28 July 2012

Eighth Understanding

8. To be faithful, as God is faithful, requires a community where faithfulness can be learned. In our calling to become community, our faithfulness will be tested. We should not resist the test, but, rather embrace it. Like “silver tried seven times” we will be all the stronger; the community will be more real. In the testing of faithfulness we learn to rejoice together and to suffer together.

This is one of the Understandings that is, I think, the most difficult when one considers that most of us are not close to the Lindisfarne Community Mother house in Ithaca, New York. At the same time, it is also the Understanding that may have the greatest impact on us and others around us. This Understanding is one that I feel the most. That is, it’s bloody difficult to be in community when one is several hundred (or thousand) miles from other members of the community (We have professed members from all over the world: the USA, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa)! But, as this Understanding puts it, so clearly, we shouldn’t resist this test, but embrace it. We have the opportunity to show what an inclusive, ecumenical global community can look like in day-to-day life. It’s hard. Real hard. But it’s what we’ve chosen to do. And, with us pushing that envelope, our community becomes more real. More so because it’s intentional and spread out.

We’ve used several social media technologies to make the distance smaller. We have a Facebook page and use mailing lists. Several of us have blogs that others can read and see what’s going on in our distant, yet connected, lives (you can see the links on the left side of our home page). We use instant messaging technologies to “chat.” And, we’ve used Skype to have classes and Eucharist. These are all planned events. We make arrangements and do our best to connect with each other.

We also have an annual retreat at the beautiful Casowasco Retreat and Conference Center in Owasco, New York. In the past (before I found them), they’ve had retreats to our namesake - Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island), a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. As one can imagine, this, too, is a planned event. We have to be intentional about getting together. It’s hard and stressful (the travel alone can be trying). And when we get together, sometimes it’s awkward, but most of the time it’s amazing. Just like with most families!

Also, this faithfulness is understood when it comes to our practices - Eucharist, the Daily Office, Meditation, Study, Service, and Soul Friendship (anamchara). These, and a few other things, make up our Rule of Life - the basic guide for our community living. When I do my daily practices, I am ever mindful that others with the Lindisfarne Community are doing them as well. This, too, connects us. It helps us to remain faithful - first to our commitment to God and secondly to our commitment to each other as a community.

It’s not easy. Like being in any long-distance relationship, it takes acceptance and trust. I have found these attributes over-flowing, not only with individuals within the community, but from the Lindisfarne Community as a whole. They have truly been a fresh breath of God’s Spirit to me and my family. I only hope that we can be the same for them.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

22 July 2012

I'm Back!

Hi. My name’s Jack.

“Hello Jack.”

I’m a distrohopper.

“We’ve all been there, brother. You can lean on us.”

I say this all tongue-in-cheek but I really have been hopping from Linux distribution to Linux distribution. I had stopped doing this for a long time but, lately, I started up again. There’s a reason for my madness, though. Really. There is.

You see, I like watching some TV shows through my laptop on my big screen (see this post for more insight into what I’ve been watching). And Ubuntu has been a flawless experience. No hiccups at all. Nada. Zilch.


But I’ve been wanting to try out the latest version of Gnome Shell, the desktop environment (DE) for Gnome 3. The DE is the graphical part of your computer (aka, the GUI or graphical user interface). It’s what you see when you turn on your computer - the desktop, folders, icons, mouse pointer, etc. When Ubuntu got wind of Gnome leaving their old DE, they had a decision to make - either use a version of Gnome Shell (like they did with Gnome 2) or go a different route. At first, they tried working with the Gnome developers and keep using that as the DE for Ubuntu. However, as time went on, it was soon clear that both teams had very different visions. So, Ubuntu decided to go with a different DE altogether. And they just so happened to have one already in place. It was the environment they used for netbooks (very small laptops with roughly a 10” to 11” screen). But in April of 2011, with version 11.04, Ubuntu introduced that netbook interface to their regular “desktop” version of Ubuntu.1 This was labeled “Unity.”

