“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” -Irenaeus  

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Irenaeus (pronounced ear-a-NAY-us) was probably born around 125. He died around 202. So why am I writing about him today? Well it is his day (called Saint Day) on our church Kalendar. I pick him to write about because he was the first person to write and preached against the first heresies of the Christian church. His defense of the faith is a true link between the apostolic church and later times and also an important link between Eastern and Western Christianity.

In his principal work “Proof of the Apostolic Preaching” he referred to the earth as a sphere. Scholars believe that this may be the first time that the earth was called a sphere. (In western literature)

Gnostics where Docetists (pronounced do-SEE-tists) from the Greek word meaning, “to seem”, they taught that Christ did not really have a body, but only seemed to have one. Now you see the problem with the Gnostics. There is one other problem with their teachings. They had a lot of secrets that only a few were allowed to have. They were a secret society. Not very Christian, yet they said they were.

Irenaeus was the first to use the word Catholic in writing to mean the whole church, and the church was for everyone. He contrasted Christianity with Judaism, in that the task of Judaism was to preserve the knowledge of the one God by establishing a solid national base, but the task of Christianity was to set out from that base and preach the Truth to all nations.[1] He answered the Gnostic’s by pointing out their claim to have a message only for the few with the right aptitudes and temperaments, whereas the Christian Gospel was to be proclaimed to all everywhere.

The next time you hear a TV preacher trying to drive a wedge between Paul and the original Apostles remember Irenaeus. Irenaeus was very clear that Paul was teaching the Gospel of the original Apostles. Irenaeus was a powerful  voice then as he is today. Irenaeus is a voice from the past that is preaching inclusiveness. The church is for everyone! Christian’s today fight to keep the church inclusive, as did Irenaeus. If you are one of those who are fighting for inclusiveness then I would suggest Irenaeus as your patron saint.

 

 

[1] Missionstclare.com

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Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

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On my drive home from a full afternoon I was thinking about the grace of God. There is a divine bias for the poor and simple. It seems to me that God saved the best for those who do not have much, and don’t seem to fit in. Does that mean that God has forgot about the rest of us? Or is it because all human kind is small in Gods eyes. In the end, His bias is for all of us. It is our fault that we think too highly of ourselves and allow the world to delude us into thinking we are better than we are. Or in my case each daily step forces me to reflect on the path I am on. How do I feel about being set aside or chosen for the work of God? Are these chores forming me into the person that will embrace the Icon of the serving church? Will my being set aside effect my thinking about who and what I am becoming? These are the questions that spun in my head after my tutoring session.

I have not thought much about a minute-by-minute account of the afternoon. Instead the persons and events are like colors. Some yellow others pink and then others green.  Youth  straining forward to learning and comprehend the world, and adults listening with their hearts. I have always known that it is not so much what I teach as the quality of the human-to-human contact.

The greeting of the staff and other volunteers was warm and inviting. If I needed anything they were there to help. My young charge for the afternoon session was eager to get started. He was reading about buildings of the world.

As he read we talked and related what was being read to the world. As he read I asked questions about color and shapes. Form became something he started to relate to. Soon he was working with concepts of shape and form. Domes and stadiums were his new delight. The coliseum and then e-co friendly stadium in Australia all made him smile.

After our reading session we just sat. Thinking about how a dome was built in ancient times. We talked a little about the construction of the ancient dome. I ask him if he knew about very large cranes. Yes he has seen them in action. Then I asked if he could imagine four very large cranes lifting a very large dome in place over a building over 23 stories high.

I said, “I watched that happen on TV”.

We both smiled!

Who wrote what? And What did it say?

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For the last few weeks I have been writing to myself and reading with my feet in the sand. It has been a great break. “Who Wrote The Bible” by Richard Friedman was great and very easy read just made for the beach. I also re-read, “The Future of Faith” by Harvey Cox, his book is also an  easy read.

Each of these books were  a followup on the reading of “Convictions” by Marcus Borg. In each of theses books the question was asked in one-way or the other “Does what we believe make a difference”?

For the “Bible-believing Christians” who wrote the Bible and when it was written is very important. As Cox puts it “Fundamentalist view of the Bible as a ‘Paper Pope’ is a historical fact. Which brings up the infallibility of the Pope? In both cases it has been ruinous degrading faith into a kind of credulity. Both have made these concepts somewhat of a litmus test of whether one is a real Christian. Leaving no room for interfaith dialogue. I ask the question how much wiggle room is there in the dogma of the church and the movement of the Holy Spirit. If I would say that the Holy Spirit has guided me in the direction of Bible interpretation could I still be a Christian in either of these traditions? Does the church have the last say as to whom and how the Bible was written? Borg would have everyone interpret the Bible as metaphor from page one to the last page. Friedman sees the Scripture as both historical and metaphoric. Borg would say what is the difference if it happened or not, as long as the message is carried through the writing. So the stage was set in my mind and the players ran through my thoughts. Again I ask myself what do I believe and how fluid can my thinking be? Where does dogma end and faith take over or does faith depend on dogma? Does dogma influence the building of an imperial church? There is no doubt in my mind we live in an imperialist nation. It is unclear to me if the imperialist thinking of our time has influenced the church.  Full circle back to where I started last summers reading on liberation theology and its history and how Christianity is changing and why. As Harvey Cox pointed out in his book, “Christianity came into being in the midst of a cultural change”. I believe that Christianity will change in the decades to come and the new message will be the very oldest message  from the disciples and the early church. God will send a message that will turn our world upside down. What we value most will be worthless. “They will know us by our love” is my hope and prayer for the next few generations.

