Posts Tagged ‘Theosis’
[17MAY2012] Eastertide | Ascension Day
O Almighty God, whose blessed Son our savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abideth with his church on earth, even unto the end of the ages; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.” John 16:5-9
The Church celebrates the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ on this day. What that means may be recognized and interpreted in as many different ways as there are people who follow after Jesus… but I do know this; the Ascension of Jesus Christ is hugely, magnificently, overwhelmingly, significant to me and the current context of my life.
For the past few weeks, I have been examining my heart, my motive, my dreams, my understanding of Scripture, and the mission of Christ in my life. So I am not misunderstood, my faith hasn’t been in crisis, but I have been taking note at the odds by which my personal beliefs about the teachings of Jesus seem to diverge from the mainstream of Christian America. This has disturbed me and has been the source of my inner reflection and soul examination. You see, I believe that we, every Christ following believer, can live the life that Jesus lived while he walked the earth. I believe this because he said we could do it. Likewise, I also believe the teachings he espoused in the Beattitudes and The Sermon on the Mount are true and livable expectations for people who have determined to live a life of self-denial and Christ-likeness as they pursue the kingdom of God on this earth while waiting for the ultimate and glorious return of Jesus for the eternal kingdom. The conflict is this; while some people profess to believe these things likewise, there are few that I have met personally, who are intent on pursuing them. I realize this may sound critical and judgmental, and I apologize for that, but it has been my experience.
“We who have once for all cloned ourselves in Christ, and been made worthy to have him dwelling within us, may show everyone, if we choose, simply by the strict discipline of our life and without saying a word, the power of him who dwells in us.” John Chrysostom
This past week I had a break-through of sorts and realized that my discontent was founded in the sense that what I was seeing was true. I also realized that I could not allow the discontent to swell to discouragement. I resolved to continue the course that God has set my heart on; I will press on toward living the kingdom as full as I possibly can on this side of eternity. I will settle for nothing less than all that Jesus has promised. Those persons, believers they may be, who are misguided in their understanding of the promises of God (Galatians 3:12-21), I will pray for them. I will press on with the conviction God has placed in my heart.
Easter is Coming – What Do We Hunger and Thirst For?
The season of Lent to Easter is an active reminder to me of what my soul hungers and thirsts for, unbroken or untainted union and fellowship with the Godhead. As I reflect upon the death and resurrection of my Lord, I mourn over the brokenness of my own spirit. There is joy in my life, to be sure; however, my union with God through Christ is still impure and still wanting. I see the world around me in disarray. The changing cycles of the seasons: spring to summer—autumn to winter are reminders of the circle of life to death that I believe may have been unheard of before the Fall of Man. I am also reminded of the Revelation writing of John; “Nothing accursed will be found there any more… And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3, 5) when I am awakened each morning and I witness the dawn sun chasing away the darkness of night to remember this too is a sign the world (and I) are still broken. These thoughts remind me of how deep the brokenness of man truly is. Resurrection is the hope for the end all brokenness and this is my hunger.
I am joyful for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit indwelling; my mind has been renewed, my heart changed, and my sins forgiven. All these things are true, but the memories of my past still haunt me and my sins, while forgiven, still remain as scars that remind me of not only how far I once was from God, but how far I still am from him. I rejoice at my reconciliation with Messiah Jesus, but my rejoicing remains bittersweet. I wonder how it might have been for Adam, before his fellowship with the Godhead was broken. According to the Genesis account, Adam would have had no memories of sin… no knowledge of good and evil. The concept of corruption was nonexistent. Adam’s fellowship with God was untainted; allowing for unquestioned trust, love that was pure, and sacred union with the Trinity free from shadows of the false selves. I thirst for this union.
I realize the significance of Jesus’ atoning work for mankind; I receive the fruit of this work in my own life through the merciful grace of God. Daily are the wonders of this renewing force in the outworking of my life; even still there remains the tension between what is and what is yet to be. I hunger for resurrection. I thirst for untainted union with God. As Jesus prayed for us—for me—I long to be in glorious communion with Him as it was always meant to be even before time existed.
