Archive for Church

Feelings are not dangerous and unreliable

feelingsquotesIf you have been raised in church or spent a longer time as a member of some sort of church, then I am sure you have been told not to trust your feelings. I was certainly told time and time again that feelings are a roller coaster, they come and go and cannot be trusted.

It is not strange that this is our teaching as we live in a society that prizes the mind over everything else. We have bodies and hearts but it is in the mind that we live and exist.

“Cogito ergo sum”, I think therefore I am. We repeat Descarte’s mantra over and over again and shut the lid tighter on the container that holds our hearts and all our feelings.

However in our sacred text we read “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4.23 NRSV) We have long put the mind on a pedestal and shoved our hearts and feelings as deep and as far away that we can manage. Rationality has almost become our religion. We cling to dogma and doctrine and we practice apologetics like it was our life saver or saviour. The Bible has become our source for proof texting and so it is our idol. Some say that we, in the evangelical stream of Christianity, have made the Bible a fourth member of our trinity. We have gone so far as to actually teach that the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer 17.9)and therefore needs to have a very short leash, while the mind is being glorified and relied on fully.

If we look at the portrait the sacred text show us of the divine, god is not primarily a thinking god. Do a search in your bible program and compare how many times you can find that “god thought” compared to how many times you can find “god felt.”

Our god is primarily a feeling god, a god of compassion, our fellow sufferer, who chose to feel what it was like to be human and suffer with a suffering humanity. If god is our role model then maybe we also need to unlock the strong box we have locked away our heart and feelings and carefully coax our abused and frightened heart back into the forefront.

We have been told that it is weak to be emotional or feeling, probably because when we feel deeply and show it we remind others that they have feelings that they are trying so hard not to feel.

To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living. (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly)

 

We need to bring back (and sometimes revive) our emotional bodies. It is not only ok to feel, it is essential. If we are to find our true selves, it is not our mind but our feelings that will guide the way, if we are to find our way to the divine source it is our deep longings and desires that will open the gates and find the paths.

Your feelings are always true, when you feel anger, you are angry. Sometimes you are all confused and deceived by your mind as to why and sometimes your mind serves you the most incredible stories and reasons, but whatever the reason it does not change the fact that you are angry. Acknowledge the anger, move the energy and let it pass and it will clear a path in your emotional body that will make way for other feelings like joy, pleasure and bliss.

Renowned shame and vulnerability scholar Brené Brown tells us that we cannot mute emotions selectively. If you suppress anger, anxiety and pain you also limit your ability to feel joy, pleasure and bliss.

Do you want more joy in your life? Do you want more pleasure and bliss? Then you must allow yourself to feel and feel deeply. There is a treasure hidden there in your heart, your heart already knows and loves both yourself and the divine. It is there in the tangle of feelings and emotions that you will find the door to the divine source. There is a reason we keep saying that we are to invite Jesus into our hearts …. that is where the truth lives.

We are not going to get anywhere until we start trusting what is within us. You are afraid and doubt what lies deep within you, but what lies deep within you is your salvation and the salvation of the world. (Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy)

So let us start listening to our feelings, honour and acknowledge them, they are not dangerous or unreliable, your heart will not lead you astray but rather follow your heart and you will finally find your way home where your true self and the divine are waiting with open arms to greet you.

Shameless!

Brene-Brown-Quote-1A while ago I wrote about the importance of self love and how self love is the first step to loving others since you can only love others as much as you love yourself. Now we know we should love ourselves, and we hopefully feel that it is ok to love oneself. The question then becomes why don’t we love ourselves.

The answer nine times out of ten is shame!

What is shame

Shame is a negative, painful, social emotion that “…results from comparison of the self’s action with the self’s standards…”.[1] Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. … The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning “to cover”; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Nineteenth century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat (associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin) occurring in intense shame.

So shame is the act of covering up, hiding your true self based on the (often false) assumption that there is something wrong with you. The definition bases this covering up on the comparison of ones actions held up against ones standards, these standards come from our surrounding culture. If we would let go of the societal norm, there simply would be no shame.

IN Genesis we are told that the first humans had no shame. So from a biblical perspective, shamelessness is our origin and intended way of being.

And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2.25 NRSV)

The first thing that happens when introduced to the duality of good and evil is that the first humans cover up display shame. It is not that nudity suddenly became bad or forbidden but with the possibility of good AND evil comes the comparison and the judgement.

And so even today shame is linked very closely to our bodies, we have all sorts of hangups and problems when it comes to our own bodies and our body image. We live in a world where it is not only normal but also mandated that we cover up and not show our bodies. Shame is built into our entire way of being.

There are so many levels and types of shame but this is surely where it starts. Remember when you where a child when you would run around in nothing but your birthday suit and not have a care in the world. Not caring who saw you or what they where thinking about you? When did this change? What was it that made you suddenly feel the need to cover up and hide? Many of us have deep shaming stories of grown ups shaming us for our nakedness and freedom. And if not the nakedness then it all came with the discovering of our sexuality, whether as a toddler or a teenager, as soon as the body starts displaying signs of sexual awakening or maturity we all cover up in shame. Society at large condemns our sexuality at an early age. We are told directly or indirectly that it is not ok to be sexual and or to in any way display or talk about sexual desire.

My girls have been taught (not by their parents) that it is disgusting to be sexy! To the extent that they have physical reactions to songs with the word sexy in the lyrics.

We are told that people who get naked or show skin are shameless and bad people. It is all interconnected, our view of nudity, our own body image, our sexuality and the shame we carry around it. If someone does not display the proper amount of shame we are quick to shame them with words like slut, man-whore, player, gigolo, the list goes on and on.

It is funny how we all think that people should carry a certain level of shame and at the same time we often do not want to admit our own shame. We cover up our shame. We are ashamed to be ashamed because instinctively we also know that shame is not a good thing.

People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the folks who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience. And while it feels as if shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human. (Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection)

So we carry shame in all these areas of our lives where we cover up who we are with clothes, masks and roles we play in order to fit in and please others. This is the primary job of the EGO and this is also why the EGO employs the inner critic, or the accuser to make sure we stay in line stay within the box and keep carrying our shame. Now Let’s just get this completely straight the biblical name for the accuser is shaitan or as we know him Satan. Just as the divine voice is found within the destructive voice of the accuser also comes from within. We need to understand that this voice telling us we are no good is not the spirit of love, it is not our conscience, it is a gremlin, it is the accuser, the shaitan most often our EGO take this role to protect us from public embarrassment and to keep us streamlined and fitting in with the collective as this is the job of the EGO.

The difference between shame and guilt

So should we just do whatever we want and not care one iota what others think or feel, not caring when we hurt someone else or take advantage? Well no, that is not what I am saying. We need to remember Paul’s sober words “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. ” (1 Cor 10:23 NRSV)

So yes you can do anything you want, but be responsible and know that everything will not be good for you. So when I do something and I realise it wasn’t good for me, should I not feel shame? NO!

This is where we need to remember the distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is “I did something bad”, shame is “I am bad”. Guilt is the recognition that I have taken an action that was not beneficial and guilt gives the energy and impetus to do right, to come clean and confess what went wrong and then do right. Shame on the other hand is the voice that tells you that you are a bad person bevcause you did this bad thing, shame will steal your energy and tell you to cover it up, to hide it and not let anyone know how bad you are.

So guilt is a positive emotion and it creates healing and positive results like healing, reconciliation and restitution. Guilt is owning your crap and taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Guilt is saying “I did it!”.

Shame is a destructive emotion that will drain you, it will create separation between you and your true self, you and god and you and others.

The DNA of shame

Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment. When something shaming happens and we keep it locked up, it festers and grows. It consumes us. We need to share our experience. Shame happens between people, and it heals between people. If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story. (Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection)

So we are all agreed shame is not healthy and it is something that keeps us from loving ourselves and therefore loving others. Conversely shame also creates masks and roles which prevents us from feeling loved. It creates separation and division. In its ugliest forms it creates self-hatred and harsh judgement and hatred towards others.