Now, a lot of people didn’t like Unity (or Gnome Shell, for that matter). And they weren’t quiet about it either. I found this funny. It wasn’t like Ubuntu developers had a lot of choices in the matter. Gnome 2, the foundation for the entire previous 13 releases was obsolete; no longer supported. Sure, they could have decided to take the code base for Gnome 2 and continue to build that (and some developers have done just that. That’s one of the values of using FOSS - Free and Open Source Software). However, they would be building upon old technologies. Another other option could have been to use a completely new foundational DE but that would constitute a complete rewrite of their operating system and all of their tools and applications. To me, they made the best choice - use the latest technologies of Gnome 3 but build a different user interface that would best meet their vision. Unity, in my opinion, has done just that.

“So why did you start trying different distributions?”

The reason I started looking at different distributions was because I wanted to try a plain, vanilla version of Gnome Shell. Now, I could use it Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (the version I’ve been using since it was released in April of this year) and I have. But, when I tried watching TV from my computer, the video was really choppy. I figured the reason for this was because I added Gnome Shell to Ubuntu (it’s not part of the native installation) and there could be hardware resource issues. So, I started looking at different versions of Linux that natively use Gnome Shell as its DE. And for the last week I tried using Fedora 17.

Fedora is the community branch of Red Hat Linux, one of the oldest Linux distributions out there (in fact, it was the first Linux OS I tried). If anyone could get my particular kink worked out, it would be Fedora. Or so I thought.

Fedora 17 was easy enough to install. I just downloaded the image and burned it to a CD. I then rebooted by laptop and selected the CD-ROM drive to start using Fedora 17. I then installed it by clicking on the install icon. It was after I installed it when things went south.

Trying to install all of the tools I normally use was a little difficult (even after I went to the Fedora forums, I had to Google specific questions to find answers). These tools include things like codecs for viewing movies or listening to music, specific applications (Skype, Banshee, Chromium, etc.), and whatever. With Ubuntu, I just have to open the Software Center and start searching. Fedora 17 has a similar tool but it was all listed as individual packages and I had no idea which ones I needed (some were listed twice with all of the exact same information). I tried figuring it out, but when I couldn’t, that’s when I had to start looking at their forums and Google.

After I finally got everything installed and configured the way I wanted it, I browsed over to my television show, selected an episode and let if buffer a little bit. To my surprise, it was still choppy. Again, I thought the only reason it was choppy when I was using the Gnome Shell interface in Ubuntu was because it wasn’t its native interface. It turns out I was wrong. In disgust, I stopped the show and started looking again for tips on how to fix my video issues. It turns out, for my hardware, there isn’t one. In fact, I’m not even sure there’s a solution for any hardware.

The issue could be the window manager for Gnome 3. It uses Mutter. Whereas Ubuntu’s Unity uses Compiz for its windows manager. This means that the DE’s use different technologies to “draw” the windows on the screen, as well as handle the “special effects” like shadows and transparencies and such. It seems that Mutter takes a lot of resources when it’s used. No, my system isn’t a top of the line system but it’s decent enough. It has a dual core Intel processor with each core running at 2.16GHz. Plus it has 4GB of RAM. When running anything else in Gnome Shell, it works alright. But not when it comes to watching those shows. And, it’s that one little thing that irritates me. If the computer experience isn’t going to work the way I need it to, and work well, then I’ll go back to using something I know works flawlessly.

So, I’m back to Ubuntu and Unity. And it’s a great feeling! Especially since I saw a video featuring Mark Shuttleworth.2 The video was Mark’s presentation at this year’s OSCON (Open Source Convention) in Oregon. In it he described some new features that are coming in Ubuntu 12.10, the next version which is available in October. One of those features is called “Web Apps.” That is, instead of just having a computer, whether that’s a laptop or desktop, be a web browser (I’m looking at you Google and Firefox), Mark understands that people want to keep their data on their devices. Certainly one can back them up to the cloud, but people still want their “stuff.” So they set out a way to integrate web apps with the desktop. Now, when going to say, Gmail or Google Docs or Facebook, a bar pops up asking permission to integrate that web app directly to your Ubuntu desktop. Once you click “Allow,” it now appears as an “app” within Ubuntu. Furthermore, it can be added to the Launcher (the list of icons on the left side of the screen) and searched for in the Dash (a metadata search feature), just like other applications installed on your computer. While this is a coming feature in the next version of Ubuntu, it can be installed in 12.04, which I quickly did! And it’s fantastic!

