26 June 2016

Lectionary Reflection—26 June 2016

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

For you’ve been called to live in freedom, my sisters and brothers. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you’re always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you’re not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you’re directed by the Spirit, you’re not under obligation to the law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There’s no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we’re living by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

There are a couple of things I want to point out here. The first is the “sinful nature.”

I really like the New Living Translation here. For me, it sets the tone of people having two natures—a “sinful” nature and a “holy” nature. Or, as the ancient Celts might have called it, a “false” nature and a “true” nature (and I prefer this way of seeing it). The Bible I normally use, the Common English Bible, translates “sinful nature” as “selfish impulses”. And while that may be clearer for some people, I don’t find it as helpful because they’re not necessarily the same thing. For example, while I believe Christ may have struggled with “selfish impulses” (see Luke 22.39-46) I don’t believe he had a “sinful nature” (2 Corinthians 5.21; Hebrews 4.15; 1 Peter 2.22).

And this an important distinction. While the followers of Jesus in the West typically believe in Augustinian “original sin,” the followers of Jesus in the East don’t. Furthermore, and in line with the church before Augustine, the followers of Jesus in the Celtic lands didn’t believe in “original sin,” either. As John Philip Newell noted in his book, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, the Celtic Christians believed that “deeper than any wrong in us is the Light of God, the light that no darkness has been able to overcome, as St. John had written” (pg. 14; see John 1.4-5).

Therefore, the “sinful” nature isn’t our “true” nature but a “false” one. I liken the “sinful nature” to an addiction. Just like a person can be controlled by drug addiction so can a person be addicted to “sin.” And like some recovery programs, a person’s “sinful” nature is often (and erroneously) looked upon as her “true” nature.

Again, this isn’t the biblical picture. The biblical picture sees “sin” as something outside of humanity “waiting at the door, ready to strike” (Genesis 4.7). Moreover, it hasn’t consumed humanity completely. As noted above, the “sinful” nature can never extinguish the light of God buried deep in all humanity (John 1.4-5). It’s this “light of God” that’s humanity’s true nature. The problem is we’ve become so addicted to our “false” nature we’ve forgotten who we truly are. We’ve become convinced (no less from Christianity) that there’s no goodness in us.

But how can we know the difference? Saint Paul’s convinced that the “fruit” or the things our lives produce—the outcome of our intentions and actions—is a good indicator of which nature we’re following. He states that “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” come from our “true” nature through the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

The other point I want to make is the leading of the Spirit. Paul says we’re to follow where the Spirit leads. My question is, “From where does the Spirit lead us?” It seems from the context that the Spirit leads us from our “false” nature and to our “true” nature. That is, she leads us away from our sin addiction to the Light of God that’s buried deep within us.

Not only that, but it seems that the Holy Spirit leads us to see deeper into all things and others. To see others as our sisters and brothers because of Christ’s reconciliation of all things. To see past the broken and false things of the world to the true Light within all light, to see the true Life within all life. In other words, the Spirit of God leads us to see all creation the way God sees it.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

19 June 2016

Lectionary Reflection—19 June 2016

Before faith came, we were guarded under the Law, locked up until faith that was coming would be revealed, so that the Law became our custodian until Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith.

But now that faith has come, we’re no longer under a custodian.

You’re all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There’s neither Jew nor Greek; there’s neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you’re all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you’re Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

There are two things I want to touch upon here: the Law and Christ.

The Law

From time to time, I hear people state that followers of Jesus should be following the Jewish (or Mosaic) Law. It seems to me that St. Paul refuted that in the passage above. He stated that “the Law” (i.e., the Mosaic Law), was only a temporary thing. He wrote that “the Law” was a “custodian until Christ. But now...we’re no longer under” the Law.

But let’s back up a little bit.

By his own admission Saint Paul was an apostle to the “Gentiles” or non-Jews of his day (2.2, 9, Acts 15.12). And these Celts in Galatia (oh! You didn’t know they were Celts? Yep!) had been duped into thinking that to be real Christians, they must follow the Law of Moses (that’s pretty much the first three chapters of this letter).

Paul doesn’t just make a blanket statement about not following the Law, he explains why—the coming of Christ. In another of his letters, considered his magnum opus by some, Paul wrote that Christ was the “end” or “goal” (τέλος (telos) in Greek meaning “end, finish, consummation”) to which the Law pointed (Romans 10.4). So there’s no reason why people, especially those who follow Jesus, should be trying to follow the Law. It ended at the coming of Christ.

But why is that? Well, that’s the next point.


When Christ came (or if you prefer—when God became incarnate through the person of Jesus) he proclaimed the coming of God’s promised Realm (Mark 1.15). This coming Realm (also known as New Creation, New Covenant, or the New Heaven and Earth) was inaugurated when Jesus was resurrected marking the “first day” of the New Creation (John 20). However, the New Creation wasn’t fully established until the Old Creation—the city of Jerusalem and her Temple—was removed in 70 CE (Revelation 21). During that transitional period (roughly forty years from the resurrection of Jesus to the fall of Jerusalem) the Old Creation was decaying (Hebrews 8; cf. Hebrews 3), while the New Creation was slowing growing and becoming established (Luke 13.18-21).* With the establishment of a New Covenant comes a new Law—the Law of Love (Mark 12.28-31; John 13.34-35; Romans 13.8; Galatians 5.14; 1 John 4.21). So, the reason that the Law of Moses is no longer binding is because it was the law of the Old Creation. Since the Old Creation was replaced by the New Creation, the Old Law was replaced by the New Law, the Law of Love.