Confession then, is the road to healing, openness, vulnerability and acceptance is the antidote to shame. To become more loving and to become more true, to become closer to our true selves and thereby closer to the divine we need to repent. To turn away from this worlds thinking and dive into divine thinking. To do this we need some radical strategies.

Radical is a word derived from the latin term radix which means root, so radical actions means to go to the roots or in this case to your root, core or centre. If the divine is present in our core at the deepest and truest level of our selves then to the deep roots we must go.

Radical honesty

To achieve this we need some truth. We must start with being totally and brutally honest with ourselves. Say it like it is, not in a harsh unkind way but softly with love. Acknowledge all the ways that you are, all the little things and the big things. And then in your communication to others apply the same principle. Speak truth, name the feeling you feel, speak the emotion, put words to the thought.

Just remember that will radical honesty means to always be completely and blunt,y honest, it does not mean share everything all the time. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story, carefully choose the people you are willing to get vulnerable and emotionally naked with as you would choose carefully who you get physically naked with. Do not hold back out of fear or shame but as a way of caring deeply for yourself. Only share yourself fully with those who accept you fully.

Radical acceptance

The next step is grace, acceptance. Once you are honestly looking at yourself and acknowledging all that you are. Then you can start accepting where you are. This is not condoning or saying that all is good. It is simply accepting what is. No judgement.

A very important part of radical acceptance is to acknowledge and accept your feelings as an important and true part of yourself.  Our feelings carry with them messages from deep within ourselves or important warnings about what our EGO’s are up to. It is important to accept these messages and to allow our feelings to pass through us cleaning out the channels and making room for greater feelings and experiences.

Once you start accepting yourself, you can let it extend to your surroundings, your circumstances, the people around you.

The important thing to realise here is that you can only transcend what you first accept. Whatever behaviour or egoic state you deny is not changeable (what you resist persists) only what you accept to be true about yourself is possible to change. But it is not enough just to admit that it is there (truth/honesty) we must also accept this as a fact without judgement. When we judge something in ourselves we often mistake the action or personality trait with our person and slip into shame. Accepting it is owning it whatever it is. Yes I am hairy, I am loosing my hair, I am afraid, I like brunettes, I can\t hit a note to save my life, etc. etc. The act of accepting something of oneself often allows us to realise that our aversion to this thing is based on others perception or societal norms and not our own idea of what is right for us or not.

Not only does accepting what is allow us to let go of tremendous amounts of shame it will also give us peace of mind as we no longer struggle with fighting against what is.

Radical action/repentance

So with radical honesty and radical acceptance we put ourselves into position of radical action. Once we have truly admitted and accepted ourselves we gain an objective view of ourselves and our surroundings this is the first step of what we in the church call repentance. The second step is action. So we look at ourselves and our lives and realise this is not who I truly am, this is not my true self and then we have the possibility to shed our coverings (whether it is behaviour or personality trait, habits or belongings) and become shameless/uncovered or just becoming our true selves.

In practical terms, metanoia means to “change the way we use our minds”—to think beyond the normal limits of the way we have been taught to reason. It implies that we haven’t been using our minds correctly. (Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy)

Richard Rohr puts this another way: “We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living, we live ourselves into a new way of thinking”

Taking radical action is to act according to what is and not what is expected, it is to act based on the guidance of the divine voice inside of you instead of the dogmatic teaching of your church, pastor, yoga studio, guru, counsellor or friends. It means acting out from your deepest and truest self as opposed to acting out of your EGO or out of the expectations of others and our desire to fit in.

 

Radical love

When we are able to look at ourselves and our reality with total honesty, when we are able to accept that reality without judgement and when we are able to take radical action from the deep place of our true self where we are really one, with the divine and the other, then we are able to love ourselves fully without exception and hesitation, without holding back this will also enable us to love everyone around us with this same radical, divine love.

 

Radical love, I contend, is a love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries, whether they are boundaries that separate us from other people, that separate us from preconceived notions of sexuality and gender identity, or that separate us from God…. (Patrik S. Cheng, Radical Love)

This is the love at the source of all things the agape that is god.

