To Gain your Neighbor

Or: how Matthew 18 is not “how to throw people out of the church in three easy steps.”

Matthew 18.15-20

When I first saw this passage, it seemed so simple. When someone in life irritates you, this is how you kick them out for good and all with biblical backing. It was an obvious roadmap to throwing people out of the church/kicking them out of your life with the blessing of Almighty God thrown into the bargain. And then I started reading the Old Testament more closely, and learned Greek, and the whole “throw out the jerks with God’s blessing” thing fell apart.

You see, even in the Old Testament, the “ultra judgmental, throw them all out” God says things like “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Again and again, there are laments over hard human hearts that will not give God space. While the judgmental language is still there, there’s also lot of longing for those “outside.” And then, like I said, I learned Greek.

The key word in this part of the Good News According to Matthew is kerdaino “to gain.” As in “if they listen to you, you have gained them.” This means that the whole goal of this three step process is to gain our brother or sister. For extra fun, the word for gain means “to gain at a profit” and is used in that famous passage about “what good is it for a person to gain the whole cosmos and yet lose their being?” Thus, the point of this process is to gain our sister or brother once more, and to gain them at a profit no less.

Far from “how to kick them out” this is “how to gain them (and ourselves).” Adding to the fun, once we realize that the purpose of this process is to gain rather than lose the other, the whole getting-others-involved thing becomes more interesting. In the standard reading, these people are here to help back up our word in order to get Them to back down. We gather up a carefully selected mob to make sure that “that idiot” surrenders to our righteousness. This makes the process one of “crushing our enemies, seeing them driven before us, and hearing the lamentation of their women.” For some reason, this just doesn’t square with Jesus or the power of resurrection.

If instead of submission to our victory, the goal is gaining with benefits, the people who come along with us take on another shape. They are brought along not so much to provide intimidation as to enable both parties to stay on task. Instead of a mass of screaming partisans, they are there to cool tempers and keep us focused on the actual process of reconciliation.

But wait, you say, what about that whole ‘tax collectors and sinners” bit? Isn’t that a clear sign that we really are focused on kicking people out? Um, have you been paying any attention to Jesus? He got a regular ration of complaint from the Righteous because he spent so much time with tax collecters and sinners. In fact, Luke 15, that famous and beloved chapter where we find the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons took place when Jesus was hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners (and didn’t the Righteous get miffed at that!)

So the point of this three step process is to gain our neighbor, our sister or brother, rather than to kick them out. The people we take this to are there to confirm what is true and pull us up short when we go to exageration-town and keep us focused on getting the issue resolved. And if the break means we need to take a break, we are sent out to each other in hopes of gaining each other back again.

In a very large sense, we are sent out to do it like Jesus did. To go to those who have broken relationship and use our whole life to work toward reconciliation, with the goal of gaining the other. We are not going to get it perfectly right because only Jesus is perfect. We do however, still have to try.

Even though it is emotionally tempting to read it this way, this text is not a pattern for us to kick people out. Ultimately, we can’t actually vote people off the island because it is Jesus’ island thankyouverymuch. What we can do is go out to each other, seek for the heart of each other, open our own hearts to each other, and build a reconciled Body of Christ in this world that would rather throw us (and everyone else) away.

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Ezekiel 33.7-11

The words have a certain thunder and sense of importance to them “Behold, I have set you as a watchman for the whole house of Israel” says the Lord. “If I say to the wicked ‘you will surely die’ and you do not warn them, then their blood will be on your hands.” So our mission is clear then, we must call out the wicked for their evil ways so that they may repent of their evil and live. Oh goody, goody, we get to pull out our Big Club and beat people into heaven.

And we set to it with a will, in spite of some very good advice from our elders in the faith about why we can’t actually beat anyone into heaven. We ignore the wisdom of Abba Macarius who reminded us that “if you are stirred to anger when you want to reprove someone, you are gratifying your own passions.” In our enthusiasm to beat the evil out of others (or, as the current meme goes “to punch nazis in the face) we forget another hermit of the desert who said “it is not possible for a man to be recalled from his purpose by harshness and severity; demon cannot drive out demon.”

Oh no, we know who is evil and we’re going to shout it from the roof tops. We’ll form up an internet mob to pressure their employer to fire them and hound them with death threats convinced that “it’s OK to do this because they’re bad guys.” But then someone we like says something that offends others and they form an internet campaign to get our friend fired and it is suddenly not fair.

So we stand in the gap and speak up against evil confident that we have the right of it. Plus, hasn’t God given us the task to stand as sentinel? Are we not our brother’s keeper? Isn’t silence in the face of evil a servile support of that same evil?

The first question worth asking, and interestingly the one we are steadfastly avoiding, is “how can we know that they are actually evil?” You see, all our warnings of the wicked that the Lord is displeased with them hinges on the assumptions that we’re actually hearing God and that what we are hearing is telling us that Those People are Evil.

In more than a few cases in our history, “we” have known that “they” are evil and “out to destroy us all” only to later discover that we were not hearing the voice of truth at all. In fact, modern slogans have begun to sound like updated versions of “the only good… is a dead…” which should temper our enthusiasm with a reminder of the evils attendant upon our use of that slogan. A broad reading of history show in truth that very few people whose actions we regard as evil have considered them evil at the time. Thus an honest look at the result of actions driven by moral certitude directs us toward a more cautious reading of this sentinel text.

What God is doing here is setting the prophet up as a listener and speaker. They are not a guard, that’s a different word in Hebrew. The prophet is someone whose job is to watch and see and then tell what they see. Neither spear, sword, nor club are mentioned here. The task is seeing and speaking what one sees. Therefore the first task is going to be to work on our eyes and our understanding so we can clearly see what is going on in front of us. Only then can we rightly tell what we see.

In other words, our job is not to vote people off the island, even though Matthew 18 seems to be giving us the guide to “kick people out of the church in three easy steps.” Our job is instead to gain our neighbor. (Note: in that Matt 18 passage, the whole thing hinges on “if they listen to you, you have gained/recieved with profit/won that one.” Thus the point of the text is gaining people, restoring what was lost into victory again). In fact, even this text in Ezekiel is attempting to get us to focus on that positive gain.

God says “what makes me happy is when people who were far away from me are gone no longer but instead united with me again.”  So God too is focused on the positive of gaining in this passage. God wants to gain those who are lost/wandering/separated and this gain is one of union instead of just another box to tick in the “win” column. God’s goal is not to have us slip through the Holy Hands and fall away forever, instead it is for us to be in union and communion forever.

Which brings us all the way back to this sentinel bit. Our habit in human sin is to take this as a charge to loudly proclaim a person’s “in-ness” or “out-ness” at the top of our lungs, to approve and disapprove of others. History shows clearly how abysmally we do at that and how often our certainty of divine right has actually been a sign that we got our crusader banner from the hand of Satan instead of God. So if we are to be watchers on the walls, we need to work faithfully to clear our eyes and test our understandings before we speak to others. As I’ve called it elsewhere “we must bear the gospel first to the heathen in our heart.”

And always, when we speak what we see, we must keep in mind that God’s desire is not for sundering the wicked but instead for those who have turned away to instead turn back.

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That Denial Thing

Matthew 16.22-24

There’s a great moment in the film Apollo 13 where, confronted with the impending loss of a crew of Astronauts, the engineers tasked with preventing this are told “failure is not an option.” The phrase has entered the popular lexicon along with “Huston, we’ve had a problem” and we have great fun tossing it around at times and it is a great way to open up part of Scripture, specifically the… inventive interpretations we have come up with for “deny yourself.”

You see, we’ve spent so much time on the ‘self denial’ part of “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” that we’ve rather forgotten what this denial thing really is. People will use ‘self-denial’ as the reason they turn away from things they enjoy or give up beauty in their life “because I’m denying myself.” There are even some people who will deliberately seek out things they dislike or be glad that they are uncomfortable because it is part of self-denial. The process becomes one of divinely approved masochism that flies in the face of the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

The Greek word behind this denial is much more nuanced. Sure, it means “deny” as in “you will deny me three times before morning” but Peter was refusing to admit that he knew Jesus (a fancy modern term for this is “I disavow all knowledge”) he wasn’t saying that Jesus did not exist.

He’s refusing to acknowledge the relationship but the relationship is still there. In a sense then, the challenge to “deny yourself” is about refusing to listen to the clamoring voices in our head, to “push through the pain” of self-absorption rather than hurting ourselves and saying that this is God’s Will. We do not attempt to destroy the body, we recognize that the voices that howl in our head are crazy and refuse to let them rule. It is a process of testing the spirits and checking the habits of our heart in order to let go of hardened hearts and hurtful habits. And as we become free of our history we can then “think anew and act anew” as some guy said.

Set free from the voices, binds, and habits of our needy, whiny, grabby, selfish self, what do we do next? Take up our cross. But wait, isn’t this just another round of “suffer, suffer, cross, cross?” In the largest sense, yes. We will face conflict and challenge in life, we will find ourselves tested by the factions in our community and the factions in our heart (what about the heathen) but in the most immediate sense, we will be a living offering.

You see, to bear the cross is to be a “cross bearer” or, to put that into Latin, cruci-fero. And who is borne on that cross? Christ. Thus a cruci-fero becomes a Christo-fero a Christ bearer. So taking up our cross is taking up the sign of Jesus, the Christ, Saviour of the Cosmos, Ruler of our Heart. And with that cross in our heart, we bear Him in our heart, through our life, and to our neighbor.

There will be challenge in doing this, pain and heart-ache, and even loss but in bearing our cross, in bearing our Christ, we will bring life to dark hearts and hurt lives. We will also break our hearts at our own and others refusal to open their hearts to grace.  The invitation to yes must include the possibility of no or it is not a true invitation. In order to bear this cross, we will need to lay down our lives, to put down our ‘self above all’ mindset.

Part of the popular understanding of laying down life is about physical death in order for someone else to live but Andrew Peterson in his song “Dancing in the Minefield” points to a different kind of laid down life. “Well ‘I Do’ are the most famous last words. The beginning of the end. But to lose your life for another, I’ve heard, is a good place to begin. ‘Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down. And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found.”

Laying down our lives is then a daily spiritual practice rather than some grand and glorious gesture. But what does this daily ‘laying down our life,’ this ‘laying down of self’ actually look like? Abba Poemen of the desert explained it thus, ‘There is no greater love than that you should lay down your life for your neighbor. When you hear a complaint against you, and struggle with yourself, and do not begin to complain in return, when you bear an injury with patience and do not look for revenge, that is when you lay down your life for your neighbor.’’ Part of this spiritual practice then is laying down our entirely understandable sense of self in order to make space in our hearts for the other to live and move and have their being.

Just as failure was not an option to the engineers of Apollo 13, life for us under the rule of the grabby, whiny, selfish self is not an option. Through Jesus’ work in us we can now refuse to accept self-centeredness as our ruler, take up the life of Christ, and follow after Jesus on the path he is walking into life.

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Changing the Schema

Romans 12.1-8

This stretch of Romans has a lot of complex theological ground to cover and I have already done a bit and outlined key issues in a previous post. Now it’s time to cover more. Specifically, what Paul means when he talks about “renewing of your minds.”

Let’s start with an expanded translation of verse 2.

Key: [text insertions], alternate/meanings, (underlying Greek words)

And do not allow your being to be shaped anymore by the model (schema) of this era but be transformed (metamorphosed) by the making new (ana “again” + kaine “new”) of your thoughtfulness (noos) into the understanding/testing-and-approving-of the will of God: The Good, the acceptable/pleasing/delightful, and the goal/end/perfection.

It’s a wordy expansion but the point is to show how multi-layered Paul’s Greek really is. It also shows the complexity that we gloss over when we focus on the “be transformed” part of “do not be conformed but instead be transformed” (and yes, I am aware that all the nerds are now singing the theme song to That Show).

But while the metamorphosis (yes, the Greek word here is metamorphe) of our mind is often the focus of sermons, there’s more going on here. (By the way the word used for “mind” is nous which means the percieving/understanding part of the mind rather than the data bank/trivial pursuit winning part).

While I’ll get back to the whole issue of metamorphosis, the Greek points to something even more interesting. The translations gloss over the notion of “conformity” in part, I think, because “non-conformity” is practically a religion in the English speaking world. Unfortunately, by not understanding the Greek of conformity we miss a significant challenge of life.

You see, the Greek word for “being conformed” is a compound of (sun “together” and schema “model”). In other words, the word for conformity includes the idea that people are being brought together sun “with” a “model,” a schema that stands outside of them. This means that part of what we’re facing is not just an internal enemy but in fact an external one as well.  But it gets better.

You see, this model (schema) is part of this age (aeon) to which we are encouraged to conform. While it is easy to gloss by the notion of aeon, simply assuming that it is just means “time.” We have taken the word directly into English and when we remember to use it at all, know that it means “an age/era” or “a long period of time.”

This age, this long period of time provides a context in which our lives are lived. But because it is a time period it means that it has both beginning and end. In other words, while it is indeed the time in which all of this happens, it is a limited thing which ends. It is not permanent. This is important because it means that there is a part of the world which stands outside who we are, that is a temporary context.

Part of this context is the schema, the model in which we live. And there’s a fun bit of Greek we can toss in here because schema is a variant of exw, the verb “to have.” And thus this model this ideal is something that, if you’re willing to play witht the idea a bit, “has you” as in “the Matrix has you.” I’ve dealt with this somewhat elsewhere but it is both worth noting and far more sprawling of a topic so I will leave it there.

So the pressure on us is to model our lives after an outside scheme of life which is part of this eon, this age of the cosmos. What do we do (and more importantly, what is God doing) to deal with this? By the metamorphosis of our thinking, i.e. “being transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

First off, the transformation is indeed a metamorphosis because that’s the Greek word actually used by Paul. Second, what is transformed is our nous the way we think about and percieve the world. The world itself is not changed, what changes is the way we process the data of the world, the way we tell our story.

As an added bonus, this metamorphosis, this trasnformation of our thinking comes about through a process we rather vapidly translate as the “renewing of our mind.” The translation is vapid because the Greek is a compound of ana “again” and kaine “new” so literally “re-new-ed.” While the hyphens just look silly, they point out that this new-ing is an action (a verb, if you will) and it is a re-new-ing as in a creation of newness again. I am sure I’ve heard that somewhere else in Scripture.

So, in this one verse we are invited to see that there is an entire thought world around us which is a product of this time in which we live. We are encouraged in many and various ways to conform to this model, this scheme but through the compassion of God our whole thought-world can be made completely new. By being made new, we can see and understand (and therefore relate to and reach toward) the true things of life.

These true things are listed as:

  • The Good (the ultimate good agathon of life), note also the way this echoes God’s “and it was good” in creation. The Good is ultimate goodness.
  • the delightful/pleasing, one might call this “the Beautiful” because it pleases, delights, and is welcomed (although translated “acceptable” it is so much more).
  • and the goal/purpose of all things. This last one is telos which means goal/purpose/end (or destination). We translate it as “perfect” because of an assumption that the goal of life is perfection but that leads us in a static direction. If we were really wanting to have fun, we could call this “the true” and thus have “the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.”

But now I am knocking on the edge of another massive topic so I will end with transformed minds, re-newed by God’s compassion and now able to see and act on the true and the real in the world.


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A Living Offering

Romans 12.1-8

When I was younger, my mind was full of the idea of noble sacrifice (often against enormous odds). There were parts of my life which I did not like that I desperately wanted to cut away and other parts that I wanted magnificently enobled. (Yes, I was a dramatic child, why do you ask?)

Growing up meant leaving those ideas behind but they still echo so upon once again hearing Paul talk about being “a living sacrifice” and offering our bodies up to God as a noble gift, those old ideas bleed through and I want to grab verses 1&2 up into some noble call to personal, bodily perfection. Give your life as a sacrifice! Delight in all the bad things that happen because you are a sacrifice! Your life only has meaning as sacrifice! Be perfect because you are a sacrifice!

Those and other maudlin bits of perfectionist stupidity ran through my head at the first re-reading of this text before preaching but hearing them again reminded me of their foolishness and in-humane-ness. And then I got into the Greek and the whole silly model of sacrificing my life for a great and noble cause was flushed out by the power of the actual text. This, ultimately, is why growth in faith requires a constant re-formation of our thinking. We have to take our deepest thoughts and most cherished notions out on a regular basis to test them against the truth revealed in Scripture (but now I’m wandering away from the text).

So the Greek reveals something else about the text then pastor, what is it?

Let’s start with an expanded translation: [text insertions], alternate/meanings, (underlying Greek words)

V. 1 I appeal to you brothers [and sisters], through the compassion/compassionate pity/mercy of God to present your bodies as a living offering/sacrifice acceptable/pleasing/delightful to God, [as is] your obvious (logical) worship/service.

V.2 and do not allow your being to be shaped anymore by the model (schema) of this era but be transformed (metamorphosed) by the making new (renewal) of your thoughtfulness (noos) into the understanding (testing and approving of) the will of God: The Good, the acceptable/pleasing/delightful, and the goal.

Yes, this is a very wordy passage and shows again how complicated making a translation can really be. While there are a number of points to draw from this, and brilliantly fun rabbit holes down which we can wander, here are a few important points”

All this happens through the compassion of God it is not entirely clear if Paul is appealing through God’s compassion or if it is through God’s compassion that we present ourselves but both meanings are there and God’s compassion is not just a rhetorical flourish.

This offering is not just an “oh well, I’ll accept it” for God, it is pleasing and delightful The Greek word means all three things and it shows up again at the end of verse 2. What we are called upon to do here is something which passionately delights God. Gone forever therefore, is the notion that God looks at what we do and, rather regretfully accepts our life work with a deep sigh and an “oh well, I guess that’s the best you can do”

There is a contrast between the schema (scheme?) of this era in which we live and the being-made-new (“I make all things new”) of our mind/thoughtfulness/thinking processes This implies that the schema (model) of this era is a thing and that it, and the underlying assumptions it carries about girls and boys, what makes success, and the proper understanding of power (among so many other things) are in direct contrast to what God seeks our mental thought-life to be. This is a topic worthy of serious study and is part of the long practice of spiritual growth.

The key part however is that of understanding this bit about becoming a living offering because that’s what takes our life out of the juvenile and ‘oh so noble’ idea of ‘putting myself upon a cross for Jesus’ and singing “we are an offering.”  To understand this, we need to make one last stop, and this time it is with an early writer of the church.

Origen of Alexandria (182-254) was one of the earliest commentators on Scripture and a lot of the things he did continue to profoundly affect the way we do interpretation to this day. He was eccentric, at times flat out wrong, and yet for a ‘making it up as we’re going along’ theologian, he was pretty good. In his commentary on verse 1, he makes this (slightly edited) point. “[Paul] calls a living sacrifice one which carries life in itself, that is, it bears Christ.”

In other words, a living sacrifice, a living offering, is an offering which brings life and the life that it brings is Jesus Christ. Far from the compassion of God demanding that we somehow become etherially perfect bodies without spot or blemish, or instead that our sacrifice be along the lines of a noble renunciation of our living in order to give our life for another, the living offering Paul is pointing to is an offering of Christ through us.

What we are called to offer is Jesus, real, alive, and living in (and through) us. We are not asked to suffer for the sake of nobility but to offer life for the sake of those (including ourselves) whose faith light is flickering. We offer the power and life of Jesus through our very lives instead of some noble (and bloodless) principle of being.

We bear Christ in ourselves, we bear the life of Christ to the heathen in our own heart, the unconverted, confused and sometimes quite frightened part of us that still hasn’t gotten it that God’s love really is unconditional. We bear Christ to our neighbors, and in this way become in truth what Martin Luther called us in hope “little Christs.”

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Becoming Human After Horror

Or, how the life of faith is part of growing into the reality of being fully human

Some of you have had what people call ‘a happy childhood,’ a generally safe life where the transitions and challenges of becoming an independent human being were done in a context where failure was OK and growth was treasured over perfection. If this is your history, I say ‘peace be to you, go forth into the world with joy and strength.’ This post really isn’t directed to you so while you can stay and read along, this may not be too interesting.

For the rest of us, Anna Karenina is totally bogus, happy families are not all alike, it’s unhappy ones that follow rigid patterns and stifle life. Happy families are flexible and multifaceted, they are (to correctly quote Tolstoy) ‘each happy in its own way.’ But for us, we grew up in some variation of a rigid system where everything worked one way only and change was a threat to the system and to our very life. This is not just talking from observation, this is a reflection of psychological learning as well.

Unhealthy families tend to have a rigid structure and rigid roles and in order to survive growing up in the middle of this kind of insanity, we have to become a little insane ourselves. We think magical thoughts and develop life habits that are just silly.  Some of it is easy to ignore in later life, like sleeping with your head under the covers so the monsters don’t get you. Some of it can be very harmful like having existential, relationship ending arguments on the anniversary of childhood trauma or responding to the regular stumbles of life with uncontrolled rage.

The variations on this theme are truly infinite and we aren’t limited to just one kind of insanity. Living in Crazytown warps our sense of the world around and even when we leave it, we often keep acting like we’re still there. We bring a little bit of Crazytown with us wherever we go (or, as Bujold put it, we “carry them around like anti-treasures”).

The problem is however, that the things that worked in Crazytown don’t do so well in the rest of the world. And thus we find ourselves facing the process of becoming human after having been warped by Crazytown into parodies of human beings. This is part of what the bible means when it uses the phrase “hardened hearts” to talk about our internal certainties about who we are and how the world works which actively resist outside change.

While this is a painful realization and hard to face, it’s important to accept that the world we were raised in was not normal, it was a warped parody of real life and real family. Everyone was crazy so we accepted crazy as normal.

The first task of our return to full humanity then is to accept that crazy is in fact crazy. Again, this is a painful realization but I will direct you to the famous quote which begins “life is pain, highness…

In happy families, teens challenge the magical thinking of their concrete childhoods in a safe environment, learning how to stand on feet that (eventually) do not tremble at the thought of change. For the rest of us, rigid structures do NOT like change and fight it with existential determination. This leaves us with a significant problem: catching up with our peers.

The earliest model I developed for life was that it was a marathon, except that my starting line was an extra ten miles back. In other words, I had to run an extra ten miles just to get to the starting line but still had to finish the race in time. While this is not perhaps the most positive and uplifting model for life, it has the virtue of simplicity. Further, it envisions the issue as one of simply “catching up” rather than one of being permanently, existentially damaged (note: this song is a painful, powerful description of the sense of lostness and brokenness we find at the bottom of that well but it doesn’t end there and neither do we).

Sure, having to catch up because we caught crazy from our family isn’t fair and it may even be impossible in this life but I will refer you again to the movie quote, it also applies to people who say life is, or should be, fair.

“well golly, this is pretty depressing, when do we get to the happy part?” We have to go through some theology first.

You see, we’ve got this idea that sin is a thing we do, that it is about our actions and not about our thoughts and assumptions. And yet the monks of the desert who dealt with the things that most draw us away from God focused on our thoughts. For that matter, if our issue were with what we do, Paul would have said that “our battle is against flesh and blood” but he rather memorably did not.

Paul dealt with the spiritual processes, the ideas in our heads, the assumptions that we make about life and one another. He was dealing with the thought world that brought us the toxic masculinity which defines a man’s worth by what he does (and if he doesn’t do up to standard? he’s worthless). It’s the subtle heresy of white supremacy, the idiotic notion of complementarity and the foolishness that preaches the first part of that bit on submission without finishing the passage.

In other words, sin (or to use the Lutheran term “sin, death, and the power of the devil”) encompasses more than just what we do, it includes our thoughts and habits too.

Does this mean that our job then is to “think harder” until we’re healthy? Isn’t that a great way to blame ourselves for ‘not being good enough’ in overcoming our heritage from Crazytown? Do you really think that the One who said “I will not leave you orphaned” would abandon us?

Brennan Manning, the priest whose Ragamuffin Gospel inspired Rich Mullins’ work talked about AA meetings as “one addict helping another addict hold our faces up to the light.” While he was focused on addiction, to an extent, our heritage from Crazytown is that addiction. It is the subtle power of sin, death, and the devil that warps our mind and, because what Jesus does is triumph over that power by breaking the prison bars, the community of faith is where we “hold each others faces up to the light.”

And now we finally come to the part where all of this comes together. However we came to it and whatever particular shape it takes, we inherited crazy from our family. The question we now face is, bluntly, “what will you do with it?” One thing we can do is see it as part of the power of sin, death, and the devil which is outside ourselves and seeking to dominate and rule us. In this context then, our power for life comes from reaching toward the God who has already broken the power that wants to rule us and by clinging to Christ, to overcome the world.

Our practice of life together, of living in and encouraging one another as part of the community of faith, is then part of what it means to unfurl our being into new ways. The church then becomes a place where, in the middle of worship, fellowship, and the (seemingly endless) meetings, we see each other and hear each other and as Manning put it “hold each others faces up to the light.”

This then is why faith, and the community of faith, are so important in becoming fully and deeply human.



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