apart and therefore we are so loved. Now most people run straight from the agape love of god to the condition of belief. But the divine agape is unconditional, which funnily enough means without conditions. And the word belief as in accepting a truth claim is a modern concept, as the enlightenment swept through Europe the word believe went from meaning trusting, loving (the word actually is rooted in the word belove) to believing that a fact is true. And so the meaning of John 3.16 went from loving relationship to intellectual, propositional truth. Even so gods love is not dependent on us loving or trusting god. Because gods love is unconditional. There are no conditions for receiving gods grace and love. What then are we to do with what seems to be a choice between eternal life and destruction?

The early Christian text Didaché states that there are two roads, one that leads to life and one that leads to death. I firmly believe that while it is easy to cram this text and John 3.16 into the eternal heaven/hell dichotomy it is far more likely that the text is actually talking about a living reality, here and now.

While everyone is included into gods scandalous, unconditional love, no ifs no buts, we can still choose to live a life where we feel more dead than alive, more alone and desolate than loved. On the other hand we can choose a life living in freedom and love where every step of the way makes us feel more alive, more connected, more loved. This is the way of life! This is the way we follow and so this is Christianity. There is no list only love.

Jesus is not a religion

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While one can assume that Jesus may have been a religious man, Jesus himself is not a religion. He did not come to start a religion, he did not found a church and he did not write a sacred text nor did he ask anyone else to do so.

I think if Jesus had intended for his teachings to be written down, he would have been much more clear: Listen guys, make sure you get this down correctly! Instead he said: “I am the way”, not I know the way and I can tell you about it, so you can believe it. There is a difference in knowing the way and being the way, in knowing the truth and being the truth, in knowing about life and being life, being alive.

Instead Jesus in a prophetic manner speaks to religion, deconstructs religion. Primarily Jesus deconstructs the Jewish faith but I believe Jesus by virtue of being the way and by his life deconstructs not only Jewish faith but speaks straight into the heart of all religion. In fact the beautiful sayings and prophetic actions of Jesus transcends religious dogma not to form a new and better religion but to show a way without religion in a way Jesus marks the end of religion.

This I think is why he asked people not to simply believe but to follow, this is why the early Christians called themselves people of the way. Jesus being god incarnate once and for all dispels the notion that there is a separation between humans and the divine source. So he prays “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17.20-23 NRSV

Jesus embodies this scandalous and gracious oneness with the divine source. His teaching is not one of separation and division but of unity and love. Therefore Jesus does not teach a system, a theology or a doctrine but a way of being a reality where all are one united in the divine regardless of race, religion, creed, social status, sexual orientation or gender. Jesus proclaims that the kingdom of god, the life eternal is at hand, it is near, it is within us and it is knowing the divine source by becoming one.

Falling upwards

311017_10150345372419514_349434286_nI don’t know how it happened, but it did. Suddenly I was forty and the numbers on the cake do not lie. It is strange to wake up and realise that my body is forty even though on the inside I still feel like seventeen.

I have had a great week, last tuesday (my birthday) I was surprised by some of the people that are closest to me that had flown in just to be part of my celebration. I was surrounded by love, gentleness and warm embraces all week. I have spent the time in deep conversation, felt deep connection and have been overwhelmed by the love present in my life.

Now I feel the aching afterglow of true friends absent and I am slowly realising that of all the adventures, all the crazy things I have done in my life the one adventure worthwhile is the adventure of loving someone deeply, of daring to be vulnerable and allowing someone to see the real me and to allow myself to be embraced and loved for whom I really am. I sit and read the kind and gentle words written by my friends in the book that describe the loving friendships we have forged. I am awed by the love penned there.

As I turn this corner and walk into what is the next leg on the greatest adventure of my life, I feel truly grateful and humbled by all of you who make my life special, meaningful and adventurous. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for showing me the face of god. Thank you for allowing me to be the best me that I can possibly be. Thank you!

Is god opposed to pleasure?

2009-03-07-Pleasure-centersIn recent conversations the topic of pleasure has come up time and time again. It seems that from a Christian point of view we are as a community ambivalent about god’s view on pleasure.

It seems that somewhere deep down we do believe that although god is good and want good things for us, we still have a hard time believing that god would want us to experience pleasure.

As I was thinking about this I ran across this jubilant ending of Psalm 16:

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I know that in the context of this psalm, it seems it is taking about the life after, the life after, death (As N.T. Wright would put it). However I cannot help but think that the path of life, must be something that happens, you know, in life!

What if gods wish for us actually was “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever more”. How would that change your view of god, how would it change your view of self? How would it change your view of all those experiences that give pleasure?

It also seems to me that while we are ok with some forms of pleasure, we are dead scared of others. We are ok with the pleasure of reading a good book or seeing a great movie. We are ok with enjoying a good meal and to enjoy the buzz after a good workout. We are also ok with the pleasure of good company, as long as it is not wit the opposite sex, then it sadly becomes sinful or guilty pleasure.

I wonder what would happen if we, instead of feeling guilty for all kinds of bodily pleasure, started thanking god for it. What if we before we go into the bedroom (or whatever place we enjoy each other) with our significant other prayed a prayer of thankful blessing over the gifts we are about to receive (kinda like praying grace before a meal). What if we said grace before seeking pleasure on our own, be it from a book, from a movie, from a meal, or from our own hands? And what if we instead of walking around feeling guilty for having received the gift of pleasure, prayed prayers of thanks afterwards? How would this change our experience, our enjoyment?

What if we could affirm god as the creator of pleasure, who, according to scripture created the first humans “naked and not ashamed”. The god who created humans in god’s own image uniquely able to experience and give pleasure. What if we could affirm ourselves our bodies to be part of the glorious creation of god and that we are not only good creations but “very good” and that as god’s creations made to experience pleasure, also could affirm that pleasure also is “very good”?

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