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Archive for the ‘Along the Journey’ Category

Housekeeping note: Due to a number of amazing and good life changes I am facing this month, I am slowing down the pace of my blogging. Until further notice, I will post every Monday here and every Thursday at Perichoretic Life. I hope to share more details soon, but I need to wait till later in the month when more things are finalized. For now, enjoy this piece from my “sacrament series”.

Ever since I wrote about “Sleep as Sacrament”, I have been thinking about what other natural sacraments we have in our lives. The one that stands out to me most immediately is music. Certainly, you could insert any favorite mode of art here, but for me that would be music. So using some of the same contours of thought as I did before, I want to explore that.

As with sleep, there is an upside and a downside.

Music at its height draws us into worship of the true God. This truth is poignant for me as I recently started attending a church that does the liturgy antiphonally. (i.e. The worship leader and the congregation sing responsively.) Along with the stained glass windows, bells, and sometimes even incense, I have come to appreciate how beautiful liturgical worship can be.

Music can also become idolatrous as evidenced by the extravagance of rock concerts, the business practices of the music industry, and the naming of shows like “American Idol”. Performers become proud and puffed up rather then humbled for service. Audiences are whipped into a frenzy with no outlet for more meaningful relationship.

As with most things, this ugly side does not exist on its own. It’s merely a distortion of the good, dependent on the good. We are called to redirect our attention, not just in church music, but all music which ultimately belongs to God. This does not mean that all music must mention God explicitly, but it should in some way glorify Him. (more…)

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“Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one.” –Father Brown (as written by G.K. Chesterton)

I’m writing this late at night even as I am starting to feel tired and weary. Sleep is definitely a good gift, but who would have thought to invest it with the deep, rich meaning Chesterton has ascribed it here.

Of course, his thoughts weren’t just plucked out of nowhere. The Bible has many good things to say about sleep. Here’s just a sampling from the Wisdom Books:

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” –Psalm 3:5

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” –Psalm 127:1-2

“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” –Ecclesiates 5:12 (more…)

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Discussions about faith often remind me of a piece by Barth early in his Dogmatics in Outline. Dogmatics in Outline is a small baby paperback in comparison to the voluminous Church Dogmatics. Here Barth follows the structure of the Apostle’s Creed where he begins by identifying three determinations of faith: trust, knowledge and confession. These are not “facets” mind you, but faith fully revealed and integrated in a perichoretic manner.

Whenever I teach about faith, I use Mary as a concrete example as reflected in Luke 1:26-56. Mary, quite literally, embodies faith through the Holy Spirit’s conception, the angel’s message, and her own song in response to her pregnancy.

As is typical of Barth in the Church Dogmatics, he begins each chapter with a short summary of what he is about to explain. I will start with each of those summaries here as I describe the three determinations of faith. Note that Barth appeals to freedom as a fundamental characteristic each time in a way that ties it all together. (He has often been called the “Theologian of Freedom”.) (more…)

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This article was first published on November 16, 2011 in the award-winning Comment Magazine. Check out their site!

I get it. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of New York City. When I was growing up in New Jersey, we resented the fact that a certain football team playing at the Meadowlands was called the “New York” Giants. Even now, I work in Albany, New York (a.k.a. Smallbany). Though the area boasts many good colleges in the area, the brightest graduates often seek the better-paying jobs down in “the City.”

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to draw talent into the non-profit world. We’re the “third sector”—as in, after public and private. How can a small nonprofit possibly compete with the benefits of a state job or the salary of a multi-national corporation?

So this week I picked up some reminders for struggling ministries, nonprofits, and businesses who are seeking to put together dynamic teams as I watched the movie Moneyball, based on journalist Michael Lewis’s book about Billy Beane, the general manager for baseball’s Oakland A’s. He finds himself defeated as he manages a small-budget team in the big world of Major League (read “New York Yankees”) Baseball. Brad Pitt brilliantly portrays the emotionally conflicted and often socially detached Billy. After losing the American League Championship to the Yankees, his team is “gutted” of all its best players. He is left to rebuild with less than one-fifth of the payroll of the large market teams. (more…)

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A hendiadys (hen-DAHY-uh-dis) is simply a grammatical construction where two words linked by a conjunction express a single complex idea; such as “sound and fury”. In fact, the word itself is a hendiadys as the literal Greek is “one through two”. There are many such constructions in the Bible, sometimes even incorporating a third word. Neither word is dissolved in the other, as the picture they provide is greater than the sum of its parts. Words themselves can form a community with a bigger vision for life.

Grace and Peace

It’s been said that some of Jesus’ best teachings were not told, as much as lived out. This real life dynamic exists in Paul’s classic salutation of “grace and peace”. Linguistically, it is not a hendiadys, because Paul takes the words from two different languages. At least initially, the phrase is not a stock expression in any culture. His reason for doing this was straightforward. As the early Christian Church grew rapidly, it quickly went from being a marginalized Jewish sect to a faith that crossed all cultural barriers. The common language for the Roman Empire at the time was Greek. The common Greek greeting was “charis” or “grace”. The common Hebrew greeting, of course, is “shalom” or “peace”.

The resulting idea was much like that of a hendiadys, but in ethnic terms. Paul’s greeting reflected that the Church was something much bigger than law abiding Jews on one side and pagan Greeks on the other. Paul now taught that they were all “one body in Jesus Christ.” In time this salutation would become Paul’s standard greeting. The dynamic is further intensified by the fact that both words have a passive and an active sense in how they benefit the individual and the community: (more…)

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So let me introduce you to Perichoretic Theosis!

Early Christians wrestled to find language that would describe their experience of the triune God working in Christ through the Spirit. Quite often they would chose a word with weak meaning and fill it, or create an entirely new word.

One such word creation was “perichoresis” which quite literally means “to dance around”. Early theologians wished to convey that the Father and the Son and the Spirit not only embrace each other; but also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, and yet also eternally one in the intimacy of their relationship.

So what contribution does “theosis” add to the mix?

Greek Orthodox Christians use the word “theosis” to describe our spiritual pilgrimage. From the moment of baptism, the goal is to continually draw nearer to God throughout our lives participating in the life of the Spirit. This process is also sometimes referred to as “deification” in which we seek to become more holy and more “Christ-like” within Jesus Christ. In fact the word Christian means “little Christ”. A well known quote by St. Athanasius reflecting this belief is, “God became man so that we might become gods.”

Faith thinking changes all of life. My goal in writing is to discuss how this same creative intimacy is at work in our theology and daily life. God in Christ through the Spirit calls us (vocation) to join this same dance in an effort to transform our thinking and our lives. His dynamic One-ness creates fresh integrity to be in relationship with Himself, to know ourselves truly, to be at peace with our neighbors, and to understand more of the universe we inhabit beyond what we can see.

These are my reflections with the help of other theologians and guides as part of a collective journey to find signs and parables which tell of Grace and Peace in a land largely obscured by shadows. These are deeper meditations with the goal of holiness.

Please sit with me and add your own reflections along the way.

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