Sin? You got nothing on me…

Sin used to terrify me.

Sin, that thing that paves the path to hell, that thing that stains our soul and leads us to the depths of despair through grief, guilt, and shame. Its everywhere and, seemingly, in everything. The Ten Commandments, the guide of the what not to do in life, contain as its first proclamation a sin that appears unachievable – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and body.

How can we live like this? Well, according to Christian theology, life is only possible through Jesus Christ. He died so we might live. He died “that he might shatter the chains the evil and death, and banish the darkness of sin and despair.”(Book of Alternative Services, p196)

Yet sin still has power. It has power when we judge others, or use the sin of their lives as some sort of litmus test of their character or their worth. It has power when we look in the mirror and we judge ourselves as dirty, useless, or hopeless when we recognize the face staring back as one who has fallen down yet again. Humanity is the source of sin’s power in the world. Us. You and I. We give sin power, but the the real truth is Sin is powerless where God is concerned; the path forward has been cleared through Jesus Christ. This seems to be one of those impossibly complex aspects of the Christian faith that Christians have the devil of a time grasping.

Sin has no power. Get it through your head. Jesus’ death and resurrection obliterated sin and death. They are gone. They are no more. They have ceased to existed. I really want to channel John Cleese… It is nothing any follower of Christ needs to be afraid of anymore and, if we can fully believe that, we are now free to talk about it and perhaps even flip sin to be something else entirely.

I once heard sin described as our disobedience to God’s will. Heavy term and very accurate. But if God’s deepest wish is for us to walk with him in perfect relationship, then we could articulate sin as not only a matter of our obedience, but of connection to God; sin is anything that gets between us and God. Anything.

This opens up an entire world of possibilities to what is sinful. Shoot anything and everything is sinful in this context if it is solely about connection to God. Work, video games, junk food, reading trash novels, I’m just looking around my desk at this point, but you can see where I am going. If all these things can be sinful, and more, again, how can we possibly live this way? Well, remember that we don’t have to fear sin anymore, and if I am not afraid of sin, if I am not ashamed or crippled by the guilt of sin, my sin is no longer about who I am, but rather where I am. Sin can now be seen as type of road marker for me. The sin of my life, the things that dampen my connection to God, that take me out of my moments with the Devine, they aren’t sources of pain, but rather indicators of the parts of my life where, if I choose to work on them, will lead me to deeper and stronger connections to my Creator. They are no longer indicators of worth, but opportunities for growth.

Yes, a person could take this and easily find themselves running with theologies like that of the Libertines, those “anything goes cause God forgives all sin” mentalities, but a key component to what I’m offering is our desire to be in constant and direct communion with the source of our life, the One who knows who we truly are, and the One gives us our reason to be.

God’s intention for us is to be with Him, not only after we pass on from this life, but right now in this moment. No matter where we are or what we are doing – God’s desire is that we are with Him. I believe that with all my heart and it is the focal point of my theological stance. Yet, one of the biggest threats to that connection is the power that we have given back to what we consider sin. This power we provide to sin runs people down and makes them feel unlovable, unworthy, inadequate, hopeless. This power we provide to sin weakens our connection to God and takes us out of the moments with Him we should be cherishing.

Do you want that connection to God and the peace, the love, the fulfillment that comes from His grace? Then quit buying into the idea that sin has power in your life and when you fall down (and if you’re honest, you know you will fall down), see those moments as gifts through which you can free yourself to grow even closer to the One who truly loves you.

Make Clean Our Hearts…

I don’t know if I am concocting a new personal theological stance, maturing in and moving deeper into my existing stance, or fiddling with something that doesn’t need to be fiddled with, but recently I took a course on something called Logosynthesis (healing with words). The course is all about freeing ourselves from what is essentially blocked energy. Now, I’m paraphrasing and offering little in the way of detail, doing the course little justice, because what I want to focus on is how it has shifted my thought process as a Christian so far.

So my faith journey with a Logosynthesis kicker starts here…

Many of you know I am an Anglican Priest and as such we commit ourselves to a life that includes, among other things, daily prayer. One of the prayers I turn to daily is the Collect of Purity:

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

It is the second half of this prayer that has shifted for me. The first part is an acknowledgement of God’s power and the depths of God’s knowledge of us. The second half is (and remains for me) a plea for God’s intervention to clear our minds and hearts so as to help us love God “perfectly”.

What has me sitting here typing are my thoughts about what we are asking God to clear away out of our hearts and minds. I have, perhaps naively, figured this to be our unwholesome thoughts, lustful, angry, hate-filled, and selfish thoughts, but after my introduction to Logosynthesis, I’m seeing this plea as something even deeper; a call to clear away all thoughts, what we consider good or bad, vile or holy, any thought that takes us out of the moment and away from the love, peace, and joy that is found in the Divine.

A Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, lives a life that is meant to bring us into closer relationship with God. We follow Jesus to be forgiven from our sins, to be better human beings, and to be admitted into Heaven when we pass from this world. We also follow Him to experience God in the here and now, the present, just like Jesus did. Through Jesus, God is not waiting for us out there somewhere or sometime from now, God is right here, available to us fully and completely. God is continuously available to us, it is you and I who are trapped and unavailable.

We are trapped in memories, pains and injuries, relationship experiences, worries and anxieties, expectations and even in our hopes for tomorrow. All these things cause us to leave the moments we are blessed with and journey mentally, emotionally and physically into the countless mythological worlds of what could, what should, and what would if only. Our reality soon becomes a quagmire of events, good and bad, that hold no real value to this moment, shift our behaviours and attitudes, and tax our time and energy outrageously. Living this way removes us from the experience of the presence of God and is counter to the teachings of Jesus.

So I pray…

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.

You are the only source of life, God, and I can only be with you when I am not bound up in what was or that might be.

Amen

Street Preachers…

I was in Halifax last week for some meetings and one night, while I was walking back to my hotel I came across some street preachers.
“Repent!”
“Jesus saves!”
“For God so loved the world…”
I have a special place in my heart for street preachers.  I think it takes great courage to get up and share God’s message, any message for that matter to a group of strangers that did not invite you to speak and have no initial interest in what you are saying.  I wish I had that kind of courage.  So please understand that I am not arguing with their message; the Gospel is the most beautiful gift ever given to humanity.  Whether it is 2000 years ago or today, the Gospel speaks a truth that has never, nor will ever be diminished.
I accepted their literature that night – nothing wrong with it, pretty standard.  I listened to their message – sounded good.  I watched… And there I noticed a problem.  They were sharing their message AT the people who were walking by without shifting their language to a medium that those folks could understand.
Today’s populace is very smart and they do understand what words like repent mean, but what they don’t understand is why there is a need to repent.  They understand the word sin (generally means bad stuff), but they don’t not understand, for the most part, what their sins actually are, nor do they necessarily see the deep consequences of those sins.
I love the enthusiasm those young men showed that night, what they were missing was Jesus’ very intentional desire to listen to the people He was speaking to.  There was a reason He sat with the tax collectors, prostitutes, criminals, sinners and generally untouchable people.  Yes, it was an act of mercy and love, but those principles are seen most in His listening to them so that He could better articulate the deep and unfailing love of God in a way that those souls could hear and understand.
As Church, again its wonderful to go out to the streets to share God’s word, but as Church we are called to be Christ-like, so we are called to listen, to understand the people we are ministering to, and to learn and to speak their language so that the power of God’s message to the world can spoken INTO the lives of neighbors and strangers alike.  Everything else is scattershot preaching – a few hits from thousands of words with few of those hits being terribly convicting or life changing.  And that’s true whether you are preaching salvation from a milk crate on Robie Street, standing in an immaculate pulpit and sharing the merits of St Augustine, or reading a ready-made downloaded sermon from the internet, it’s all hit or miss if you do not speak the language of the people you are with.
Know your people and if you don’t know your people, get to know them.  The Gospel can only be shared among friends.

Crossroads – July 2016

My dad used to work in a prison. “Jim”, a childhood friend of his, was an inmate. Jim had been in and out of jail most of his life – the very definition of the word “institutionalized”. He was a large man who lived by a specific code, hard-wired into his conscience over his years of incarceration. His record was long, and at this particular time, he was serving a life sentence for murder. Continue reading

Farewell…

They tore the old Esso down yesterday.

I remember moving here and meeting the owner. He is one of the first people I met outside of the church. Great guy. Great laugh and a wonderful sense of humor.

There has been a lot said about the garage coming down. Farewell, good riddance, it was an eyesore, it was a landmark. Lots of debate going in all sorts of direction; the sentimental versus the unsentimental. Continue reading

“Just Try It My Way…”

One of my all time favorite quotes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome.” The internet ways it was Einstein, but I honestly have no idea if that is true.

Everyone wants certain things in life – myself included.  Some of us get what we want and its seems so blessedly easy.  Forgive me Lord, but I hate those people!  Gold and love and everything they want seems to fall into their lap.  For most of us I suspect that isn’t the case.  We want what we want, we never get it and yet so often we refuse, either through fear or stubbornness, to try a new way to get it. Continue reading