I picked up a journal from a seminary in Texas and was drawn to an article that promoted the idea of eros (a Greek word translated as passion or love) as a key element is spiritual formation. I was bothered by the shoddy scholarship of the article (trying to impose meaning beyond what linguistic studies would be comfortable with) and the overt accommodation of the argument to ideas that seemed to be a rehashing of certain views of Gnostic Christianity rather than speaking to true Biblical faith.
OK, so what. Why care about the article? If there is one thing our culture has problems with, it is desire. Our consumer oriented culture is driven by creating desire. Many of the current debates concerning the Christian faith are driven by desire more than the actualization of the Scripture to our current setting. The blatant ignoring of Scriptural references or the creation of misleading interpretation of these references in at least one current debate is soundly rooted in a view that sees eros (desire) as justification for ignoring centuries of church tradition and accepted hermeneutical processes. A liberated eros is seen as being of more significance than tempered, mature discipleship formation.
It is sad that are those within the church who have allowed eros to be elevated to the status of true love. When John writes God is love he is not referring to God as eros. Eros seeks to satisfy the self. Eros strives for the ecstatic. If eros is restricted, it rallies to its defense license disguised as freedom and preference as liberty. It makes itself out to be the victim while it seduces the unaware into acceptance. It been very effective in this practice (Even as I write this post I feel the need to be guarded or risk being viewed as a bigot or as someone who has an abnormal psychologically based fear). Eros demands for itself acceptance no matter what the Scripture has stated in the past.
True love does desire. However, what true love desires is grounded in truth. What true love desires is subject to sacrifice if that is what is required to be obedient to the truth. True love is about a desire of service to the object of one’s love rather than being served.
These are difficult days for the church. One community of faith after another have accommodated to the demands of eros without regard for the consequences of doing so. Human history has shown this does not end well. If we are to be loving Christians we must be vigilant in regard to how we allow our faith to be defined and the words we use to do so.
I look forward to Sunday mornings and the worship hour that takes place then.
But of course I do, I am a pastor!
Even when I was not the pastor of a church I looked forward to Sunday morning worship times. I did so because of the fellowship. I did so for the singing to my Lord (who does not care if I am off key or not). I also looked forward to what I could learn from a sermon. I deeply enjoyed having communion and experiencing the presence of the Lord during that time of remembrance.
However, when the attendance was down at a worship service I can remember the feeling that something just wasn’t as upbeat or as fulfilling as it was when the church membership was in high attendance. There is a let down when you realize that others do not make attending worship a priority.
We are told that church attendance is down all across the country. We are told that church is not that important to people anymore. This is a disturbing revelation.
Well maybe if church were more entertaining or if it placated our wants and desires then perhaps people would attend more. Maybe we need to give people gifts every Sunday for attending or have a meal every time we meet. After all we modern people don’t have time to sit around for an hour on Sunday. We have too much we want to do. Surely God understands.
The church is a gift of grace. It is a shelter in the storms of life when they come (or it used to be). Church is about a covenant community that comes together to serve one another not just a gathering to be served. These are things that are missing in our culture.
There are still some places where people do look forward to going to church. There are places that many people still make the church a priority in their lives. Every church still has the possibility to be like this – for now. The question is will its members understand the importance of what true church is all about?
Wow, just five days till it is time to come again and worship. I can hardly wait.
As Winter grudgingly begins to give way to Spring those problematic, opportunistic weeds begin popping up just where you don’t want them to do so. Last week I notice that there was a full scale weed attack going on in our church labyrinth. Something needed to be done.
So today, my wife and I loaded up our rake, hoe, and sprayer of Roundup and set out to do battle with the weeds. When we got to the labyrinth was I was stunned to see that the weeds had doubled since last week. We had a job on our hands.
We decided the best way to approach this task was to follow the path of the labyrinth. So step by step, turn by turn, weed by weed we began to clear the labyrinth of the infestation. We would take turns at hoeing, raking, sweeping, pulling and other tasks related to our work. It was work, hard work, but since we followed the path of the labyrinth we were able to see the efforts of our work emerge in a beautiful and graceful way. The results allowed us to see a contrast between where we had been and where we were going. It also let us know this task had an end goal that we would soon realize.
The labyrinth is a tool for reflection. It is a tool the offers us a way to reflect on our journeys in this life. Many times our particular life path gets infested with weeds; weeds of worry, weeds of want, weeds of waste, weeds of weariness. These weeds can distract and depress. Still they are weeds and weeds can be overcome. Working at removing these distractions and hindrances can take time. We do not have to work alone. Our Lord is more than willing to work with us. The Holy Spirit is more than willing to guide us step by step and help us to see where we have been and where we are going. All it takes is for us to decide, “Something needs to be done.”
I serve a church in a denomination that views baptism as an entrance into what we call a covenant community. It is because of our belief in a covenant community that people of all ages may be baptized. Baptism is seen as an entry point into the community. Entrance in the covenant community is not salvation. Salvation still only can be obtained by being born again (event or process).
