Desert father Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’ ” If only desert father Anthony was with us in our 21st century world, he would possibly be pushing his shopping cart full of bedding up the busy urban sprawl and wondering at the sanity of so many ‘sane’ people.
I get asked a lot “why do you call your group ‘that’?” referring no doubt to our inglorious epitaph, and like so many other things which are beautiful and true the reasons are multi-layered and complex. On the face of it, I think I just wanted something that stood out, to everybody. Nearly every street corner and shopping center has a “Grace” or “Peace Community” or “Faith Word Assembly of Wah Wah” or whatever, and although those names can certainly be very uplifting I wanted something that would lodge in the conscience a bit more, something that would perhaps seem a little offensive or preposterous and sensational. Secondly there is truth in advertising, if a majority of people believe that christianity is made up almost exclusively of self-righteous hypocrites then why not take the liberty of applying a little bona fide candor and let the public know exactly who’s getting together when we meet. Sure sometimes each of us take ourselves a little too seriously, and we’ve all slipped up and been a bit legalistic in one area or another and then fallen all over ourselves-seccumbing to exactly the fault we saw so clearly in another. But mainly, I think that the term ‘hypocrite’ is probably most aptly applied to christians who, though struggling in their faith, are genuinely seeking after godliness. Why? The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “Jealous” “play-acting”, or “acting out”, and is associated with the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), the agentive noun meaning “judgment” »κριτική (kritiki), “critics”) presumably because the performance of a dramatic text by an actor was to involve a degree of interpretation, or assessment. These masked actors would take on a role, and disguise themselves-burying their own personalities under this fictitious persona, and for the christian this is especially true. When we are ‘in’ Christ we arent instantly whisked away to glory to revel in the clouds in the presence of the Most High, but we remain here in the corporeal world and withstand the constant fevers and trials of living in our flesh while yet we are occupied by the Holy Spirit. Desiring perfection and godliness, we continue to fall into sin after sin, capitulating to the tragic frailties which our bodies are heirs to. And yet, when the Father looks upon one of these crippled creatures, He no longer sees the broken mass of seething desire and avarice we were physically born to-but under the sheltering cloak of the blood of His Son he sees Jesus in all of His perfection and glory. What greater mask to wear that that of the Maker of the Universe, what greater role to play than the Redeemer and Sustainer of mankind? Not that we are pretending to be something that we don’t believe, but given time our very features may begin to resemble those of the perfect costume we have affected, and the ‘persona’ of Jesus will be evident in our lives through our love, peace, and grace.
Martin Luther wrote, “When it comes to faith, what a living, creative, active, powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do, rather, before the question is raised, it has done the deed, and keeps on doing it.” What must a day in the life of a pre-reformation era monk have been like? find out here http://www.pbs.org/empires/martinluther/fla/ml_main.html On day three of 2012 its easy to kick back and enjoy fruits of a successful year thus far, but we have to remember that we don’t need to wait for December 31st to make a change, to have a “re-birth”. Every morning God’s mercies are new (or at noon, you know-whenever you wake up you slothful hypocrite) and every day should be a chance to have a do-over, physically and spiritually if we want it. So grab today, and make the decision to live it by faith and enjoy the ride! This Sunday, January 8th, we will be leading worship for Advent Lutheran Church’s contemporary service at 10:20 am, so FSRCOTH is taking a field trip to 5820 Pinemont Dr, Houston, TX 77092-2604, please resolve to join us-we may even be disposed to share some of our raw cauliflower with you afterwards!
Fourth-century poet Ephrem the Syrian wrote, “The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.”
Well, we just went over to Ca Phé Phįn our friendly neighborhood coffee house for our weekly meeting, but I guess they’ve decided to take the day off, and GOOD FOR THEM! Here in the states I think we put too much emphasis on “hours of operation” in local businesses that we don’t find in other countries, so for today, the 4th of December 2011 we’re meeting at the corner of Saturn and Hercules in the Clear Lake Music Lessons building, they won’t mind AND I’ve already made coffee, come on by!
Twentieth-century mystic Simone Weil wrote, “Affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” my mind boggles at the popularity of the “Twilight” series of novels and films, although I am certainly not their target demographic, still I wonder at our ongoing fascination with vampires, werewolves, zombies and other “supernatural” monsters from the pages of history. Dwelling on this at length, I am inclined to believe that perhaps our modern enlightened age has stripped away so many of the things we used to fear in the dark recesses of our own unconscious minds, and our contemporary goddess “Reason” has left us all yearning for a simpler time with simpler monsters. Today, we look out of our comfortable ring of man-made firelight, the pitiful flickering barely illuminating our primative mud dwellings, and out in the darkness-but for the grace of God-there we ourselves lurk shambling in the night. Perhaps Edward the vampire is more comfortable than that after all…
“”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye””
I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks nearly crippled with a persistent and tenacious attack by my old nemesis, gout. True, it’s given me a lot of time to lay around in bed and read, play mindless games on my iDevice, fart around on the interwebs, and have a reason to limp around with a pimp cane- plus I’m always grateful for some excuse or other to be anti-social but I’m really beginning to get a little fed up with the whole experience and am really frantically awaiting the day when I can once again easily walk up and down the stairs. Yeah, the pain and swelling are pretty bad, but for me the worst part is having to explain my condition to those well meaning individuals I seem to keep coming into contact with on my few hobbling escapades outside of my apartment. Nobody outside of a handful of Rheumatologists actually understand the causes of gout, and I’m beginning to suspect that they don’t really have much of a handle on it either. The medieval explanation of “perhaps a toad or small dwarf has taken up residence in your innards” sounds entirely plausible sometimes, and is certainly easier to explain than the more complex truth as it appears that most people already have it in their heads that I’ve obviously been eating too many rich foods and if I simply cut back on the Brie and Chateaux De Chatterley a bit I wouldn’t have to undergo my current trials. That’s the real trial for me, not judging people (myself included) for their personal misconceptions about the causes and nature of my rather debilitating disease, it’s so easy for me to fall into anger and respond sarcastically when I should be taking this unique opportunity to educate and explain. I am also in a wonderful position to show people a man who revels in the chance to share in sufferings of Christ, and be joyful despite my circumstances. Paul Miki, a martyr of Japan, said, “My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.” At First Self Righteous Church of the Hypocrite’s meeting tomorrow at 6 pm Monday October 24th at the Starbucks in League City (2800 Marina Bay Dr. League City, TX 775732957) we will wrestle with these concepts together, and perhaps enjoy a caramel macchiato together. Can’t hurt (or can it!?!?!)
Origen of Alexandria wrote, “Once the -people of God had surrounded the city Jericho, it had to be stormed. How then was Jericho stormed? No sword was drawn against it, no battering ram was aimed at it, no javelins were hurled. The priests merely sounded their trumpets, and the walls of Jericho collapsed. Jericho will fall, then; this world will perish. How will the world be brought to an end, and by what means will it be destroyed? The answer of Scripture is, by the sound of trumpets. If you ask what trumpets, then let Paul reveal the secret: The trumpet will sound, and the dead who are in Christ will rise incorruptible.”
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just put Jesus on autofollow, kick back, get out of the way, and let all the hard choices and temptations become victories? In some ways I guess that’s part of what the Holy Spirit does, He is the Father’s personal twitter feed ticking away in the foreground (or more regularly the background) of our conscious daily activities, and we have been granted the freedom to be able to listen in to those tiny bursts of divine advice or not- frequently to our peril. I wonder how many times I have ignored that still, small voice in my mind warning me of impending trouble, and yet ploughed headlong into some madness or other, recklessly abandoning whatever sound spiritual advice I was being served. But I suppose that’s the ultimate cost of freedom, to be given the choice to do things our way or Jesus’ way, thank God for the wisdom He imparts to know the difference, and the measure of grace extended to us when we fail.