Tag Archives: transhistorical

The still points: Finding home in the midst of change

Things change. The world is a transient experience. We are lonely for home – someplace we can feel anchored, someplace certain, someplace where our roots feel secure and stable.

While we are meditating on that, someone plows into our pizzeria or we just hear about ten such things from the 24-hour news alarm. While we are trying to secure our place in the world as the church, our constant failure and dislocated relationships scare us and discourage us until we worry that our fragile connections will deteriorate and we will be alone again.

How do we deal with this lonely, rootless experience we have as humans? The main thing is our lifelong movement toward the goal of oneness with God. That pursuit causes deeper integration, a new instinct for being rejuvenated in solitude, and the capacity to pray. But I think there is even more. There are attitude shifts and decisions we make that provide us with “still points” where we feel secure in a world that keeps shifting. We need to find the “clefts in the rock” where we feel covered.

still point

How can we find these points and overcome the nagging rootlessness that often makes us so lonely? Here are four suggestions.

The still point of faith

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

When our faith is out of our minds and hearts and also into our bodies and habits, the symbols we use, the language we speak, and the time we share all provide thin places where we experience the security of the cleft, where we feel covered with God’s hand. They all lead to the great still point.

There is something beyond time and history, beyond what shifts in its impermanence. There is something that can’t be debunked by investigation or made obsolete by new discoveries. That something is a Someone. That Someone is known as we journey into the realm of faith, hope and selfless love. That journey in mind, heart and step will help dispel rootlessness if we persevere in it.  Our friends in recovery know this well, the first three steps of the twelve steps are all about facing rootlessness and coming home. #2 says: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. It takes working the steps to find the still point.

The still point of commitment

I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. – 3 John 1:3

Much of our rootlessness can be overcome by committing ourselves to certain people, values, things, and projects and then refusing to be unfaithful to those commitments. We need to give up on “hang loose.” Otherwise our lives end up characterized by infidelity, broken promises, broken words, cheap commitments, and hastily withdrawn loyalties – and acute loneliness.

Permanence adds a missing ingredient to the words love, friendship, promise and loyalty. It brings the element of timelessness. Teilhard de Jardin, the philosopher-scientist-Jesuit, spent much of his life frustrated with his church family. He was occasionally encouraged by his friends to abandon them. However, he would always dismiss the temptation with the simple statement: “I can never leave because I have given my word.” His commitment gave him a still point.

The still point of history

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. – Romans 11:17-18

I think it is great that we can swipe our cheeks and find out from what part of Africa our ancestors derived. The DNA science gives us a small sense of having roots. Maybe it is good that archaeologists become more clever every day and uncover the truth (or fiction) behind ancient texts. They help us feel like our faith has a secure foundation.

We all feel better when we stand within our tradition and know our history. The newest person who comes into our church or any church does better when they refuse to think their history with the group begins when they make their covenant. They are grafted into a long history and are supported by the roots. They are not losing themselves when they adopt certain traditions and add their energy and voice to steering the future. In a real sense they are transhistorical, alive in Christ wherever Jesus has been honored throughout history. That sense of history provides a still point.

The still point of community

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. – Ephesians 2:19-22

Finding home is more than finding a building, a city, or a country where we feel we belong. That’s just part of it. It is finding a heart or a community of hearts where we find enough safety and warmth to dare to be faithful and loving, to be true — like when Adam first saw Eve and said, “At last, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” That wasn’t just sexual attraction, that was comfort to his heart. He found in Eve what the rest of creation did not have for him.

We go through life needing to find that home. Jesus demonstrated how we find it when he was sitting with his disciples one day and his family came to the house looking for him. No doubt Jesus loved his mother and his family, but he did not immediately get up and go to them. Instead he said” Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters?” Pointing to those around him he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” He is not disrespecting his mother, he’s just teaching us that home is deeper than blood. Faith makes a family than transcends all the ancestries that divide us.

One of the great scandals of being a Jesus follower is contained in that moment. Jesus respects his origin as a man, but he is king of country that transcends and unites all other identities. Many people would fight even the hint that their personal identity does not make them who they are and should be defended at all costs. Yet Jesus persists in knitting together a new family sharing a renewed blood, heart to heart, bone of bone. In another incident a woman shouted out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus answered, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”  Yes I had a wonderful mother, but I am more than my biology.

Our community in Christ is bound together by something beyond blood, ethnicity and geography and will outlive them all. Our new home in faith is an answer to the loneliness, it is the great still point, the shelter from the storm, the cleft in the rock, that can root out our rootlessness.

Already today I have confronted my weakness, been in an argument, heard about a car disaster, read a distraught email, found myself confused by problems in various structures, lost something, and the Facebook news reported that Texas A&M had also scheduled a white supremacist rally for next month. It is 9:00 am! I am going to reread this post and see if I can’t find that still point I long to live in, sensing God’s sustaining glory in the cleft of the rock.

Why we are Catholics and why we are not

What is a better term for “multidenominational?” The other night at our quarterly Doing Theology a few of us searched for a good word to describe how we identify with the genius of every stream in the broad river of Christianity, even the Catholics.

My journey into Christianity made me very fond of Catholics. For instance, I think of Francis of Assisi (who we celebrated yesterday) as one of my first mentors. I was a history major in college. While I was exploring history I ran into Francis. It was great to find him. He cut through the nonsense of the Church and lived with Jesus. He was just what I needed, since I almost left Jesus because of the Church’s nonsense, especially the Catholic part. I was so poor in college, I never missed the free movies they showed. One night, someone showed Brother Sun Sister Moon, which is all about Francis of Assisi and his friends. Watching his rebellion against war and self-serving authority and seeing his utter obedience to joy and Jesus helped seal my deal with God. I almost became a Franciscan and have been an almost-Franciscan ever since.

As a result, I am a Francis-kind of Catholic. Even through I think the rules say I don’t qualify, whenever the priest offers me communion, I take it like I am a member of the tribe. I figure I am more of a Catholic than a catechized fifth grader and, besides, I don’t care about most of the laws any more than most of the Catholics I know. So I’ve done a lot of travelling with the Catholic Church over the years. I even went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostella, which is one of the most Catholic things a person can do.

So why aren’t I and why aren’t we Catholics?

Continue reading Why we are Catholics and why we are not

Resist the lies: Jesus is trans-everything

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:9-11.

A clause of one of our proverbs says that “God is transnational, transcultural, even transhistorical.” I think we half-believe it. The other half of us is stuck in the world’s definitions of people’s identities. We’re locked behind languages and nations, even though God is represented in all nations, and even though borders are facts of ideology and power, not facts of life in Christ. We are fascinated by race and whether we can show ourselves as multicultural in our PMs, but race has no biological basis and is a fiction, apart from the evil social fact of it. Most Americans think the present and future are better than the past, even though much of what was invented lately is likely to ruin us; for instance: video games, porn and whatever Rio+20 suffers over next week.

Divisions and labels are mostly just lies

old divisions are as big of lies and the newIn the few lines from the letter to the Colossians above, Paul gives a laundry list of the differences that divided up his congregations. For hundreds of years before the Roman Empire, Israel and the western Middle East had been dominated by the Greek dynasties that followed Alexander the Great. The “Jews” bitterly resented the “Greeks” and maintained a distinction from them, summed up in their mark of authenticity: male circumcision. A “barbarian” was anyone who was not educated in Roman ways. “Scythians” were a great Iranian-language group that dominated the plains from Siberia to the Crimea; they were the ultimate barbarians. 20-30% of the population of the Roman Empire were “slaves.” So Paul is saying: from the most local issues in the church between Greeks and Jews to the most far-flung and prevalent divisions in the world, Christ is the unifier. He delivers this revelation to the followers of Jesus: Christ is all and is in all.

The divisions are lies. We should not lie to each other, since we have taken off our old selves with their practices and have put on new selves, which are being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. New selves renewed in their knowledge of their creator no longer live under the lies of the old order that is now passing away.

But the fact that the old order is passing away does not stop people from coming into the church and asking us (and churches all over the world) to conform to the lies.

  • There is a “Russian” orthodox church that is the soul of Russian nationalism. The BIC are prospectively making a new division between Canadian and United States churches. It is not unusual for churches to feel obligated to bless the wars and other evils of their nation. The nations are lies.
  • The ways people organize into cultures is organic and often beautiful. One does not need to leave their culture or family to be a Christian. But people often think that their culture forms their identity, not the kingdom of God.  They do not feel at home in the church unless their culture is represented. We should not lie to one another.
  • The church is often late in doing so, but it often adopts the latest hubris of the latest “discoveries” from the science and philosophy of the day. These days we are fighting about “identity” and adopting the prevailing habits and new sentiments of postmodernism. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega; we don’t need to adapt to the latest lie.

What we should do is put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator. The Message paraphrase says it well:

“Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.

Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”