Compassion

This morning I was thinking about compassion as I read the blogs of my classmates. Marcus Borg has a great line in his book, “Convictions”; “A primary quality of a life deeply centered in God is growth in compassion”. That growth in compassion is what I see in the blog’s of my classmates as they work in their missions this summer.

 

As I understand compassion it is not just a feeling but action. Compassion is also feeling with and to suffer with. Micah proclaimed, “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”(6.8). Doing justice, being kind, and walking with God puts it in perspective for me. Centering in God and loving God is a lot more than just being kind. I am so thankful for those who go before me to show me the way. Thankful may not be the right word maybe gratitude is the better word. I understand gratitude as an ethical virtue as it has ethical effects.  Gratitude is a form of God centered thinking. Prayer does shape lives.

 

Is this a lost concept or do we just put it a different way?

 

 

There was an old man at Scetis, very austere of body, but not very clear in his thoughts. He went to see Abba John to ask him about forgetfulness. Having received a word from him, he returned to his cell and forgot what Abba John had said to him. He went off again to ask him and having heard the same word form him he returned with it. As he got near his cell, he forgot it again. This he did many times; he went there, but while he was returning he was overcome by forgetfulness. Later, meeting the old man he said to him, do you know, Abba, that I have forgotten again what you said to me? But I did not want to overburden you, so I did not come back. Abba John said to him, ‘Go and light a lamp’. He lit it. He said to him ‘Bring some more lamps and light them from the first’ He did so. Then Abba John said to the old man, ‘has that lamp suffered any loss form the fact that other lamps have been lit from it? He said, “No”. The old man continued, ‘so it is with John; even if the whole of Scetis came to see me, they would not separate me from the love of Christ. Consequently, whenever you want to come to me without hesitation. Thanks to the endurance of these two men, God took forgetfulness away from the old man. Such was the work of the monks of Scetis, they inspire fervor in those who are in the conflict and do violence to themselves to win others to do good. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

 

I am sure that we in modern time do not think in this manner. We do not encourage people to do harm to themselves in order to gain souls for God. But there are a few of us who think of ourselves as a candle for Christ. We sing that little song “This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine”. We make a big deal of passing the new light at Easter, and sing “The light of Christ”

 

With this light we do the work of inspiring fervor in others. We might not think of ourselves as being in a conflict, but we are. There are a hundreds of distractions that keep us from what is true and valuable. Now more than ever I have so many things going on at the same time. Time Competition is a modern form of conflict. Some would have us believe that it is the Devil that is at the bottom of it all. Some would have us believe that it is our own disbelief in God. I will leave the answer to this question up to you.

 

Then there is the din; you know the background noise, music at the shopping center, at the doctor’s office, in the car and all eating-places. I can’t take a walk in the neighborhood with out the din coming from TV’s and radios. No one has the same station so that I can have my din in stereo.

 

I have a din free zone at home. At first the room was set up this way for my radio station. But the real reason I needed some place to go and spend some time in quiet. Sure I have a radio station in this room and my study. In fact I have so much going on in this room even the room is a distraction. I do have a place that I can go and be in quite and it has become a heaven.

 

Remembering to encourage in the middle of the din is very hard work. People around me seem to want some encouragement as they deal with the pressures of modern life. I do my best to talk from that space I have made away form the din.

 

There is always hurt and reward with the Desert Fathers. The selections in today’s readings are from the first letter of Peter. Encouraging the early Christian community to not lose hope in the midst of their suffering. The theology of the Desert Fathers was that of Christians that lived to spread the word of God by action. Today we will hear a lot about prayer. We may even hear about prayer in action and also inaction. Prayers as breathing in and out, if you do hear about prayer today stop and listen with the ear of your heart. Prayer is a statement of love. Prayer values everyone for who they are and not by what they do or how productive they are.

Abba John said,” Who sold Joseph?” A brother replied saying, “It was his brethren”. The old man said to him, “No, it was his humility which sold him, because he could have said, “I am their brother” and have objected, but because he kept silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility, which set him up as chief in Egypt.