The innovation, the vision, and the simplicity of use with Unity is quite astonishing. And speaking of vision - Ubuntu and its Unity DE are coming to Android phones and TVs. Plus, as Shuttleworth announced, Ubuntu will be shipping on 5% of all PCs sold in the coming year. Right now, there are shops in China and India selling Dell computer featuring Ubuntu. And Dell has just announced that their developer laptop, codenamed “Sputnik,” will be available for purchase in the US (it’s the laptop Shuttleworth used during his presentation - you can read more about it here). With more and more people using Ubuntu and its Unity DE, there will be more of a demand that it gets proper support in IT infrastructures. Last year, I had the privilege of installing it on three student systems for a particular class they were taking (and once for a friend of another student just because she liked it).

Another thing Shuttleworth pointed out in his presentation is that Unity the second easiest computer OS to use (Windows was first, and, much to the dismay of Apple users everywhere, Mac OS X came in third). That’s been my experience with it as well. At work I use both Mac OS X (primary) and Windows 7 (for enterprise tools). I find that I try and do things I know I can do in Unity on both of those systems (they make logical sense to me) but they don’t work that way in the other systems. It’s similar to the experience one has when working on a Mac and then trying to use a Windows computer. How things “should” work but don’t is so frustrating. That’s my experience when moving from Unity to any other DE. Once you start using Unity, all other DEs pale in comparison. To me, it’s the best DE out there. Period. (Shaking my head) I don’t know why I ever left it.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

1 “Desktop” is here used to mean the version of the operating system (OS) used in laptops and desktop towers.
2. Mark’s the person who founded Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. He’s like the Steve Jobs of Ubuntu. He’s charismatic. He’s a visionary. He’s driven.

19 July 2012

A Mad Man with a Box

A couple of years ago, while flipping through channels, I stumbled upon a very odd show. It had a wild-haired man in a bow tie, a sassy Scottish girl with red hair (or a “ginger” as people from the UK like to call them), a curly haired female archaeologist, and a military cleric. This group were combatting a group of statues that came to life when they weren’t looking at them. They called them the “Weeping Angels.” Unbeknownst to me, I had stumbled upon the latest version of Doctor Who. And with one show, I was smitten. I mean, I was really in deep smit. It was brilliant and funny and exciting and startling. It took the ordinary things that, as children, we all used to think came to life when we weren’t looking, and reminded us of that childhood by bringing them to life! I was hooked. Instantly.

Doctor Who is a BBC science fiction (sci-fi) television show. It’s the longest running and most successful sci-fi show in television history and will celebrate its fiftieth year next year. Although there were no new shows for some time (the “classic” series started in 1963 and stopped in 1989), Doctor Who was never canceled. The latest shows started in 2005 and have been growing in popularity ever since.

I first remember Doctor Who when I was in either junior high or high school. The Doctor was played by Tom Baker and he played The Doctor longer than anyone else. He had big hair and a long scarf. By today’s standards, the special effects weren’t that special. I remember, even then, they left a lot to be desired. I mean, after watching Star Wars or Alien in the theater when they were originally released, the rubber masks and shoddy sets didn’t give the impression of someone traveling through space and encountering aliens.

And yet...

There was something brilliant about the show. Something that went beyond the bad special effects and the rubber masks. It was the stories. The stories not only took one to other worlds, they also gave one hope - hope for the human race and hope for the future of the entire cosmos.

Since that time, when I was a young boy/man laying in my floor watching The Doctor, I completely lost touch with him, his companions, his police box, and their adventures. That is, until I happened upon the new shows a couple of years ago.

So, being the type of person I am, I started doing some research and found out a little bit more about Doctor Who. I discovered that The Doctor was a Time Lord - the very last one, in fact (I must have missed that bit when I was younger). This means that he was part of an ancient race of beings from another world (Gallifrey, to be precise). They have to ability to regenerate. That is, when something happens that causes a mortal wound to their current body, they can make themselves regenerate into a new one (unless they don’t have that chance, or if someone or something stops the regeneration process, then they cease to exist). This has to be one of the greatest inventions ever in the history of storytelling. When an actor gets tired of playing the character, or the contract runs out, or whatever, the writers just write out his “death” and The Doctor regenerates into the next person who will play the character. This is one of the reasons why the show can continue on for as long as it has. When the main character can change, and change in extraordinary ways, the show can go on for, well, fifty years and counting (Incidentally, Tom Baker played the fourth Doctor).