20 ”My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23 NIV)
I long for the Kingdom of God in full because I know when this comes, the memories of all sin will be forever erased and my union with Jesus finally whole and untainted. For now, I will continue to live between the clay and the glory…some days closer to the dirt from which I was made and some days closer to the glory that gave me life. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he pronounced blessing on those who are “poor in spirit” and those who are “pure in heart” that we recognize the liminality of our existence while we wait…realizing our brokenness, even though reconciled, and willing one thing: to be absolute and complete in our holy unity with You, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning and so shall it ever be; world without end. Amen.
[02DEC2011] God Has Come-Advent Week 1 Reflections
God Has Come
God has come. How has this changed our reality? For some people, Christians included, their paradigm has not changed much, but historically, physically, and spiritually… God Has Come.
Yesterday, while driving to complete some errands, I was cruising the radio stations and stumbled upon an “oldie” (I hate that term) station. There was a song I recognized from my youth by a group called the Human League, titled Human. As I listened to the song, the lyrics from the chorus began to taunt my spirit and I was suddenly reminded again of how deceptive and conflicting the messages of a world without God are to a people into whose lives God Has Come.
The chorus lyrics of Human go like this; “I’m only hu—man, of flesh and blood I’m made; I’m only hu—man, born to make mistakes…” This is the paradigm so many people live in…Christians included, and it is a lie. Sadly, it is a lie that many people have embraced so whole-heartedly it is the only reality they are willing to know. The Good News is this: God Has Come! So, when I hear the words “I’m only human…” from a song or from someone’s lips, I respond; “Really?” “Only human…?”
The Bible teaches us that mankind is the handwork of God created in His very image (Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:7), the very pinnacle of His creation. It is also written that every man and woman is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Really; I’m (we are) only human?
As I think about the Genesis story, I can only imagine what it must have been like. I imagine our omniscient God looking down at the lifeless dust that was the body of the first man He held in His hands… The thoughts of this soon-to-be most prized Creation betraying Him, but knowing in advance that He would redeem, reconcile, and restore that betrayal with His very life. This knowledge the impetus of this first-man creation; aware that He, GOD, would one day descend to live in the flesh He was now creating… Only Human? This lifeless dust, frail by our imaginations, would one day be the dwelling place of the Immortal Creator of all things… The God of the universe would one day inhabit a frame made of bones created from the dust of the earth that He also had created. The lungs into which He breathed spirit and life into would one day be the lungs that carried life-giving oxygen to His own heart and brain. And, we have the audacity to refer to ourselves as “only human… I’m only flesh and blood.”
Now, I need to say there are some balancing statements I should make, but the truth is this: if we are living in an Only Human, Born to make mistakes reality, we are living in a paradigm that is in active rebellion against all that God has planned, created, and willed.
“For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” -Athanasius
It is true that as redeemed and reconciled people we are invited into living union with God. It is also true that this state of union and reconciliation does not free us from the mortal frames that our souls share with the Holy Spirit. We are subject to the same frailties as the God, Jesus, was when he inhabited human flesh; we grieve, we are hungry, we bleed when we are cut, we bruise when we are beaten, and unless Christ returns before…we will also die… just like He did. None of these human frailties changed who Jesus was and I do not believe he was ever heard saying anything resembling “I’m only human…” And, we certainly know He was not born to make “mistakes.” The only part of humanity that is flawed is the nature of Adam; this is the sin nature, and it was the sin nature that Christ Jesus came to cure… for once, for all, and for ever. So, yes, we will suffer while we still wear the clothing of mortal flesh, but we are anything but “only human.”
The moments of life while we yet live that cause us to groan (Romans 8:19) on the temporal side of eternity are the reminders of our longing for the Kingdom to come. When we feel persecuted, oppressed, and down-trodden we can also remember that we are bearers of the glory of God Almighty (John 17:22). While our perfection in total may yet be incomplete, we are confident in the perfection through Christ that we share in the now, while we wait. We strive to live each day as a glorious “sin free” image of the resurrected Christ who dwells in us, but if we miss that mark we have an advocate who knows our struggles and weaknesses that intercedes on our behalf…
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:1-6)
Only Human? I don’t think so. If there is any concession to being “only human” perhaps it was the time before Jesus…and even then I have a tough time with the thought; however, even if I grant that concession, that was then and this is now: God Has Come! This is the revelation of the reconciliation through the incarnation and this is the Good News!
It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
I close this reflection with the words to another song our church choir is performing as we respond to this season where we remember the birth of our Savior-King Jesus, the God who came to inhabit the very flesh He created, so we might be reconciled as the immortals He created us to be that we might live in eternal community with Him as He had always planned, purposed, and willed. Alleluia, GOD HAS COME—Emmanuel God with us!
** Link to the song here “God Has Come” so you might listen to it as you read and pray through the words.
God Has Come with O Holy Night (words and music by Paul Marino and Greg Nelson)
There were shepherds on a hillside gazing up at the sky.
From a distance, they heard voices and saw a glorious light…so bright.
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
Alleluia, God has come.
As we gather, like the shepherds, to worship the King,
How our hearts are filled with promise; with wonder we sing,
And join the chorus in the heavens, singing, “Glory to God…on high.”
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
Alleluia, God has come.
Monastic Notes (Pt.13—July 2nd 2011)
(Pecos: Day 13—July 2nd 2011)
Today we covered the practice and application of my two favorite Ignatian exercises, the Examen and the Prayer of Imagination. I was delighted to hear we would be reviewing these exercises, but was disappointed the content of the lecture was more akin to a very high level review. We didn’t go into detail with these exercises to the level that revealed how life-changing they can be for the person who becomes a skilled practitioner of the Examen and Imaginative Prayer. The content of my notes consists of thirteen lines… less than half a page. Sad. In fairness, I must add that my sparse note taking might be attributed to my lack of hearing anything “note” worthy. I may be the one at fault, but I will say that I was listening and paying attention for the very reason that these exercises, or practices, stand in the top-five spiritual disciple-exercises that I use in my personal rule of life. I say that to emphasize the point that my personal investment in these disciplines inspired my interest in the lectures today. Personally, I thought they merited more attention and detail.
There is much more that could be said about this practice, but since I didn’t write down any acceptable notes on the subject, I thought I’d provide something with a little more substance from my own study and practice.
With regard to the Examen, Ignatius himself considered it the single most important daily exercise a spiritual pilgrim could practice. The essence of the Examen is a reflection, observation, analysis, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Even more simplified, this process might be considered a spiritual inventory. Ignatius describes two types of Examen. The first type of Examen will generally involve some milestone in life or big event. This event might be grand (a big job promotion, birth of a child, or other major achievement) or it could be tragic (a serious illness, death of a loved one, or other major loss). Major life events have a way of grabbing our attention and bringing focus to the things we consider that really matter in our lives. When we undergo this type of reflective accounting in our lives we ask hard questions of ourselves to determine if the things we have invested in have brought the results we have desired. When considered in the light of our spirituality and our relationship with God, these “crisis moments” can be an affective and effective means of prayer, repentance, and move toward Christ-like maturity. This type of Examen is about looking at the overall arc of our life. The second type of Examen is more specific in its approach as it reflects primarily on the past day.
While I have practiced both aspects of the Examen, this second style is what has become integrated in living every day of my life. I call it living the “i” crucified life…submitting always and continuously to the transformative ways of the indwelling Holy Spirit who desires that we be completely transformed into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Basically, there are five movments through this second style of the Examen. The first step is to ask God for wisdom, understanding, and insight to our day. This requires intentional time and focus. We believe that God is always present with us, always active in our day with us, and as such He will reveal to us where His actions were specifically directed toward our transformation. Step one is to acknowledge these truths and ask for God’s assistance in our recollection and review. The second step is to be grateful for God’s revelation and good gifts of grace and love to us through our day. God’s intentions are only good for us regardless of how we might perceive them or others might perceive them. God has one primary desire; this desire is that we, His children, would be wholly reconciled and full restored to the image in which we were first created…His image, which is the image of Jesus Christ. No matter what the involvement of God is in our life, everything is orchestrated to bring us to this consummation. As such, “all things work to the good…” (Romans 8:28). Consequently, it is only natural that we would give God thanks for all the “good” things He has given us. I also like to consider the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians 4:8-9 during this time. Step three gives attention to our feelings throughout the day. Was there a time I was angry? Happy? Frustrated? Depressed? or otherwise? These feelings are not definitive ways of determining the state of our soul, but they can be used as diagnostic guidelines. Step four moves toward examining specific feelings, perhaps only one or two (if they are closely related). For instance, if I were angry and upset during my day, I might begin a series of questions to get to the root of that anger; “Why was I angry?” “Was I angry at someone?” “Was my anger over being offended?” “Why was I offended?” Ultimately, I might discover there were issues of pride or lack of confidence in my abilities that led to my anger. God may be revealing areas of my soul that need to go “in for spiritual surgery and repair.” This is a key part of the Examen process and no feelings should be censored or ignored. In this step, we trust God to reveal and expose what He wants us to know and work on in our spiritual life as we continue the journey to Christ-like transformation. The final steps begin with step five and acknowledging what God has revealed to us about our soul. Once we acknowledge God’s activity in our lives, we look forward to what He might be asking of us. I realized my example in steps three-four was corrective in nature, but this process might also be God’s affirmation of new habits that are being nurtured and revealed as Christ-like developments in our life too. This is important to remember. So, step five, acknowledges the work God is revealing to us as we look forward to the next day and how we will implement God’s will affecting the choices we make as we walk with Him in the day(s) that lie ahead. Finally, step six will close the Examen with intentional prayer acknowledging God’s work and our surrender to His will…asking for the strength and guidance of the empowering Spirit through the gift of the reconciling Son. A great prayer for this closing acknowledgment is the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father.”
There is more that can be said about the Examen, but this is a good start. I can say the integration of the Examen with regular practice of Lectio Divina and the Prayer of Imagination (you can learn more about Imaginative Prayer here) have been absolutely life-changing for me…in the best of ways.
Personal Reflections and Recollections:
I had a meeting with my spiritual director, Ezra, today and talked at length about some of my feelings of discomfort and conflict I’ve had in a couple of the relationships since coming to the monastery. He was very affirming to me and reminded me that the discomfort is a good tool to use toward focus on what God is doing and speaking to me through these very relationships (see the Examen workout above for more on this). It was a good reminder and something that I am familiar with. I can recognize how quickly we can become sidetracked in these life conflicts; our first response is almost always one of defense and “self”-preservation. It is for this reason that exercises and tools like the Prayer of Examen and having a trusted spiritual director are so helpful in our development as Christ-formed people of God.
The days seem to be really full this past week. I am looking forward to tomorrow (Sabbath-Sunday) for a day of decompression. I am enjoying the many conversations that I am having with folks although I have a sense or some reasonable realization that I’m an odd dude. I find myself often feeling as though I am standing at the outer edges of my faith…where humanity actually touches the reality of GOD. I was consoled after reading Thomas Merton’s thoughts on Jesus’ prayer from the Gospel of John chapter seventeen (quoted here). Merton seems to think in similar terms as I do. I believe the prayer of Jesus invites us to truly enter the relationship that is the Trinity. The illustration of the Branch and vine (John 15) gives support for this too, I believe. St Athanasius speaks to this end as well in his writings as do many others including my own tradition of Wesleyan Holiness and their view on sanctification, so I know I am not alone. I know this is what God intends for His people; the progression from unity-union with the Trinity should be the drawing of one man to another in real (1 Corinthians 13) fellowship of love. I have no intention of giving up on my pursuit of this understanding and belief.
My reading continues to be an encouragement to me. Most recently, Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating are providing me with language that describes some of my experiences through the past few years in the course of my spiritual journey. Although many of my experiences and exercises have been solitary in nature, I recognize the process both authors speak of in their writings as being experienced in my own process and progress. To date, I haven’t found too many people that I can talk to personally who understand or identify with my experiences…this has been frustrating and part of the reason I feel like an “oddball” at times. I’ve found comfort in the experiences and writings of these men who have journeyed a similar path. So, I tell myself; “Journey on in Jesus, Jeff, Journey on…” Hallelujah!
Prayer to end my day:
Oh LORD, You are amazing! You are a patient Teacher and wonderful Savior-Friend. I pray that You continue to do Your work in me as You reveal Yourself more completely in my life. I love You and freely offer all that I am to You. Have Your way in my life and with my life. To You be all the glory and praise for ever and ever. Amen.