Your Body—The Temple of God

February 21, 2020

Teaching from Mark recently, we came to the part where Jesus “cleansed” the Temple greatly upset with what Temple worship had become by his day. Upon leaving, some of his followers remarked about how big and sturdy and solid the buildings looked.

The Temple of pretty much every religion at the time was the place to go where God met the people. God was supposed to dwell in the building. But many Jews in Jesus’ day did not believe that the Temple they had was the real Temple—that of Solomon—where God did actually dwell. The light was on, but nobody was home.

Jesus told them that soon all those buildings would be completely destroyed and that pagan rites would be held on the site of the Holy of Holies.

And 40 years later, it came to pass just as he said. Jews fled for their lives before the onslaught of Roman armies as leaders grew impatient with the continual restlessness and rebellion of the Jews. And the Temple was completely destroyed and Romans worshipped their Gods on the site.

But Jesus had already moved the Temple out of the building. Much of what he did, for example forgiving sins, was supposed to be accomplished by Temple rites. But he did it in the open in Galilee.

Later, Paul told his people “don’t you know that your body is the Temple of God. Take care of it. Don’t pollute it.”

Therefore, Paul hated sexual passion. One passage fundamentalists like to drag out to justify prejudice against homosexuals actually refers to passion. Paul didn’t like heterosexual or homosexual passion. He only grudgingly personally permitted people to marry if they couldn’t contain their passions. Even there I suspect that he trusted the wives to control the passion of the men.

But your body…that is where heaven and earth meet. Take care of it. And slow down, sit or lie quietly, and meet God. Let the Spirit infuse you.

We Are All God’s Children

February 20, 2020

It must be a lesson God wants to infuse into my deepest places.

Once again lying in contemplation on God I was presented with the diversity of humans. Yet along with observing the distinct individuality of each, there was the overwhelming feeling of how we are all brothers and sisters—in the family with God the Father.

Yet we persist in divisiveness. Others are sinners; we are not. Some have sin worse than ours, so that we may justify ourselves in our own eyes.

But what about God’s eyes? From a different perspective one sees easily that all are at the same time people who miss the mark (sinners) and people who are loved by God.

Can you live within the paradox that at the very same time you are both someone falling short of God yet someone God loves? And the same with every neighbor?

Do Your Own Thinking

February 19, 2020

There was a popular writer on Biblical topics in the early 70s. I read his brief polemic on the future. While there were parts that didn’t ring true, especially his predictions of future political events given my background studying international politics, he wove a great story.

So I picked up a more serious study of a New Testament letter. Now the alarm bells in my mind rang more loudly. I pulled out a New Testament and read along with him. It seems that he made his own translation from the Greek in order to fit his theology. I thought for a while pondering where he was going. Then I sat the book aside and never read another thing by him…or his friends.

On the Internet, it began with passing email “chain letters” around. This habit quickly morphed onto Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. People would see a headline that “jerked their chains” and in a state of heightened emotion for the moment, they would pass it along.

People wishing to manipulate others, quickly found fertile soil—the type of soil Jesus talked about where seeds grow and multiply. Except it was not Jesus’ message propagating. Instead messages of fear, anxiety, yes, even hate, spread quickly among those open to manipulation.

Don’t be one of those. I’m sure we all get caught sometimes. Pausing to think through things for ourselves can save much grief—preventing family arguments, saving our own mental health, instead promoting peace, justice, forgiveness.

Don’t be that guy. Do your own thinking.

Prejudice Seeps Into Your Being

February 18, 2020

My wife and I just finished watching the entire series run of Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories. I’m not a Christie scholar, but I’ve found how she handles many sensitive topics fascinating.

For example, The Murder on the Orient Express explores the conflict of Poirot’s deep Catholic sense of morality versus the broader sense of justice.

More interesting is how she so naturally weaves English national prejudices against “foreigners” (Poirot is Belgian) and people of other races. I don’t know if she is reflecting English prejudice or if given which characters say what that she is subtly poking at those prejudices.

But I see how subtly and pervasive attitudes toward others different from oneself creep into language.

My gut tightens whenever I hear an adjective used as a noun. I hear “the blacks” or “the gays” or “the Jews” or “the Muslims” or “the Christians” and on and on.

These are actually people—a thought perhaps surprising to some. Black or gay or Jew or whatever may be one adjective describing someone. However, there are many more words that could also describe that individual person—nice, angry, deceitful, honest, peaceful, fearful…

The spiritual discipline I work on constantly is to filter my thoughts and words such that I talk of people, not attributes. This learned behavior that seeps deep into the being can be countered—but we must be honest with ourselves. There is that self-awareness discipline appearing yet once again.

A quick glance through social media shows me that there are many others who also have work to do in this area.

Silence Breeds Action

February 17, 2020

Christian Wiman—Silence is the language of faith. Action – be it church or charity, politics or poetry – is the translation.

This thought well expresses the iterative nature of the New Testament and what it means to follow Jesus.

Faith, as the Apostle James advises, without doing something with it, is dead.

Actions without the grounding of silence often go awry.

Imagine, if you will, a spiral reaching toward God. Within the spiral is the iterative dance of grounding in silence and acting from faith.

That reminds me of a thought from TS Eliot, maybe not exactly what he meant, but “Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

Or the tune from the Shakers, “Dance, then, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the dance, said he. And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.”

Understanding Yourself and Others

February 14, 2020

I first discovered the Enneagram at least 35 years ago through the study of the Jesuits. Ennea from the Greek for nine; gram from the Greek (sort of) for picture. The Enneagram is a diagram showing the nine basic personality types and some relationships among them.

The origins of the Enneagram are hazy, but an early church father is thought to have put out the original ideas.

The Road Back to You provides an overview of the nine types and their nuances. Most importantly, since the Enneagram has Christian origins, it is more useful for spiritual development than it is for psychological profiling.

Oh, the nine types:

  • One-The Perfectionist, Reformer
  • Two-Helper, Giver
  • Three-Achiever, Performer
  • Four-Individualist, Romantic
  • Five-Investigator, Observer
  • Six-Loyalist, Loyal Skeptic
  • Seven-Enthusiast, Epicure
  • Eight-Challenger, Protector
  • Nine-Peacemaker, Mediator

I am a Five with a strong Four—just so you know why I write observations so much and prefer reading and researching. Don’t ask about the Romantic side 😉

The purpose of this is not to know your type, or your significant other’s type. It is to do the work of growth and spiritual development. It never ends.

Sometimes We Need To Look In The Mirror

February 13, 2020

Thomas Merton said, “Do not be too quick to condemn people who no longer believe in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed their faith.”

Time and again we’ve seen people driven from God by the sort of attitudes Merton describes. We see it in issues even today where we divide people into groups—some are “sinners” while we, I guess we are not? Except that is not a point of view that Jesus would have endorsed.

Worse is when we reflect on our own prejudices and cold attitudes and see that we ourselves have had a part in that whole driving people from God process.

We need to look in that mirror not with vanity but rather with probing, self-aware eyes and hearts that see the times we have unleashed our inner Pharisee and hurt others.

Then we need to ask forgiveness. And receive grace. And start again with renewed heart.

Using Your Time Wisely

February 12, 2020

People as diverse as Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and Ben Franklin (co-founder of the USA) have written of a daily discipline of reflecting on time spent.

In the morning, ask “what good will I do today?” In the evening reflect back and ask “what is one good thing I have done today?” Many spiritual seekers recommend writing those in a journal.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that it appeared as if people of ill will have used their time better than people of good will.

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” Steve Miller Band, from Fly Like an Eagle.

We all realize this on some level. Grasp the time wisely, or we could be despairing like Pink Floyd:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town

Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Pink Floyd, Time

How are you using your time today?

Forcing Yourself Into a Category

February 11, 2020

Yesterday I wrote about how we construct theories and categories and then shove people into them. It’s easier to deal with people if we can make them a “type” and then dismiss them if they don’t fit into “our” category.

However, I started a new book on the Enneagram during yesterday’s flight to Germany. (I’m sitting in my hotel room overlooking the famous “fair grounds” of the Hannover Messe as I write this. Oh, yes, and on probably 4 hours of sleep on the plane. If this is incoherent, we’ll blame that…)

The purpose of studying the enneagram is not to determine your type and stop there. Or even to arbitrarily assign someone else to a type and stop there.

What really happens to us is that we categorize ourselves. We’re stupid. Or clumsy. Or unattractive. Or didn’t have the breaks that rich kids had. Or…whatever.

If we just had but a wise guide to lead us through the enneagram, we could develop an awareness of the tactics we adopted as kids in order to survive our circumstances. Further, we could see that we are still locked into those tactics and strategies and feelings, and that these are inhibiting our growth and our relationships.

I think every spiritual writer I have studied has at some point taught the importance of self-awareness. What a spiritual gift we have when we can see ourselves from the outside in and then change from the inside out.

Forcing People Into Categories

February 10, 2020

Software designed to help management run businesses usually forces the company to change to fit it. Rather than assisting people operating the organization it forces workflows and the way to operate as designed by some geek in a cubicle hacking computer code.

Politician can be that way. They have a theory and fit facts and people into categories according to that theory. Everything becomes a battle where I’m trying to get my theory triumphant (in whatever sense) over your theory.

Christians can also be that way. We have a theory and derive rules from that theory. We expect people to agree with the theory and to completely follow the rules we have constructed. And, woe to those who disagree or slip in the following of a rule. They will be cast into hell where we Christians can joyfully sing “I told you so.”

But, there exist followers of Jesus who try to live out the harder commandment. “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And your neighbor as yourself.”

We don’t have rules. We have “The Way” as the first followers were called. And that way means we don’t try to force people into molds and then judge them according to the mold. No, each person is a child of God. And we treat them as such. Offering to help them along the way.

Jon Swanson comes up with some of the most intriguing and challenging ways to serve. Follow the link to some practical yet fascinating ways to “fast”—or better said, to Love our neighbor. I wish I had the courage to try out his ideas.