As I serve in local churches I am becoming more and more concerned about the state of spiritual health of our covenant community. We believe the covenant comes to us from God. It is a great privilege to be in covenant with God. Being in a covenant community means that God has made promises that God most assuredly will meet. However, being joined in covenant has its responsibilities as well. There are expectations. Most important of these expectation is that we are faithful to God.
The problem: faithfulness to God is not in fashion. In fact, I am afraid that God gets very little thought much less obedient faithfulness from the vast majority of God’s covenant community. I dare not say that I know the emotional state of the divine but I know that it breaks my heart.
In a recent discussion a friend asked me what percentage of our local covenant community was active. By active he meant that they attended our Sunday morning worship gathering on a regular basis. I had to answer that was pretty sure it was less than 15%. If we were talking about the percentage who are involved in the financial support of the church and actively involved in the mission of making disciples I believe the number would drop to less than 5% (and I am being optimist).
Human beings flourish the most when we live in well organized and active communities. This is true of us in secular as well as spiritual definitions. When a covenant community, a spiritual community, is organized and active there are the added benefits of spiritual gifts and strength to meet the challenges that come from living in an environment that is hostile to our existence. I believe the weakening of commitment to the covenant community is going to have frightening consequences in our culture in days to come. I believe that if were not for God’s prevenient grace these consequences would have already overwhelmed us.
Those of us who care about our current condition could probably name many reasons for why we believe this lack of commitment to the community has evolved, but reasons to often become excuses and excuses do nothing to change the situation. What can happen is that those who are faithful can work to make the cords that bind us even stronger. There is a reason God has created the community. We need to be sure we are ready when it becomes evident what this reason is.
The new television series Cosmos began tonight. It was a visually attractive work of television art. However, as I listened to the narration and experienced the unfolding of the story I could not help but feel I was hearing a old secular apology, polished up, and being offered up in a new more digitized format. I also felt there was a significant anti-religious undertone.
I am not a scientist. I am a person of committed religious faith. However I do believe that truth is truth and that modern scientific advances have made human life better. I do not feel there must be tension between true science and true faith. I also think that scientism makes for a terrible religion even though it claims that it is not “religious”. Is the “new” Cosmos just a new version of the scientism sacraments?
Human knowledge can easily become an idol that is just as ignorant as any idol made of wood, stone, metal, or plastic. We human beings are very limited in what we can know about creation (a truth that is acknowledged but sugar-coated in the first episode of Cosmos). We only know what we have recorded and what we can verify and even then we must do so only in faith that we have perceived correctly. Modern science came out of a world view that there exists a God who is predictable and orderly. The current version of Cosmos (likes its predecessor) seems oriented against such an idea. In the first program it takes a significant amount of time to tell the story of a “mystic” who was rejected by the church. While the story may have had historical accuracy, the way the story was played utilized a lot of imaginary license (which was prejudiced against the church). Propaganda is propaganda and is not science.
I do not expect Cosmos (redux) to be based on religious teachings. The story of the mystery and majesty of what science has discovered can be told without a pro or anti God basis. However I cannot help, as was stated earlier, that the anti-God attitude is what the producers of Cosmos are hoping to accomplish. I am hoping the ratings will reveal this is not road they really want to take.
This mode of propaganda was not that effective before and I do not believe this up-scaled version will fare much better. I will continue to watch Cosmos and marvel at the imagination involved and then feel sorry for those who feel they must engage in a not so subtle subversion of the traditional value of religious faith (especially Christian).
This is the second time I have tried to post this blog. I will learn not to use the WordPress App – it seemingly is demon possessed.
Not only have I had a hard time with the blog app, it is cold, I have been sick, and I did my taxes today only to find out I am in debt to the IRS. This makes for not the best of mental states (word of advice, don’t do your taxes when you are sick unless you know you are going to get a refund). Still, I am trying to maintain the “in all things give thanks” mindset I know I should possess.
I am reflecting on the Gospel passage I will be bringing a message on this Sunday. It is a passage that could create a lot of predicaments. It is a passage in which one could easily slip into legalism if one is not careful. It is a passage that speaks to murder and anger, to adultery and lust, to sin and self-mutilation, to divorce and adultery and to oaths and swearing. Oh, and I must not forget the influence of the evil one.
This is the kind of passage that could make one wonder if Jesus was having a bad day.
But, what if this passage is viewed from a different perspective than judgments and warnings. Why are these things issues in the human experience? Why would anyone end up near to them? Jesus did not come to judge but to guide. Is there a message of guidance in these words? I believe there is.
I am already feeling better about being sick, it being cold, and owing taxes.
Today, my wife and I made a day trip to visit our oldest daughter and her family. The trip makes for a long day but it is always worth the effort.
Today, we went to lunch (my daughter’s pick in celebration of a recent birthday) and had a great time.
When we came home God chose to give me a gift.
Poppi (that’s me) needed a nap. My oldest grand-daughter grabbed her favorite blanket and came and snuggled up next to me on the couch. For the next thirty minutes we napped together. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
Sometimes we are surprised by simple gifts of love.
Thank you my God for blessing me so today.