Also, his police box is called a TARDIS - Time and Relative Dimension in Space. As its name suggests, not only can The Doctor travel in space, but in time as well (since, after all, he is a Time Lord). The police box is kind of funny though. And it’s part of what makes the show not take itself too seriously. It’s a replica of a 1960s-style British police box. The police box has a phone panel so someone could contact the police. It also worked like a holding cell. If the police nabbed someone, they could place them in there temporarily. Now, that may have worked well in the 1960s, but the TARDIS still looks like a blue police box! There was a malfunction with the chameleon circuit that causes it to look the same (the chameleon circuit is supposed to get a reading of the surroundings and make itself blend in). However, The Doctor has grown fond of it and won’t change it.

Furthermore, also being the person that I am, I went back and started watching the shows before the one I had stumbled upon. Now, I didn’t go back to the “classics” (although, someday, I might). No, I started with the 2005 series with the ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). The new series started back up from a sixteen year lull with a new Doctor and a new companion, Rose Tyler, (played by Billie Piper. And, as an aside, I’ve been driving to this point and a couple of other points.) At first, Rose was a great character. It was great seeing The Doctor and his TARDIS with a new companion taking on new challenges.


As I continued to watch the shows, they turned rather sappy, especially after David Tennant became the tenth Doctor. Rather, most of them did. There were a few bright points. For the most part, however, the show became more about Rose than The Doctor. In fact, the show could have easily been called, “Rose and the Doctor” (notice the lack of a capital “T” there in the word “the”). The head writer at the time, Russell T. Davies, almost ruined the whole thing for me. He continued to bring out this romance between The Doctor and Rose that, to be honest, felt forced right from the beginning. I mean, I get it. Certainly, there would be a time when a companion “fell” for The Doctor (although, I don’t remember that happening when I was younger). But this... This was different. Everything else seemed to be a side note. Everything, and I do mean everything, seemed to be all about Rose. When she finally “left” the series as the companion, The Doctor still talked about her; sulked about her.

The next companions, Martha Jones (played by the fantastic Freema Agyeman) and Donna Noble (played by the spectacular Catherine Tate), were great companions. Martha was in university to become a doctor herself and Donna, well, Donna didn’t take crap off of anyone. She commanded respect from everyone she met - and she got it. Both of those companions lasted only one season (series, for the folks in the UK). And while they had some wonderful adventures with The Doctor, there was always this, I don’t know, “you’re not Rose so you’re not good enough” type of undercurrent that spoiled a lot of their stories. And I think it had a lot to do with Davies being the head writer. Every show he wrote, even after Rose had left The Doctor, had Rose in it somehow - a flash of her on a screen here, mention of her there. It was always about Rose. Even at the end of Tennant’s run, there was Rose, back again, almost ruining the entire thing for me (as well as other characters that I won’t mention here).


The shows took on a brilliant turn when Steven Moffat took over as head writer. Do you remember me saying there were some bright spots when Davies was head writer? Well, those were almost always Moffat stories. He took things like darkness and shadows, again, things that spooked us as children, and gave them purpose; gave us a reason for being spooked!

He also has a way of planting subtle (and some not-so-subtle) hints of things to come. For example, in the very first show with the eleventh Doctor, played perfectly by Matt Smith (of whom Moffat said, “Matt is The Doctor. Other actors just played the character.” And is the only actor nominated for a BAFTA award for playing The Doctor.), Moffat drops a line of a story that arcs through the entire season/series and on into the next - “The universe is cracked, the Pandorica will open, and silence will fall.” In between that line and the rest of the shows, there are splendid adventures and The Doctor is, as he tells his new companion Amy Pond (played by the wonderful Karen Gillan), “most definitely, a madman with a box.” But that theme, that hint, that spark, that “crack in time” is always there - waiting. That is how one builds a story! With the resurfacing of an idea, some little something to keep the people thinking, wondering, guessing, and yearning for more! Not the continued sappy “romance” of a character.

Don’t get me wrong. Moffat has similar themes. Amy has a huge crush on The Doctor. The Doctor flirts with River Song (played by the flirtatiously remarkable Alex Kingston). There’s also the love story between Amy and Rory Williams (played by the ever so cautious Arthur Darvill). But it’s never forced. Never sappy (though, there are a couple of moments in a couple of episodes). The stories themselves are just masterfully done. That’s what I think Moffat has over Davies - Moffat sees the bigger picture. He has an uncanny way of stepping back and seeing how this one scene, this one shot, this one glimpse or line or image will play out in the overall story arc he is telling. Davies, on the other hand, seemed to drop in a tie-in to a previous show from several seasons/series before without any continuation at all (“Bad Wolf” anyone?).

With all of this said, I’m so glad I stumbled upon these new Doctor Who shows. And I’m not the only one. It seems that since Steven Moffat and Matt Smith have taken over, the American audience has just skyrocketed. More and more people in the US are tuning in to watch The Doctor than every before. So, do yourself a favor and watch Doctor Who. Don’t go back to 2005 like I did (unless you just really have to). Start with Season 5 and “The Eleventh Hour.” It’s the first full episode of Matt Smith playing The Doctor and Steven Moffat as the head writer. You can thank me later.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I think I saw something out of the corner of my eye...

13 July 2012

Seventh Understanding

7. We are challenged by a call to simplicity. Our deepest need is to grow in our knowledge and love of God, not the accumulation of more material things. There is a beauty in space, in openness, in solitude. We seek to enjoy beauty without owning or possessing; to stay focused, single minded, with purity of desire.

Simplicity. That’s the name of the game. In Western culture, we seem to be about getting more stuff - and getting it right now. This, I think, comes from a number of things. First, there’s a lack of quality in a lot of products. Things used to be made to last. Granted, nothing would last for ever, but things used to be made to last a lot longer than they do now.

Second, stuff is obtained through credit. There was a time that things were bought with real money and real money only. This fact alone caused people to take care of the things they purchased. And those items were things they really needed. If it was something that couldn’t be purchased immediately, one would have to save her money and purchase it later. But, since credit was established, people don’t have to save their money. They can purchase the items immediately and then make payments on them. This, of course, means that people are paying a lot more for the items they want since the credit will have a large interest rate. But, nonetheless, we can have what we want when we want it.

This leads to the third point. We are now throw away consumers. We consume everything. As soon as something comes out, we want it now. Not later, right now. Even if our current item is still working, still a really good product, we want the latest and greatest. So, we end up throwing away our current stuff so we can get the newest stuff.

I work in Information Technology (IT). In my line of work, the latest and greatest comes out all of the time. It’s been said that technology doubles every eighteen months. Well, technically, it was the number of transistors on integrated circuits that were predicted to double every two years. This is known as “Moore’s Law.” And, so far, it’s been pretty accurate. Think about the processor - the “engine” of the whole computer, if you will - in the current line of computers (whether they’re desktops, laptops, servers, or tablets). About two years ago, the speed of the processor was about half as fast as the current models. It seems like only yesterday I was reading about “dual-core” processors in laptops (think of these as V8 engines). Recently, I’ve been reading about “quad-core” processors in laptops (yep, V16 engines). That’s incredibly fast.

Or, something that’s even more astonishing - “smartphones.” The technology in the average smartphone has more computing power than that which was used in the moon landing.

But what happens? When the latest smartphone comes out, our current one is “slow.” Suddenly, it doesn’t work “right.” Or whatever lame excuse we have. Some people will even break their existing contract (which costs hundreds of dollars) they have with the cellular provider just so they can get a new phone!

However, technology isn’t all bad! For example, when I was going through clergy training, I was given an e-reader for my birthday. I then went through and changed my reading lists for electronic versions! This saved a lot of resources - trees, paper, ink, electricity, fuel, shipping, etc. Not to mention shelf space and clutter in my library. To this day, I still have my full curriculum on my device! To me, this is a way of simplifying and exactly what we’re striving for in the Lindisfarne Community.