Christian theology is ultimately about radical love. It affirms the impossibly queer truth that God is love, that God’s very self is an internal community of love, that God’s love spilled forth in the act of creation, that God became human out of God’s love for humanity, and that God continues to guide us back toward the love from whence we came. Christian theology promises us that nothing—not hardship, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not peril, not the sword, not death, not life, not angels, not rulers, not things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, not depth, nor anything else in creation—can ever separate us from the love of God. There is no love that is more radical than that… (Patrik S. Cheng, Radical Love)

When we live from this deep and true place in ourselves, honestly accepting, owning  and acting on what really is. Then  we live without masks, without hiding, without pretending. Living from our deepest dreams and desires unfiltered by dogma, religion, peer pressure, self repression, self censorship and  societal norms. This is what it means to be true and to be truly shameless.

There is no us and them

imageSomeone once told me that all dichotomies are false dichotomies. And maybe this is the most sinister but also the most widespread of them all. The very idea that there is us and them, the idea that we are somehow different *better” that them, whomever they are.

In what may have been one of the most important books I read this year, Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland, Christena lifts up the dangers of group-think and how we form our identity and belonging based on mutual disdain for them. What really got me was how deeply this is programmed into our lazy brains that work very hard indeed not to work at all. Categorising and labeling people and groups so that we don\t have to take on the hard task of staying open and fluid.

If we could just see on a personal level how we project both the good and bad onto everyone we meet then maybe we could see how we are prone to the same dynamics ona communal level. If we could start by erasing the I and you difference maybe we could start blurring the us and them lines. Most importantly if we could gain clarity and see how we project our own shadow (the parts of us that we are unaware of, often the scary parts) onto other people so that the evil we see in them is really the evil we are capable of ourselves. If we can, like Peter Rollins often have said, choose a level of communication where we can see that maybe we are the monster, then I think we can finally be freed of the dichotomy of us and them.

In the Enneagram the holy truth of the type eight is, we are all one! If we could only take this truth to heart and see that we are all members of the same body, parts of the same organism; If we could see that Ubuntu is not just about our little tribe but includes the entire creation, the entire manifestation of the divine. This I think is the theology of the trinity, the ultimate union and perichoresis where the many are all one.

Jesus message was a singular message of love. Love the other, and what better way of loving them, than including them in us and stating there is no us and them, there is only us. To be known, recognised, seen, heard and accepted is to be loved. and Love is the way of Jesus. Judgement on the other hand is the way of the accuser, the way of the shaitan.

Didaché states that there are two roads, one road leads to life and the other road leads to death. I deeply believe this. We can choose to live a life where we feel more alive with each step, where each desicion leads to more love, more joy, greater freedom. There is also a way of life that makes us feel like we are dying inside, where each step leads to us feeling less free, less alive, contracted and small.

Which way will you chose today?

My take on reality is this: There is no us and them, there is only I and us. Either I step upp and recognise that we are all one or I stay deep in my ego and while I may think that I am part of a small exclusive tribe all that has happened is that I have isolated myself in a very small and contracted ego-I and I live in the illusion that I am an island. An island (sometimes grouped with other contracted islands) isolated from the community of this creation. To open up and join the dance, that is the way of love, the way of Jesus.

Sex is not filthy

wpid-Photo-20-maj-2012-1053.jpgIT’S TRUE!!

Not even when it’s really good! Not even when it’s long or loud, wet and rowdy. Sex is not even filthy when it is public or outside or taped. Sex is not filthy when it is between two men or two women. It is not filthy no matter what clothes we dress up in or not.

Sex is sacred

We need to remember this. our sexuality is agift from the divine source. It is sacred, it is a sacrament, it truly is. The word sacrament comes from the latin translation of Pauls letter to Collosi in the first chapter where Paul talks about a mystery, a secret. The word in latin is sacramentum it means mystery.

Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a girl. (Prov 30.18-19 NRSV)

This describes it well, a mystery, things I don’t fully understand, things that are to wonderful to be properly described; The eagle, the snake, a sailing ship and sex. All sacred, none filthy (no matter how you feel about snakes).

Sex is an outer manifestation of ur inner longing. Our inner longing, our deepest desire is to merge, to unite, to manifest the truth that we are all one, with each other and one with the divine source.

Rabbi Akkiba is supposed to have said that: All the days of eternity are not worth the day the song of Solomon was included in the scriptures, for all the scriptures are holy, but the song of songs is the holy of holies. This about the book in the bible that writes unashamedly and explicitly about the erotic, sexual union of man and woman.

In the song the woman cries out: “Wake up, North Wind, get moving, South Wind! Breathe on my garden, fill the air with spice fragrance. Oh, let my lover enter his garden! Yes, let him eat the fine, ripe fruits.” (‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬ MSG) And the man responds later: “You are tall and supple, like the palm tree, and your full breasts are like sweet clusters of dates. I say, “I’m going to climb that palm tree! I’m going to caress its fruit!” Oh yes! Your breasts will be clusters of sweet fruit to me, Your breath clean and cool like fresh mint, your tongue and lips like the best wine.” (‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭7‬:‭8-9‬ MSG)

What about pornography?

So if sex is not filthy, what about pornography then? Is it also sacred? No, not generally. But pornography does not make sex filthy anymore than beating somebody over the head with the Mona Lisa makes art violent. Pornography often pictures merging without union, it is the longing without the fullfilment, because however much the porn industry wants us to believe it orgasm or ejaculation is not the fullfillment of our desire, it is the union; It is two souls merging at a spiritual and energetical level, it is when the boundaries between our bodies blurr and we no longer know where I end and the other begins. If we think that sex is only carnal we are just missing the point.

Pornography most often missuse or abuse sex, but that does not make sex bad. Pornography contains a mechanical, empty, loveless, commercial version of sex. It is like doing church without spirit and love. Singing worship whithout the words resonating in your heart. It becomes a lifeless puppet theater, a shadow of something real.

Why should the devil have all the good sex?

William Booth said: “Why should the devil have all the good music”, and I want to use this on sexuality (regardless of what you believe about the devil). Not that the “Devil” has all the good sex, I simply don’t think this is true, what is true however is that we as Christians (It may be true of other religions as well, but I am a Christian and this is my path, so it is the only one I can speak from) have generally given up on good sex. Oh sure we say that we are doing it, we say that we think it is a gift from god, but then we draw the curtains, pull down the blinds, shut the lights and fumble aout in the dark. We don’t practice to get better, we don’t study sex, we do not teach our children about their bodies, we don’t teach our teenagers and young adults good sex (we tell them to stay away from it until that magical day when they suddenly should have mastery over it).

It is time for us to reclaim the divine Eros. It is time for us as Christians, as humans to take back this sacrament and treat it as such, as a mystery as something that is sacred and holy.

Making love

It is time for us to realise that god is love and love making is the act of manifesting god in our present moment. To outwardly manifest this inner grace, this inner longing and desire to unite and merge. Instead of seeing our sexuality as something shameful and inconvenient, instead of viewing sex and eorticism as unclean and filthy we need to celebrate it as a sacred part of life, a beautiful gift. We need to also write about it, talk about it, sing about it, simply celebrate the beauty of it.

We need to invite Eros back into the church! God is love, this means god is agape, storge, phileo and eros. As long as we lock eros in the basement and pretend she does not exist we do not get the fullness of the divine.

Falling upwards or sin is not that bad

sinSo this week we are talking about sin. It doesn’t happen a lot around here. I abhor the notion of sin, not because of what it means but because of the cultural baggage that we have attached to the idea.

Let me just say outright that the whole concept of a catalogue of sin, certain actions being in themselves sinful, is a very unhelpful way of thinking about sin.

Sin in the scriptures

In the holy texts there is no one word for sin! This is important. We believe that sin is a single thing. But reading the New Testament we find 10 different words that derive into 33 different notions of sin.

One means to refuse to listen to the prompting of the divine. One means to fall when one should have stood up. One means to not arrive with full measure. One means to miss the mark.

Missing the mark

The most important or at least the most frequently used word for sin in the new testament is hamartia which means to miss the mark. This word is used 147 times in the books of the New Testament. The word is what would be used at an archery competition for a shot that didn’t hit the bulls eye in the middle of the target. So this tells us that the New Testament idea of sin is almost but not quite, it’s close but no cigar, it’s simply put ‘not perfect’.

Seen from this perspective, sin, is just all the attempts before we get it right. It is the stepping stones towards success, it’s every dropped ball as I learn to juggle. It is every misstep on the way towards the ultimate goal.

What then is the goal?

See that is the ultimate question, isn’t it. If sin (and this seems to be a major focus in church these days) is missing the goal, what then is the goal? Jesus seems to summarise the goal by quoting the Shema, Love the lord your god with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself. In the light of this the goal is love. From the perspective of the perennial tradition, the goal is to be reunited with the divine. In my eyes tees two perspectives focus into a single goal, unity with god, immersed in love or maybe being divine love.

Sin shows us the way!

So from this perspective, missing the mark, falling when one should have been standing or showing up without full measure, sin is simply the indicator of how far from hitting the mark we are; showing us when and where to keep standing; showing us when we are holding back and not being ourselves fully.

Like Paul says about the law, it only shows us that we ‘are not there yet’. Sin then simply is life’s feedback, it is the ego popping up saying: ‘Hey, I am still here’. It is simply the absence of divine love in our thoughts and actions.

 

Shame or guilt?

If sin is simply how far we are from perfect then it’s not something we should beat ourselves up about. Here is where a healthy view on guilt and shame is very helpful.

To be guilty is to own your thoughts and actions. It is to say, Yes! It was me I did that, or I thought that. Guilt shouldn’t have to carry any enmotion with it. You can also be guilty of good things. Yes, I did that, I did the dishes, I am guilty! Guilt is the healthy confession to oneself and to others, it is the owning of ones thoughts and actions.

Shame on the other hand is a diabolical feeling. Instead of acknowledging an action or a thought and owning it, shame morphs into self hatred with: I did it, I am an awful and disgusting person, I understand that you want nothing to do with me.

If there is such a person as the devil, then shame is the only weapon that the devil ever had. The deception of shame is to transform guilt (owning the action or thought) into self hatred and self abasement, thus creating self made barriers between oneself and love.

So we need to let go of shame and let self awareness and self critique show us how we have missed the mark, not fully been our true selves, and then autocorrect, do over and do better.

Falling upwards

When we can simply observe our daily shortcomings own them and learn from them, they become the stepping stones towards wholeness (holiness). Therefore it becomes evident that the one that falls often and gets up again, grows much. And so step by misstep we fall upwards towards wholeness and divine love!

Science is not secular

machinery-of-the-stars-2We live in a secular society, which for most people means separation of church and state. We have this idea that church simply should not be political or involve itself in matters of state. In the same way we have this notion that church has nothing to do with science and that science have nothing to do with church. Christians in most peoples minds are a backwards people not interested in or even working against science.

The word secular comes from latin seculare which means temporal as opposed to eternal. So originally secular means everything inside the time and space continuum, the Christian religion was supposed to deal with things eternal, that is, things outside time and space.

As above so below

What we are finding though, is that the temporal that which is bound to cycles of birth, ripening, wilting, dying and rebirthing is the way of the eternal. Jesus, who is our image of all things eternal, was born, matured, died and ressurected. So we are finding that this earthly or temporal cycle is the way of things eternal. We are finding as we are gazing into the heavens with better and better telescopes that what we see out there is the same thing we see in our better and better microspcopes. With the advent of quantum physics we are learning that the study of our world is the study of the eternal.

The theopoesis of science

The finer detail science tries to paint the more the language of the scientist starts to sound like the language of the theologian, it is riddled with metaphors and poetic language. This because language is not adequate to express the eternal, no language, not even mathematics.

FlammarionWoodcutScience, while studying things temporal has always uncovered things eternal, science has never been secular in the sense of separation (although many scientists have tried). Science was from the very beginning the art of discovering god through studying the creation. Since “the enlightenment” science has tried to break up with religion with varying degree of success. Like disgrunted lovers, science and religion have wrestled and fought, ignored each other, engaged in heated arguments only to fall back in each others arms. Because the study of god’s creation will always lead to the discovery of the immanent divine presence.