Now back to Galatians.

A lot of people interpret Galatians 3.26 in this way: if people believe in Jesus—that is, if they’ve “confessed with the mouth and believed in the heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10.9-10) then they’re “saved” (and by that they mean that they become Christians)—then they’re all “God’s children.” It doesn’t matter if they’re Jews or non-Jews, male or female, etc.; it’s their faith in Jesus which makes them brothers and sisters in God’s family.

And that’s fine as far as it goes.

But that’s a little too individualistic for me. I hate to break it to my American readers but the Bible isn’t really too keen on individualism, not the way America sees it anyway (which, to be honest, borderlines on idolatry in some circles). The God of the Bible is covenantal—it’s about community. Generally speaking, what God does, God does for the whole, not the part. And, when God does do something for the individual, it’s ultimately for the whole community.

Take the issue of sin in Romans 5, for example. Saint Paul is clear when he states that sin entered the world through Adam, and because of that, all of humanity was sinful. “Death,” Paul wrote, “ruled (all creation) because of one person’s failure” and “judgment fell on everyone through the failure of one person” (Romans 5.17-18). Why? Because Adam represented all humanity (Romans 5.14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15.22, 45); he was the covenant leader, if you will. No one had to “believe in the heart and confess with the mouth” for this to be true. That’s not the way it works. Again, covenants are with the entire community, not just the individual. Blessings and curses come upon everyone in the community not just the individuals who keep or break the covenant rules. We in America (and the rest of the civilized world) may not like this, but that’s the way things are in the Bible.

Of course, this has it’s benefits, too. This idea of covenantal representation is why the New Testament writers are emphatic that God will resurrect people because God resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15).

It’s because of this understanding of covenantal representation that I see verse 26 differently. I don’t think St. Paul is talking about an individual’s belief. I think he’s talking about the covenantal change from being under the Law to being under Christ. This change of worldview only happens “through faith.” That is, Paul is looking at the world through faith in what God accomplished through Christ on a cosmic scale. Just as the Law affected all Hebrews (whether they believed in it or not), the coming of Christ and his life and work (the “grim business” as a dear friend put it), affected all of humanity. Or, as Paul put it in Romans 5, “Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (5.18; NLT).

Therefore, it takes faith to see all humanity as “God’s children”. It takes faith in the work of God through Christ to recognize that our neighbors are our siblings. It takes faith that the cosmos is a different place because of Christ. It takes faith to see things this way. It takes faith to change one’s worldview. It takes faith to move from an individualistic way of seeing the “grim business” of Christ to seeing it as the rescue of all things—to see it not as “saving me” but “saving everything”.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

* For a detailed study of this, see my series on New Testament Eschatology.

08 June 2016

Chromebook Update!

About a year ago, I wrote a post about switching to a Chromebook, so I thought I’d give an update to my decision.

I still love it!

There’s only one set back to it—booklets. When I do a retreat or lead a service, I generally use my own liturgical booklets. Each booklet’s geared specifically to the situation. And in each case, I need an office suite that has some sort of drawing application—one that will allow me to use text fields and add images. If you’ve never created a booklet (or pamphlet) it can be a trying task if you don’t have the right application. Most people think that you can just use a word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.), but for the life of me, I can’t get them to do what I need them to do. For example, when using Google Docs, I just create a document. The whole page is like a giant text box. I start typing and the text appears on the page from left-to-right and fills up the space between the margins. Sure, I can add an image to this document, but it’s still just flowing from left-to-right, top-to-bottom until the page fills up and another page is added.

But when creating a booklet, well, that’s a different beast altogether. The page layout is landscape. The first page is blank on the left half of the page and first page of text starts on the right side. The text then flows to the top of the left half of the second page. It then flows to the top of the right half of the third page. And on and on. When I reach the bottom of the last page, the text then flows to the top of the opposite half of the previous page. In other words, the text runs in a zigzag pattern on alternating pages like this:

I should clarify that the text doesn’t “flow”—I have to create a text box for the text and images, and when I’ve run out of space, I create a new page, add the text box, and start adding text from where I left off on the previous page. And, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to do this with an online document creator! I’ve even tried the Drawing app in Google Docs but I can only create one page! As you can see from the above image, I need multiple pages.

And this is a crucial issue for me. So much so that I was considering purchasing another laptop! Of course, I’d install a Linux OS on it (probably Linux Mint). I even went so far as checking out various sites and even bookmarked a few promising candidates.

But I didn’t want to do this—I really like my Chromebook. It’s fast, reliable, and secure, and everything I need to do, I can do on my Chromebook—writing documents, social media, listen to music (streaming or my own offline collection), organize, edit, and upload pictures, etc.  And I’d bet most people do the same things and would be perfectly fine using a Chromebook.

Except for this one issue!

Well, I recently found a solution! Robby Payne over at Chrome Unboxed has an instructional video and step-by-step web page dedicated to installing and running Ubuntu in parallel to ChromeOS! That means that I have a window running Ubuntu (with the Xfce4 desktop experience or DE) while accessing everything else in ChromeOS! After I had Ubuntu installed, I was able to install LibreOffice, the open source suite that I create my brooklets with. In the image below, you can see I have a window open to a YouTube channel (Chrome Unboxed) and another window with Xubuntu running and the LibreOffice Draw application loaded with the Celtic Christian Retreat Service Booklet open!

Now, I don’t have to worry about buying another laptop anytime soon! Thanks to Robby Payne and all of his work at Chrome Unboxed! Here’s his YouTube video walking through the entire process. Make sure you switch it to full screen or watch it on YouTube!

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC