22 June 2012

Sixth Understanding


6. In this we are seeking to be authentic people, so that there is nothing false about us. We refuse to wear masks, seeing our lives whole and entire, being utterly honest with ourselves. Integrity toward others flows out of fearless personal honesty. There is a need to break down the difference between the sacred and the secular; to be the same on Monday as Sunday; to be the same at work as at home; to be the same with our family as with our friends and colleagues.

This Understanding piggybacks on the previous understandings. What I like about this one is the sentence, “There is a need to break down the difference between the sacred and the secular...” Indeed there is! The Celtic Christians didn’t see a difference between the sacred and the secular. While they did see a difference between our realm and god’s realm, life in our realm was not divided. They saw sacredness in all of life. There are plenty of prayers, rituals, incantations, etc., that reflect this. There’s a great story about men and women bowing to the new moon and offering a prayer. This wasn’t a pagan ritual but a reverential prayer to the creator god:

In name of the Holy Spirit of grace,
In name of the Father of the City of peace,
In name of Jesus who took death off us,
Oh! in name of the Three who shield us in every need,
If well thou hast found us tonight,
Seven times better mayest thou leave us without harm,
     Thou bright white Moon of the seasons,
     Bright white Moon of the seasons.
The New Moon,” Carmina Gadelica, Vol. 1

This way of seeing is critical for us today. For too long we have seen creation as something evil; something that is so corrupt that it must be destroyed. A lot of people understand eschatology (the study of the “end”) in this way. They interpret such passages as 2Peter 3.7; Revelation 20.11; and Revelation 21.1 in such a way that there isn’t a reason to work for ecological change. And while I don’t have the room to discuss these passages here, I will just say that there are other ways of understanding them. And this other understanding is what we are striving for in the Lindisfarne Community.

To see creation as holy, just as holy as our churches, temples, mosques, Scripture, each other, or whatever we deem as sacred is something that the world desperately needs right now. The other way of seeing seems to perpetuate a carefree attitude about the earth and its resources. However, if we were to see the earth as sacred, that “every bit of land is a holy land and every drop of water is a holy water” (Franti, 20061), then we will do what we can to make sure that it’s respected and protected.

This same type of seeing can heal, not only creation, but also our relationships within families, neighbors, communities, and nations. When we see each person as our brother or sister, then our attitudes toward them change. We would react to the acts of injustice done to them the way we would as if they had been done our Mothers or Fathers. Furthermore, if we see that everything we do as a service to god, then even the most mundane tasks become a prayer.

For me, this type of seeing is what we mean by “break[ing] down the difference between the sacred and the secular.” It is recognizing the light of creation, the light of god, in all things. And once we do that, we begin to view our lives in totally different ways. We see that we are stewards, co-workers with god in all of life. We will recognize that our call to be Christ in the world is not limited to those who view things like we do. We will see that the meaning of being Christ in the world is to participate in the vocation of liberation and reconciliation for the whole cosmos.

Genesis 1.31; CEB: God saw everything [that was] made: it was supremely good.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

~~~
1. Michael Franti and Spearhead, “Hello Bonjour,” Yell Fire, July 2006, ANTI- Records, Los Angeles.

17 June 2012

Forgiveness


I believe there is one thing we need more than to be understood or be known,
It’s our need; a true, undeniable need,
For me and for you, this is our need: it’s forgiveness.
Charlie Peacock1

I ask for your forgiveness. I know that I can be a little more than passionate about a subject, especially when it comes to my own convictions about it. However, as the Fifteenth Understanding of the Lindisfarne Community states, “...We [strive to] hold our convictions (which are few) without wavering, but hold our opinions (which are many) lightly.” Sometimes, however, the line between the two can be a bit blurry. And at other times, following the Way of Jesus means to just keep one’s mouth shut. Let me explain.

Recently, while speaking to some friends about a conversation I had about the “church” and my convictions about it (and if any of you have ever read this blog before, you know how passionate I can be about my convictions), I stated that one of the biggest mistakes for the followers of Jesus was the creation of the institutional “church” - the way that we have made following Jesus into a religious business filled with dogma and judgmentalism (read: rejection of others who think differently than the “church”) and not a way of living.

Granted, this is a very broad-brush overview of ancient history. And, I honestly believe that this was not the intention of the majority of the ancient followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, this is what history has shown to be the case. At some point (some say it was 313CE, while other point to 380CE, and others further still) it was determined that, to protect the followers of Jesus, the churches would be placed under the authority of one person, the bishop of Rome, and “official” statements of belief and doctrine were put into place. People were no longer left to “work out [their] salvation” (Philippians 2.12; NJB2).  Starting then, the church began excommunicating and condemning those who disagreed. This was done to protect the church from various (supposed and some not so supposed) heresies. And, as I stated, while the intention was (mostly) good, following jesus turned into something it never was supposed to be - a religion.

To sharpen the point further, the Roman church became the state church of the Roman Empire. Think about this for a moment: the organization that persecuted (i.e., tortured and slaughtered) the first followers of Jesus became the “official” container of his teaching. When the empire fell, the Roman church became the new empire with very similar hierarchical structures and a powerful determination to conquer the world by any means necessary. Furthermore, a lot of the “official” understanding of the Roman church is still such that any kind of life with God is not obtainable outside the Roman church. (But, to be quite fair and honest, this same type of understanding can be found in plenty of other churches as well.)

At this point, one of my friends disagreed stating that this wasn’t true. I begged to differ and told him briefly about the Council of Trent and how Vatican II reaffirmed its position. (Just to double-check myself, I did a search for the current standing of the RCC on this subject. You can find its position here, here, and here (scroll down to “The necessary means of salvation”). And a Google search can show similar results.) However, while this may still be the “official” stance of the Roman church, I did stress that there are plenty of Catholics who do not hold to these views. There are thousands (perhaps millions) who hold that life with God can be found outside of the Roman church. And for those people following Jesus is much more about a way of living than a religion (or business).

One last point here - something that I don’t feel I communicated very well to my friend. My issues are not with the Roman Church. Most (perhaps all) of my issues are with any empirical church, regardless of them being Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, or Protestant. It’s the organized religious business that bothers me deeply. It is the entire institution that I believe to be false, i.e., not what it was intended to be. Some people, however, when they hear the word “church” understand it to mean their particular group.

Now, while I am convinced of this, perhaps I go too far. As I told him, there are many, many people (and more every day) who are strengthened and nurtured by the church(es). There are untold numbers of people who get their daily “felt” needs met (food, shelter, utilities paid, etc.). There are lots of people who would not be alive today if it weren’t for the churches and the great work that they do.

And while all of those things are great (and they really are), those things could (and should) be addressed by the followers of Jesus without the need of the institutional church. Somehow some of us have lost the ability to follow Jesus as a way of living. We have gotten to the place where we think that only the “professionals,” i.e., the clergy, can and should organize and meet the needs of the community. But that’s not the commission of Jesus. We, his followers, are called to be him in the world (John 20.21; CEB). And that’s where my passion lies - in empowering people to be Christ to those we meet; to seek Christ in others. I long for all of us to love god, our neighbors, and our enemies the way Christ loves us. The empirical church should not what identifies us - it supposed to be our love for each other.

John 13.34-35; CEB: “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

So, to those who may have been hurt by my convictions (whether expressed in this post or elsewhere), please know that this is not my intention. I’m all about building unity, about “loving all, serving all, and creating no sorrow” (adapted from Trevor Hall3). If I have brought division, if I have offended someone, if I have hurt someone’s feelings, please forgive me. I’m sorry. So sorry.



~~~
With heaviness of heart,

Br Jack+, LC

~~~
1 Charlie Peacock, “Forgiveness,” Love Life, March 1991, Sparrow Records, Tennessee.
2 Henry Wansbrough, ed., The New Jerusalem Bible. New York; London: Doubleday; Darton, Longman & Todd, 1985. ISBN: 0385142641
3 Trevor Hall, “Unity,” Trevor Hall, July 2009, Vanguard Records, New York.

15 June 2012

Fifth Understanding


5. Such a life must be characterized by humility. We aspire to be honest, real, and down-to-earth. Humility is opposed to the arrogance, isolation, and deception that pride brings. We accept our spiritual poverty, our limitations, and dependency and also accept responsibility for the use of our gifts and strengths for the service of God. The humble are willing to receive as well as to give. Humility respects and esteems others. It is a form of the love that does not seek its own way. We seek to be a grace-filled community as we “wash one another’s feet.”

“We aspire to be honest, real, and down-to-earth.” I have said for many years that the “world” (i.e., those outside of church) is looking for real people. People who are transparent. Many of us are just so tired of all the faces that people wear. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones we meet at the office and then we see them in a social gathering and they’re something else completely. I believe that, down deep in each one of us, there is a yearning for authenticity. Authenticity brings security in that we know what type of a person someone else is (good or ill). We know where we stand with such people. We don’t have time for people who are wishy-washy. Life is too short for people are our friends one minute and then stabbing us in the back the next. We long for people who are “stand up” people. People who give of themselves for the benefit of others.

At the same time, we don’t want those same people to lord it over us about how “humble” they are. Just because someone is open and honest, doesn’t give them the right to be rude or disrespectful.

(That reminds me of the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. There’s a scene where Ricky Bobby (played by Will Farrell) says, “With all due respect...” and then makes a derogatory statement to Mr. Larry Dennit, Jr. (played by Greg Germann). Then the conversation goes like this:

Mr. Dennit: What did you just say to me?
Ricky: What? I said it with all due respect!
Mr. Dennit: Just because you say that doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want to say to me!
Ricky: It sure as hell does!
Mr. Dennit: No, it doesn’t -
Ricky: It’s in the Geneva Conventions, look it up!

Okay...back to my reflection.)

We are wanting people who are authentic and respectful. We are wanting people to be like Jesus, whether we realize it or not. And that is exactly what we are striving to be in the Lindisfarne Community.

When we read the stories about Jesus, we see someone who was transparent and authentic. The old proverb, “What you see is what you get,” comes to mind. And while we believe that Jesus was much more than “what you see,” he wasn’t less than that. Not only do we see authenticity in Jesus, we see “realness,” true humanity, or, as the Common English Bible puts it, we see Jesus as the true “Human One.” I understand this to mean that Jesus is what humanity is supposed to be like. It is who we are at our deepest level. But we have forgotten what that looks like - until we see him. That’s why Celtic Christians referred to Jesus as our “remembrance.” That is, when we look at Jesus we remember what we truly are.

But, it’s not easy being Jesus. As the Understanding puts it, “We accept our spiritual poverty, our limitations, and dependency...” We know that we can’t do this, be this, on our own. It takes us humbling ourselves to each other and to the “Wild Goose.” When we can be our best - and make no mistake, we are at our best when we are serving others - it is then that the “world” will see Jesus and not us.

Being Jesus, however, has a great price. When we continue the stories about Jesus we see what others did to him. Those in power, those who continue to be false, who oppress others, who turn a blind eye to the struggles of those in need, will do whatever they can to “put away” the one who liberates others. Those in power will “crucify” (figuratively and, perhaps in some ways, physically) those who come to serve the world and speak of the falseness of the powerful. That’s what happened to Jesus. And as history shows us, it will happen to those who walk in The Way.

That’s what service is all about though, isn’t it? When we become authentic people, when we become the Human One, we will surrender our own wants and desires and wills to give completely of ourselves for humanity and the world. And when we are through in this world’s realm, eternal life (i.e., life with/of God) will continue our lives in God’s realm.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

12 June 2012

Fourth Understanding


4. Our spirituality is at the level of being. It is who we are in our truest selves. Our spirituality is developed by seeking to follow the Rule of the community; by pursuing Jesus in spiritual intimacy; by developing a secret history with God. We encourage the reading of the great adepts of spirituality in the Christian and other traditions. We are a charismatic community and encourage members to seek spiritual gifts; the Holy Spirit is generous in distribution. In the Celtic Christian tradition the Spirit was depicted as the “wild goose.” In the Lindisfarne Community, we seek to follow the wild goose, wherever she may lead us.

“We’re an ontological priesthood,” one of our priests said at an annual retreat. This was powerful to hear. The impact, almost beyond our knowing at first utterance. It has since, in my mind, spring-boarded a lot of discussion and reflection. It is a mirror of the first two sentences in our Fourth Understanding - “Our spirituality is at the level of being. It is who we are in our truest selves.” This is something that has been in my thoughts for quite a long time now. We are organic, integrated beings. This means that the some of the biggest taboos are a fallacy - politics and religion.

I’m sure most of us have heard that we shouldn’t talk about religion or politics in civilized society. But we can’t help it. That is, we are not compartmental people. We can’t leave our politics and religion at home when we go to the office. Those things, and many others, make us who we are “at the level of being.”

It’s with this understanding that the Lindisfarne Community is redefining priesthood. We don’t see ministry as something we do. It is something we are. Too often, it seems, clergy seems to fall into the compartmental view of our lives. We think that we can separate ourselves from ministry by thinking that our service is only at the level of our doing ministry work. Whatever it is - visiting the sick, serving at the Eucharist, presiding at a wedding, etc. - we can fall into the trap of seeing that doing those things are the only times when we’re clergy. The fact is, however, our ordination is a recognition of who we are “at the level of being,” not what we do. What we do reflects who we are. Our “faithful actions” are a demonstration of our being, of who we are at the deepest level.

It’s because of this understanding of an “ontological priesthood” (or in addition to that), that I saw the life of Jesus differently. I saw that he life was just as important as his death and resurrection. I started to see his death in light of his life. That his life was path, the way, for all people. His life was a life of service - of putting others before himself and laying down his life for others. This life of service was (is) who Jesus was (is) “at the deepest level.” It is the life he has called us to live if we are to be his followers. When we follow Christ, we are saying that we too understand that true humanity is to be in service to others whether that’s human or non-human (animals or the earth). We recognize that “at the level of being” is the Light of God, the true Servant of all.


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

11 June 2012

Anniversary

Today marks my first anniversary as a priest. It’s been a strange year. Most of the things I have wanted to do have completely failed - some have even failed to start! Then, there were other things, things that I wasn’t expecting, that have organically grown. One in particular is just now in the planning stages (heck, we might even call it the idea stages since it really isn’t fleshed out yet).

A couple of things that I can share: Writing. As most of you know (and all of you know that read this blog), I like to write. I started several years ago and found that I have a unique style that resonates with a lot of people. It’s because of this that I’m excited about a book coming out this summer that I had the privilege in contributing a chapter. The Lindisfarne Community (the secular monastic community of which I’m a member) is writing a companion book to our prayer book. It tells the story of our community and the Abbess and Abbott have asked several of us to write a chapter telling our stories that led us to Lindisfarne.

My contribution led me to start writing my own book. I’ve had people tell me for years now that I needed to take my thoughts and insights and write it down. So, I’ve started doing that. It’ll take some time and I hope that I can keep it fairly short.

The second thing that I want to share is that my wife and I are wanting to develop some kind of spiritual center that brings both of our paths together. We’re thinking about ways of combining our paths while maintaining a distinction for certain things. For example, say, once a month, I would like to have Eucharist in the backyard (or if the weather is bad meet in our meditation/yoga/library room). The language would be inclusive, of course. And I may even write some of the liturgies. We’ll see.

This idea has been a dream for a while now, ever since I surrendered to God’s call for the priesthood. But, like so many people, I got caught up in the routine of serving at a local parish. After a conversation I had recently, the dream came pushing its way to the top once more. It’s exciting think about this and to start the (very early) stages of fleshing it out.

And, speaking of that conversation, I have been asked to speak at Morning Star, a local center for spiritual living. I’ll be talking about the Lindisfarne Community and my path in it. I also want to share about following Jesus as a way of living and not a religion. It’s really kind of cool how that happened but that’s for another time.

So that about wraps it up! Some cool things coming soon and some not so soon. I’ll keep you up to date when things are getting closer.






~~~
Peace to you all,
Br Jack+, LC

05 June 2012

Third Understanding


3. Love is to be at the heart of the Lindisfarne Community. “Love your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies.” The immensity of the task makes it naturally impossible! Yet we are called to be a community of love. We need to remember, it is God’s love, not ours; perfect, eternal, constant. With God’s love there are no strings attached, no conditions to be met, no favoritism. Yet it is not sentimental nor romantic, for love is not merely a feeling, it is an act of will; the “naked intent” of the heart to love God, neighbor and enemy. There is the deepest of all joy in the love of God. We seek to learn to love, to walk in love, to exult in love, to make love our highest aim, to let God’s love fill us completely. Our desire is to be free within the love of our heavenly Father-Mother — to know God’s passionate love for us and to live our lives from within God’s acceptance of us. This love of God is reflected in our love for all, even those who are considered our enemies. It is a reconciling love; a love that seeks peace. It is a love for the whole of creation.

What can I say about this one! I think that it’s pretty much self-explanatory. However, today, so many of us fail in some form or another with doing and being this Understanding. Perhaps we rely too much on our own ideas of love. I’m not sure. I just know that it’s most difficult.

And yet, at the same time, it’s one of the easiest. It’s one of the easiest because this isn’t human love. This isn’t our doing. It’s God in us (2Corinthians 5.10, CEB; John 17.20-23, CEB).  We are to be vessels through whom God uses to act in the world (2Corinthians 4.7, NKJV*; 2Timothy 2.20-21, NKJV).

But, what does it mean to love? We aren’t talking about a romantic love or a sexual love. We are talking about a deeper love. A love that goes to the very core of our being. This love is God’s love. It’s a holy love. And God’s Love is a sacrificial love (John 15.13, CEB; 1John 3.16-17, CEB). It is to permeate our entire way of being and doing. It is to saturate our entire existence in this world’s realm. Jesus told the disciples, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13.34-35, CEB). Our identity as followers of Jesus is not beliefism (i.e., the things we believe). Nor is it our orthodoxy (i.e., right or correct doctrine or teaching). Our identity is Love. This is absolutely critical. This lets us know that a follower of Jesus can be of any faith tradition or no faith tradition. If we express God’s love by our intentions, actions, and being, then we are no longer bound by religious beliefism or dogma. We are free to be all that God wants us to be.

And yet, at the same time, this Love, since it’s God’s love, is a very difficult thing. It takes time to learn how to be this Love. It takes time to learn how to live in this Love. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But, it is something we can be and do. It will take strength to be people of Love. It will require a denial of what we want to do and what we think is fair and just. it will require us to face our fears and walk courageously in the midst of those fears. And facing those fears may mean that we take a stand against conventional (orthodox or so-called patriotic) views and be Christ to those around us.

In everyday life, at the deepest levels of who we are, we are to be intentional about the Sermon on the Mount. That is what living this way of Love looks like on a practical, everyday basis. Again, living this way, being this way, will be God’s doing and not ours. But this must be our intention. It must be for what we strive every moment of every day. And may it start with me.


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC


~~~
* Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.