Science is not secular

So here we are, try as we might to make clear distinction between disciplines, the lines will always be blurred because you can never analyse a pice of art without at some point take into account the artist. You can never truly digest a poem without picking up the resonance of the poet. You may do so unknowingly, but the true scientist will never stop at unconscious knowing but will always relentlessly push deeper into truth, into reality and at the very core of reality at the very center of truth, there rests the divine source, the source of love.

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.

 

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!

Women are not inferior

Shulamite BrideThe title should be enough, that should be the end of discussion. However, since we are prone to get stuck in patterns based on fragmented readings of scripture we have to go deeper than just this statement. We have gotten stuck on a handful of bible verses about submission and male dominance instead of letting the grand narrative and the foundational truths of the sacred text and of course the divine voice of unconditional love set us straight.

Let´s start from the beginning….

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

What in the world does this have to do with women and submission, you ask? I am glad you asked. Our worldview can often be shaped by our view of god. If our image of god is a male one then it becomes easy to fall into the trap of patriarchy and misogyny (although, one would think that at this day and age that still would not happen).

This verse has been posited as one of the first verses that contain an image of the trinity. We have god the consciousness, the thought, the idea of the universe. We have the spirit, gods creative power, hovering over the waters and then finally we have the word a fusion of the two, a thought spoken, made manifest and carried out by the profound power of spirit.

In eastern traditions male is often depicted as consciousness, awareness, direction and purpose while female is portraid as life, power, creativity. All things are then created in the high voltage polarity between these two, equal but opposite forces. and it seems they are present i genesis too, if we can see god as equally male and female and earthlings (adama) as equal image bearers of different aspects of the divine, then I think we have come along way.

In genesis two it seems all goes down the drain as we read the familiar story of eve created from a rib and designated the role of helper. Our minds quickly form the image of a secretary, making coffee pots and answering phones (Mad Men?). What we often miss is the fact that the word ezer (helper) is, except for this instance, almost exclusively used about god and the meaning is more in line with saviour than secretary. In fact the word is often used to describe the liberating and protective power of god like for example in Deutoronomy 33.26, 29.

So if ezer means power maybe we should read the second creation story as god creating a power corresponding to the male power. This reading brings the second creation story back in line with the egalitarian stanza in the creation song of genesis one where humans are created equal in god's image as both men and women.

Patriarchal and misogynistic societies have always tried to hijack scripture and never more so than the famous Eshet Chayil poem (Prov 31) which has been reduced to a todo list for women in servitude, when it was meant as a praise song to women. In fact, many Jewish scholars argue that Prov 31 is an allegorical poem where jewish women are representing the Shekina (glory) of god, the Shabat, the Torah and the human soul. Which makes the poem a tribute to womanhood, in fact Racheld Held Evans claims that whenever a woman in a Jewish household does anything in service to the family the men would exclaim ESHET CHAYIL! as a praise of her valour.

The tragic scapegoating that happens in Gen 3 is unfortunately still going on.

“The woman you gave me, made me ….”

The punishment in Gen 3 is that the woman should submit to the man and her desire should be for her husband. Although we see a gentle correction balancing the scales in the Song of Songs where the shulamite woman exclaims “I belong to my beloved and his desire is for me” just before the powerful woman asserts “my garden is my own and I give it to whomever I choose”

I think it is extremely interesting that in spite of some of the latter writings of the early church (like 1 and 2 Timothy) there have been found contemporary parchments like this recent one that speaks of jesus high view of women.

FRONT

papyrus_front_text_500-1

All of Jesus' interactions with women attest to this sincere respect and love that honours the feminine and never demands submission. The first apostles (apostle meaning: witness of the resurrection) where women. And Junia was recorded by Paul to be the best of them all.

I could go on but I think the trajectory is clear from the very beginning of genesis until the last pages of revelation and especially through the ministry of jesus that as far as god is concerned, not only are women not inferior, rather, every woman is a powerful image bearer of god's unique power, glory and beauty!

So whatever we might glean from scriptures about the role of women, inferiority never was a part of the picture.

ESHET CHAYIL!

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: