Feeds:
Posts
Comments

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (NRSV)

I always think of this verse when a holiday rolls around. And I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a long time.

The holidays are a mixed bag. We all want to have as much fun as the next person, but many of us have at least one that rings hollow for us. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or a simple disconnect from the relevance of the day, we just don’t share the same “spirit” as “everyone else”. We may struggle with the expectations of others or just our own standard to achieve a certain level of cheer.

Rather than come across as self-righteous in contrast with someone else’s holiday joy or holiday blues… Rather than rain on someone else’s parade or pity party… I decided to wait to share my thoughts till Father’s Day which is, at best, the emptiest and sometimes saddest of holidays for me. I did not grow up knowing my father. I did not have any long-term stable father figure. But none of that is the point of this post, and yet I’m obviously preaching to myself as I write. Continue Reading »

I saw these insightful comments by Leonard Sweet (E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew Theological School in NJ) today on Facebook. Given the relevance to my blog’s name, I thought I would share them here:

Jesus does not show us the way to God so that we can be more like God. God does not want us to be more like God. That is what got us into trouble in the first place: wanting to be like God. We didn’t know our place, and respect the place where God put us. Our place is a human place . . . Jesus shows us the way to ourselves, to our humanity, to our authentic human status as the highest of all God’s creation, carrying within out being the very reflection of God’s being.

One of the most misunderstood quotes in Christian history is this one from St. Athanasius of Alexandria, which has been used umpteen times to explains the doctrine of “theosis:” “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.”

Athanasius did not mean by this that it is possible for created beings to become God, or even part of God, but through the power of the Holy Spirit breathing in us we can know what it means to be fully human and inhabit our creaturely status as the created image of God.

In other words, “theosis” is not “essence” or “being” language, but relational and participatory language. The Orthodox Study Bible provides a theological clarification to the “theosis” doctrine of “deification:”

“What deification is not: When the Church calls us to pursue godliness, to be more like God, this does not mean that human beings then become divine. We do not become like God in His nature. That would not only be heresy, it would be impossible. For we are human, always have been human, and always will be human. We cannot take on the nature of God.

“Theosis” means humans get to participate in the life and love of God, not ontologically but relationally. We aren’t mimicking what Jesus did, but actually living his resurrection life with him. Human beings are creatures who share the Creator’s life. This is what it mean to “become god” for Eastern orthodoxy, or what it means to “be perfect” for holiness theology.

Previously, I’ve discussed sleep and music as “natural sacraments”. In thinking about other areas of life that meet this criteria, it occurred to me that the Christian life as a whole is one. Obviously the life of faith should transform the individual, but here I am thinking more about the impact of Christian living on society as a whole. We are faith and food for a dying culture.

The Christian Life as a Gift

The Christian life by definition is one of sacrifice. Jesus gave himself for humanity and then calls each of us to take up our own cross. This does not mean that our sacrifice has any power for salvation on its own, but our sacrifice does share in the power of Christ and his resurrection. When we are willing to lay down our lives, our gift is matched and even multiplied for a greater return in the Kingdom of God.

The Christian Life as Knowledge

Inherent to belief in God is a connection with all knowledge. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. When we live with integrity, our connection to Him empowers our connection with all other aspects of Creation. This does not mean we have a special “science”, but that knowledge is better set into context to be understood as part of the whole body of knowledge. Continue Reading »

Return to Narnia

I’ve often referred to certain times in my life as “Narnia moments”. My first and clearest experience of this was my time in college. I don’t mean to say that I was in some kind of utopia; often far from it. To be in “Narnia” for me simply means that a significant shift has taken place in the world, great challenges lie ahead, and most importantly…God is present in an extraordinary way.

Much like college, I packed my car last weekend with as many personal items as I thought I might need in the weeks ahead and made the long journey from Troy, NY to Decatur, GA. The big announcement, if you haven’t heard already, is that I am taking on a new role as the Director of Communications for Columbia Theological Seminary. For me this is a return to Narnia. Though much like Lucy’s experience, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a different story from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

It started as my wife’s idea to move closer to some friends living near Atlanta. Earlier this year, it was announced that her best friend was pregnant which raised the urgency of the move. I believe the statement was something like, “You have till November to get this figured out.” Continue Reading »

Have you ever thought about what surprises God? Perhaps we take it for granted that God’s omniscience undercuts any possibility of catching God off guard. Still the Bible describes two instances where Jesus (fully God and fully man) is “surprised” or “amazed”. In Mark 6:5-7, it says:

[Jesus] was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith. (Good News version)

Then in both Matthew 8:9-11 and Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion tells Jesus not to come to his house to heal his servant, but appeals to Jesus’ authority and only “say the word”:

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.” (Good News version)

The obvious thing to note is that both instances are in regards to faith–either the great lack of it or the great exercise of it. Jesus seems to expect that he can heal at least some people wherever he goes, but that some active show of power is needed to help people along. Continue Reading »

Part of my job with ADG has involved writing memos and press releases in support of or in opposition to bills being considered by the State Legislature. So it didn’t surprise me, but it always amazes me, that bill descriptions have this section labeled, “Purpose or General Idea”.

I understand why you would want some quick summary of the bill. It certainly makes it easier for those of us communicating without knowledge of how to interpret the long and tortuous legal language. And perhaps I’m an idealist, but wouldn’t you expect laws to have more “purpose” than “general idea”? I mean, a lot of time and effort goes into passing one of these bills; not to mention that a new law may affect millions of people. Can you imagine trying to pass health care reform or starting a war in the Middle East based on just a general idea?

OK, perhaps those aren’t the best examples. Continue Reading »

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. Continue Reading »