In the LC we are trying to realign our lives with simplicity. To say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to following Christ further, deeper. Certainly, there are times when we need “things” but those same “things” shouldn’t control us. It’s a complete different way of thinking. Going “old school.” The way of the systems of the Western world don’t get it. They’re all about moving forward. And while I get that, sometimes, perhaps a lot of the time, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. To choose to change for change's sake is usually the wrong decision.

Living simply isn’t limited to “stuff,” either. It’s also a mind set. It’s about changing the way we live in the world. For example, I have a set of bamboo utensils. I carry them almost everywhere I go (they’re in my bag and my bag goes with me almost everywhere). When we have a luncheon at work, I take them with me. People look at me like I’m weird. Someone once said, “Your wooden spoon isn’t going to save the world.” To which I said, “Maybe. Maybe not. But if everyone brought their own, we wouldn’t have to keep buying and throwing away the plastic ones.”

Simplicity, to me, is looking at how I’m currently living and seeing if there are ways I can change it - save money, energy, time, etc. Of course, I will still be spending money, energy, time, etc., but I’m striving to be wise about how and with whom I spend them. I’m asking, “How can I simplify my life?” And, honestly, I really have to thank my wife for this, too. She is very instrumental in this. She was thinking this and working on this a long time before me. Now, together we’re looking for ways we can live simply day to day. And that’s what it’s about. A daily practice. Finding ways to live simply.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

05 July 2012

A Further Conversation About "Church"

A dear friend of mine replied to this post and offered up some really good questions! With her permission, I’ve addressed them here.

Jack – I enjoyed [your post] and it is very thought provoking. However, as I was reading it, these verses ran through my mind. Perhaps it’s my Catholic-ness (is that a word? :) coming out, but how would you address the following:

Matthew 16:18–19: Christ tells Peter, after he answered Jesus when He asked Peter who he is, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Why would Jesus say that if he never intended for a church to be built? Also – why would he make the statement that hell would not prevail against it? If there was to be no church, then there would be no entity for hell to attack. Individually, we are weak and easily distracted by Satan, but bound together by a Church, we become strong and more easily defended.

Additionally, Matthew 18:17 says that if someone who has sinned against you refuses to listen to you and to one or two others, you are to “tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” in other words, outside of the church. If there is no church, then what entity was Christ referring to when saying this?
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians: (Eph. 5:23) “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” St. Paul continues in Eph. 5:25 when he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” If Christ truly meant that a Church was not to be built, developed, started, etc., then why would St. Paul compare a husband’s love of his wife to the love of Christ for His Church?

You also wrote that Christ never talked about forming a new religious system. I disagree. He was putting his system in place while he did his ministry. Baptism, the Eucharist, the Church, all components of a new system and one “that the gates of Hades will not prevail against.”

As always – you make me think and that, my friend, is wonderful. It’s late and I apologize for any confusion in what I may have written. If there is some, I will be happy to clarify it, once I get some sleep. Take care and I look forward to your response.

Thank you so much for the great questions! I appreciate the opportunity to respond. I think, the thing that is most obvious to me, is the word “church” and how it’s used and understood. This is important. As another good friend of mine once said, “Words mean something, dammit!” So there are a few questions for us here. What did Jesus and Paul mean by the word “church?” What is our understanding of the word “church?” Does our understanding match up with that of Jesus and Paul?

The word translated “church” is the Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklēsia - ek-klay-see'-ah) and it simply means, “called out.” Properly understood it’s a word used for a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly (see Acts 19.32). In the Septuagint, the Greek text of the Jewish Scriptures, it is often used when referring to the assembly of the Jewish people (see Judges 21.8; 1Chronicles 29.1; etc.). While ἐκκλησίᾳ doesn’t necessarily have any religious connotations in and of itself, the writers of the New Testament often used it when referring to the people who follow The Way (see the passages you suggested and scores more). In that context, ἐκκλησίᾳ is applied in a couple of different ways. First, it’s used when referring to local assemblies in different places - Galatia (Galatians 1.2; notices that there are many local ἐκκλησίᾳ there), Corinth (1Corinthians 1.2), and the group that met in the home of Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16.3-5).

Second, ἐκκλησίᾳ also refers all the people throughout all time and space who make up the mystical “body of Christ” and follow The Way. These are the people through whom god implements the Realm of god and uses them to expose the reconciliation of the world (see 2Corinthians 5.16-19).1

By way of contrast, the word “church” is now understood to mean both the religious institution known as “Christianity,” in general, and of a specific tradition (in your case, Catholic), in particular. This is similar to the word “gay.” In its classical understanding, the word “gay” meant “lighthearted” or “carefree.” But today, its primary meaning refers to homosexuals. In today’s context, therefore, when we see someone who’s happy or lighthearted, our first word choice wouldn’t be “gay.”

Therefore, it seems to me (at least) that from this comparison the word ἐκκλησίᾳ as it’s used in the Bible doesn’t mean how we understand it today. It appears that we are taking our understanding of the word ἐκκλησίᾳ and reading that back into the text (this is known as eisegesis). As I noted above, there are plenty of places where ἐκκλησίᾳ wouldn’t make sense in the way we use it today. For example, we wouldn’t consider the gathering of the first century Jewish people or the Roman government to be the “church.”

What I’m suggesting is that we see ἐκκλησίᾳ to mean one of two things (depending on the context): a local gathering of reconciled people through whom god is implementing the Realm of god; or the totality of said people throughout all time and space. It’s not referring to a particular religious tradition. No religious tradition has the market on god. They aren’t the reality. They were signs that pointed us to the reality. The “badge” or “label” by which the world would recognize god’s followers is not “Anglican,”or “Baptist,” or “Orthodox,” or “Reformed,” or “Roman Catholic,” or any other tradition. It’s not even “christian2.” It’s Love:

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, with this in mind, how would we view those passages you mentioned? While most of them could be understood to be either one (or both) of my proposals (Matthew 16 and Ephesians 5 - universal; Matthew 18 - local), I would like to specifically address one passage.

Matthew 16.18; NIV:3 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

There are two things that I want to address here - the understanding of “my church” and “Hades.” I’ll start with “Hades.”

I specifically chose the NIV because it transliterated the word from the Greek text. The word here, ᾅδου (hádēs, hah’-dace), means the “unseen realm” and refers to the realm of the dead. To the surprise of a lot of people, Hades consisted of both the “unrighteous” and the “righteous.” This means that Jesus wasn’t referring to the doctrine of “hell. 4 ” This is very telling to me for other reasons that are beyond this response.

Furthermore, when Jesus said “my church,” he was not talking about a religious tradition. As was noted above, his meaning of the word ἐκκλησίᾳ should be understood in the universal sense of all the people who follow The Way.

Therefore, Jesus’ meaning is that god’s realm being fully established “on earth as in heaven” and not even death would stop it. And that’s exactly what we see on Resurrection Sunday (which, in John’s Gospel, takes place the first day of New Creation).

Concerning our disagreement about Jesus “forming a new religious system”: Good! I’m glad you disagree! I wouldn’t want anyone to just agree with me because I’m a priest. These are weighty issues that each of us need to wrestle with. We can’t simply follow what someone else tells us. Whether that’s a friend, or teacher, or pastor, or priest, or Pope (and that last one can be very troubling for some people). Although the things you mentioned were also available within other religious traditions, not least Judaism, perhaps they were meant to start a new religious system. And while I’m convinced that this was flatly not the case, and becoming more convinced with each reading, I know that we’re not all at the same place in our journeys along The Way. So, let’s keep reading. Let’s keep asking great questions. But, more than anything else, let’s keep loving each other. Because “if [we] know all the mysteries and everything else, and if [we] have such complete faith that [we] can move mountains but [we] don’t have love, [we’re] nothing” (1Corinthians 13.2; CEB).

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

1. This information was gathered from Biblos.com. This is a fantastic site for people who are interested in getting into the Greek (and Aramaic/Hebrew) text of the Bible.

2. “Christian” means “follower of Jesus,” I purposely didn’t use it this way in this context. Too often, the word “Christian” is associated with actions that are not at all like Jesus.

3. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

4. Even if Jesus was referring to the doctrine of hell, his point in Matthew 16 would be the same - nothing can stop the spread of god’s realm.