Immortal Diamond – LAST post! Take Ten!


1“We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Richard Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my heart and life over the past weeks.  As many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and re-reading Rohr’s work.  This is the LAST of a series of devotional writings based upon what I have experienced and learned.  Your comments are welcomed (rdugall@apu.edu).

“There’s a thread you follow.  It goes among

Things that change.  But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

Or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.”

William Stafford, “The Way It Is”

I’m a bit sad to come to the end of the devotional series.  What started out as personal reflections based upon Rohr’s book that I was going to keep “personal” evolved into a series of writings that have encouraged and challenged many, including myself.  The process of writing is provocative – it enlightens, frustrates as well as embeds truth.  There is something that happens as you read, think, create and review.  Because Rohr’s books were so important to my Lenten journey in 2013, I have been blessed many times over by taking the time to explain and contemplate with you.  

The poem above is worthy of a repeat reading.  I’ve tried to stop my tendency to give into the temptation to explain this poem (as if I could do that).  For many years I was “on the road” giving Parent Seminars on youth culture.  Many, many times parents would ask for me to “exegete” contemporary culture.  Sometimes I would get it right and other times I would miss by a mile.  Art is unique.  It has divergent meaning from different angles and life perspectives.  To come up with an explanation for the imagery of the poem would most likely come off as trite or insulting.  So, I’m letting it sit.  If it ministers to you as it has to me, you will know what I mean when I say how much it makes sense and appears to be an appropriate bookend to ten devotional writings.  

Who you really are is experienced in God.  God at His very essence is love as it is said often in one of my favorite books of the bible, 1 John.  We live in love as we live in God.  As you experience love you taste the sweetness of eternity.  Maybe these Rohr-ian words will make sense to you now:

“The great surprise and irony is that YOU, or who you think you are, have nothing do with its original creation or its demise.  All you can do is nurture it…it is love becoming love in this unique form called, “me.”

The more I think about those sentences, the more I like them.  We complicate a “Jesus following journey” so much.  Between worship attendance, financial giving, church participation, buildings, budgets, demands, spiritual imperatives, classes and devotional challenges…the list goes on and on.  How does the total of all those demands stack up against love?  Something so simple shows once again that the “emperor has no clothes.”  All we expect Christianity to be about has been unmasked with a simple word about a HUGE God – love and eternal love.  And what’s even better is that demand and obligation (which summarizes how many people feel about a spiritual journey) is cancelled out by the FREEDOM we have in Jesus and His love.  

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

Most people would try to place a framework of previous theological or biblical understanding around that verse and shroud it with complexities that render it meaningless.  Truly the demands of religiosity that always steal life cannot give what we do desperately need – love in the nest of freedom in Jesus.  

“Love flourishes inside freedom and then increases in freedom even more.”

We have a limited amount of days to live.  For some, there will be long lives to explore and enjoy.  For others, life will be cut short by tragedy or pain.  The bottom line is that no matter how long we are allowed to “ride life and love’s wonderful mystery”, once we truly discover love, we will know that we have hitched our souls to that which transcends the realms of time and space.  Once you really know love, love has you…God has you and you have God.  Your existential search is over…the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has been embraced…your “pie in the sky” has begun to be enjoyed…your hope that springs eternal is actualized…you have built your house on the true and solid foundation.  I’ve always been encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.  I want you to know this – he wasn’t joking or using pious sounding language when he wrote, “love never fails.”  Paul knew that love was the ultimate trump card in life.  It is that which gives every one who knows it deep in their souls a “winning hand.”  When you know love, hope has been fulfilled. When you know love, faith is not allusive but comes naturally (rather supernaturally naturally), lived out, pressed down, shaken together, and abundantly fruitful.  

We come into this love not by chance or anything that we can do.  The truth is that the “very failures and radical insufficiency of our lives are what lead us into larger life and love.”  You want to know what a LARGER life looks like?  Look no farther than the word and lifestyle of love.  Jesus says to you,

“I want you to be you, all of you, your best you”…that is what true lovers say to one another, not just, “I do not like this about you,” or, “why can’t you change that?”  God tried to first create a joyous yes inside of you far more than any kind of no.  Love and life have become the same thing…love and yes are even more the same thing.”  

I know SO many people who when they think of God, they think of “no” and “hate.”  They think about what God doesn’t like, what He considers sin, what He died for, what demands He has upon our lives that we never be able to accomplish or fulfill.  How misguided we all are.  God is more about “YES” and love to you than the full weight of any and all combined “no.”  When God thinks of you, He thinks and radiates love.  When He looks at your life, He is filled with more YES than no…more grace than judgment…more freedom than restriction…more RESURRECTION than crucifixion.  As Rohr writes near the end of the book,

“The Risen Christ is a great big YES to everything…(2 Corinthians 1:19)”

That is which can set a person free.  When you know you are loved with an eternal love all negativity can be absorbed and you can witness it as it passes away.  There is nothing to hate, reject, deny or judge.  It has been forgiven much SO THAT it can love much (Luke 7:47).  Enjoy and celebrate that love.  Share that love freely (“freely you have received, freely give”).  That’s the true Immortal Diamond.

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Immortal Diamond – Take Nine!


14063933-film-countdown-9 “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Richard Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my heart and life over the past weeks.  As many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and re-reading Rohr’s work.  I’m in the middle of doing a series of devotional writings based upon what I have experienced and learned.  Your comments are welcomed (rdugall@apu.edu).

It wasn’t too long ago for me (personally within my own family)…I stood at the bedside of my dad while he was struggling for life in the ICU.  We prayed as a family, argued health care with doctors, did a lot of handwringing and worrying, and prepared for the worse.  I think that over the years that I have been in pro church work that I have made 1000’s of hospital visits.  After being in professional ministry for what is approaching 41 years, that number is a fair estimate.  It never ceases to amaze me what depth of feeling is experienced at the threshold of life and death.  Of all the times that I’ve been in that situation, I have never regretted one moment.  Every life struggle is worth it!  When life is on the line, it just feels right to be present, fully present, not only in support of our loved one or friend but also for the pure knowledge and experience of the precious nature of life’s gift.  Because life is a gift, one given by the One who created life at its fullest, I have celebrated even when the battle has supposedly been lost.  Why?  Because I know from the rawness of my soul that life is going somewhere…that it is not static but a dynamic existence formed in the likeness and by the very heart of a Creator in whom purpose is defined.  

I have often wondered why it seems to me that fewer and fewer people are not only NOT visiting loved ones who are ill in hospitals, care centers, and homes but also NOT making funerals a priority in their lives.  Among the pastors and priests that I know, we’ve all remarked on the same reality – fewer people honoring relationships with people who are in crisis especially those who have walked through death’s door.  Yes, I’ve noticed that many employers have decided that major events like serious illness and even death don’t “fit” within production schedules and work demands so people are denied time.  That’s so unfortunate on many levels.  Rohr’s chapter, “Enlightenment at Gunpoint” focuses on the “final surrender” and how important it is for people like you and me to walk those paths with others as one way of preparing to take the journey ourselves.  He writes,

“The final surrender of our false self in the months, weeks, days, and hours in any conscious dying might well be called, ‘enlightenment by gunpoint’…not all people get to enjoy this luxury, although it should be sought after.  We have made the inherently spiritual event of death into a mere medical event.  Families were meant to accompany their loved ones across, and all the Sunday School or catechism classes in the world will never make up for this loss of spiritual consciousness.  I would say exactly the same for births.  We put off enlightenment by decades if we are not present at births and deaths.”  

Rohr has a point.  I’ve been at both, births and deaths.  I was not only present for my own children’s births but for all but one grandchild’s (as well as for six others that I can recall.)  And deaths…I’ve been at more than I can dare to count.  Every one, every first and last gasp of air and reach of motion to grasp God’s gift was simply awe inspiring AND put life completely into a new frame of reference.  Every instance reminded me, again and again of the fact that there is MORE TO LIFE.  When a child is born it is not only born into the world but also born unto eternity.  When a loved one is taking a final breath, the doorway of eternity is opening.  You see, when you look at your body and you come to believe that that is all you are, then death becomes an enemy.  So remember, you are more than what you see.  You are the residence of the breath of God.  The very Spirit that hovered over the “face of the deep” (Genesis 1), that which Jesus says is the source of life residing in our hearts and transforming us into the “temple” of God, is IN you!  That’s why, at the core of who you are, you know that there’s GOT TO BE more!  Your yearnings are more than dreams but glimpses into a life awaiting you day by day and through eternity as you follow the source of life, Jesus Himself.  To acquiesce and only be satisfied in what this life has to offer is to rob the human soul and render the creation of the human spirit worthless.  If all we are is one big hunger for satisfaction in the moment, we are a sorry lot indeed.  Rohr puts it this way,

“The false self is terrified of death because it knows that this mental ego that it calls ‘myself’ will die, and it cannot find any long-term alternative to it…the ego has no substance, no permanence, no vitality, only various forms of immediate gratification.”  

No wonder those who don’t have an eternal perspective have only one alternative – “to eat, drink and be merry.”  If all you believe about life is completely summarized by the limits of a body that will eventually run out of gas than you might as well grab for as much gusto as you can NOW!  As Rohr points out above, if all you have is THIS life than all you are left with is the satisfaction of passing appetites and a plethora of non-permanent experiences.  For those who trust in Jesus, the Kingdom is not only NOW (life in abundance) but FUTURE.  The risen Jesus made sure that all of us know that we will not lose anything that is real no matter what happens to our physical existence.  Remember,

“The Risen Jesus is not about being rewarded for a job well done as much as He is mirroring the full completed journey and goal.”

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.  Jesus is the author and perfector of the gift of grace that we are and will enjoy.  Jesus is the wellspring of life – the water that never stops refreshing, the bread that fully satisfies, the vine in whom we are sustained for eternity, the light that never stops shining, and salt that never loses its flavor.  As Rohr says,

“He (Jesus) is the guarantee, the pledge and promise (Ephesians 1:14) that love works!  You must die before you die and then you will know how to die and not be afraid of it.”  

I must end this devotional by quoting one more segment of the Immortal Diamond.  It is actually one of the few segments in the book that encompasses an imperative.  I believe it is a good one at that:

“Visiting and caring for the sick and accompanying the dying and dead is their seminary.”

Rohr is explaining why it is many of the wisest amongst us are those committed to that kind of companionship.  To be one with somebody in their suffering teaches as much as direct suffering does and even more so because of the love that God pours out in those moments.  Doing these acts of mercy actually, and this has been my experience, are more of a benefit to those who give more than to those who receive.  Remember John 3:16?  If you want to be more like Jesus, give…”when you do it for the least of these my brethren, you do it for ME (Matthew 25).”

Immortal Diamond – Take Eight! Probably the most controversial section of Rohr’s book


1images “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous

Richard
Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work.

It is time to be forthright and honest…this
devotional is written based upon a section of the book, Immortal Diamond, that is bound to make some uncomfortable.  Why would that be?  Because it is in this section of Rohr’s book
that he starts to press the “edges” of what some would regard as “universalism.”  Here’s a wiki definition of universalism,

“Christian
Universalism is a school of Christian theology which includes the belief in the
doctrine of universal reconciliation, the view that all human beings and all
fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to right relationship with God in
Heaven.”

In the last year or two, Christian universalism has
been a hot topic.  Mainly reignited by a
book by Rob Bell, Love Wins, there
have been a plethora of “points and counterpoints” made on blogs, in Chrsitian
magazines and in pulpits and classrooms across the country.  Rob’s book was advertised as “A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of
Every Person Who Ever Lived.” 
As you
may guess, even wading into those theological waters is dangerous
business.  Here’s more about Rob’s book:

From the book cover jacket, the publisher was
clear,

“Rob Bell
addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing,
would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever…? With searing
insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly hopeful—eternal
life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins."
 

Now…take a deep breath and follow along with me.  I am NOT purporting to be a Universalist
myself.  Personally, I hold on to the
boundaried “orthodox” view of Christianity that embraces trust in Jesus and
God’s grace as the foundation of salvation.  
Even so, I must add that it has always been dangerous to play God.  In other words, every time I hear some person
start to second guess God or look at the surface of a person’s life and make a
judgment call on their eternal destiny, I get uncomfortable.  Why? 
Well, Jesus said it best in many of His teachings – the ONLY One who
gets to sift between those who are “saved or damned” is the Lord.  Our job is to join God’s mission in restoring
His love and Kingdom’s reign in the world. 
We sow the seeds that God eventually nurtures and harvests the
fruit.  So, with that out of the way, let’s
turn to Rohr again.  Here’s the “money
quote” from the chapter, “If it is True, it is True everywhere,”

“God is
very clearly not a mere tribal God, and one would think that the three
monotheistic religions would have understood that message first and best.  NO group will ever confine or control God
(John 3:6-8, John 4:23-24) to any little tent or temple, which has been the
temptation since Exodus, yet every religion falls into it.  How could anyone imagine God being small and
still call this phenomenon God?  Only
with eyes wide shut.  History, the
shrinking globe, and Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God are demanding of
us a very big tent and a universal temple.” 

What’s ironic about this quote is that IF I had
cited it AND NOT mentioned “universalism” you may have been quick to agree with
Rohr’s words.  NO ONE wants to believe in
a “controlled God.”  A God who is
controlled is no God at all.  A God who
abides by our assessments is subject to us and thus devoid of the essential
definition of deity.  For Jesus’ audience
in the first century, His words were threatening.  Why? 
Because the Jewish leaders believed that THEY controlled their own
destiny and that THEY had the responsibility of ushering people into eternity
based upon their rules.  Truthfully, it
really isn’t much different with many Christ followers I know.  We all have our rules…we all have our
boundaries…we all have our secret list of those who matter and don’t matter to
God. The problem is ALWAYS God’s grace and mercy AND THE FACT that God is
God.  As I am apt to say to some people, “oh
my, there’s that pesky God again.”  How
God measures a life (see the parable of the loving Father in Luke 15) is
different than how we would do the exact same thing.  Kingdom potential, whether it be in the form
of a Roman Centurion trusting Jesus to heal a servant with a word or a
sin-stained woman with more lies coming out of her mouth than the proverbial
“cattle on a thousand hills”, is seen from a different perspective than we by
Jesus Himself.  Rohr goes on to write in
the chapter,

“Do you
want the Gospel to be small truth or Great Truth?” 

He exclaims that this is a MUST question that all
followers of Jesus MUST answer.  And he’s
right.  Rohr continues,

“We are
the ones who have too often assumed ill will and been far too eager to create
enemies instead of realizing that others often enjoyed very similar good news
but inside different packaging.” 

Truthfully, that’s outside of my “pay grade” in
terms of understanding.  As quick as I am
to say “no” after reading it, do I then realize that as I condemn it, it
condemns me.  God is bigger than my
assessments.  I fall way too often into
the morass of condemnation based upon my petty and shortsighted calculations.  Jesus is the eternal Word revealing God in
His rawest form but only capturing for the human gaze a “snapshot” of the full range
and scope of God’s nature and the reach of His love.  As difficult as it is to articulate (because
at its best, language is only a metaphor used in describing something that is
truly indescribable) the truth is that TRUTH and Ultimate Reality (other words
for God) existed before it was ever written down in books (and yes, that
includes the bible).  The great “I am
that I am” was alive, well, delivering His people, guiding, loving, judging, forgiving,
moving, extending graciousness and demonstrating Kingdom power long before the
first crude pen was put to material that became the foundations of the books of
Moses.  Melchizedek was a God-fearer and
he stood outside of the patriarchal line…Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, was a
priest of Midian and he’s an important part of God’s story of redeeming His
people.  There are all sorts of misfits
in His-story as it unfolds in scripture. 
If we believe that it was the “Word was with God and was God and became
flesh and hung out with us” than how this fullness of God and completeness of
humanity all gets sorted out is beyond comprehension.  And if God is beyond comprehension so would a
full understanding of His ways and His judgments be.  I think that is what’s really behind the
words of Jesus, “judge not lest you be judged.” 
In other words, hands off the call of God. 

So, now what? 
That’s an honest question.  Rohr
concludes his chapter with challenging words (challenging because they are
true),

“We all
somehow believe that it is a coherent and even benevolent universe.  Maybe that is the very heart of the meaning
of faith.” 
 

Wow, I want that to be true.  If God is God than Ultimate Goodness and Love
prevails.  What the “prevailing” looks
like when history is sorted out, let’s agree together – that’s God’s
business.  We have our call, “go and make
disciples” and “love others as I have loved you”…the rest is appropriately up
to the “One to whom all hearts are open and all desires known, in whom no
secrets are hid (Lutheran Worship liturgy).” 
And you know what, there is freedom in letting God be God.   

Immortal Diamond – Take Seven!

 
665839035-1“We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Richard
Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work.

Here’s a quote to start your day off today:

“Re-ligio
(rebuilding, re-ligamenting) is not doing its job if it only reminds you of
your distance, your unworthiness, your sinfulness, and your inadequacy before
God’s greatness.  Whenever religion
actually increases the gap, it becomes anti-religion instead.  I am afraid we have lots of anti-religion in
all denominations.  Such gap-creating
between God and creation is truly diabolical (dia-balein in Greek, “to throw
apart”) and he (Jesus) calls it so: 
“Alas for you hypocrites.  You
shut up the kingdom of heaven in peoples’ faces, neither going in yourself, nor
allowing others to go in who want to” (Matthew 23:13).”

 “Dead
giveaways.” That’s what we call them. They are those things that unveil the
truth about some subject or person.  For
example, you notice a middle aged gentleman driving a red sports car down by
the beach in the middle of the day. 
Isn’t that a ‘dead giveaway” of a possible mid-life crisis?  Or you see a young couple browsing through “Babies
R Us.”  Isn’t that a dead giveaway that the
“she” in the couple may be expecting a baby? 
I am a college professor who not too long ago received a paper from a
student that had the following on the bottom of the last page, "This essay
is from http://www.essays.com – join today!" 
There it was…a dead giveaway of cheating, don’t you agree?

When it comes to how we see ourselves as followers
of Jesus there are a few dead giveaways. 
One of them is Kingdom action.  In
other words, how you see yourself, how you view your identity in Jesus will be
lived out through your lifestyle, the choices and decisions you make, your
attitudes, habits and how the Kingdom is manifested through and in you.  Action reveals identity.  Frankly, everything you do is a demonstration
of how you see your true identity. 
That’s why Jesus said; “you will
know them by the fruit of their lives” (Matthew 12:33).
  You see, here is the truth of scripture –
because of God’s grace and Spirit, Jesus not only takes care of your past
identity but He gives you a new identity. 
As Paul says in Galatians 2:20, the power of sin, and the power of our
old nature is gone…it has been crucified, buried in the death of Jesus.  You old identity as “sinner” is gone and
defeated while you are given a new identity that of “saint”.  

There has been a debate raging for centuries in
Christianity over the identity of a believer. 
Are we sinners or saints?   Many
Christ-followers struggle in their lives because they have bought into a
lie.  For example, a counselor was
counseling a teenager and he asked her, “Who are you?” She said, “I am evil”.
He said, “you’re not evil; how can a child of God be evil; is that how you see
yourself?”  That was how she saw herself
and, because of that, she was living an absolutely miserable life.  Many believers get caught up in a downward
spiral.  We fail, so we see ourselves as
failures, which only leads to more failure. 
We sin, we see ourselves as sinners, which only leads to more sin.  The word “sinner” is often used to describe
both a person’s performance and identity. 
But that’s not the way the bible puts it.  If you’re a Jesus follower, you have a new
identity.  When Christ entered (and
enters) your life YOU became a new creation, you inherited from God a new
identity.  

Someone once wrote, ”You can no more be a sinner saved by grace than you can be a married
single person”. 
Do you get
that?  Marriage changes your identity and
you wear a ring to “remind you of this special occasion”.  If you struggle with sin, as most believers
do, it is because you are a saint who sins. 
People cannot consistently behave in ways that are inconsistent with the
way they perceive themselves.  That’s why
the Key issue lies in your personal identity – call yourself a sinner, if the
label “sinner” brands your identity, you’ll live that out.  On the other hand, if you call yourself a
saint…if every day you say in mirror “hi saint (your name here)”…if you believe
that, you’ll find your life becoming consistent to your new identity.  Being a follower of Jesus is not a matter of
getting something, it is a matter of being someone.  A Christian is not just a person who gets
grace and goes to heaven.  A Christian is
a person whose deepest sense of personal identity has been shaped by the power
of God and who is growing to live that out in a fuller sense now and throughout
eternity.

Let’s put a more mature face on these truths –
anybody can change their behavior.  It is
ALWAYS easier to “externally do or not do
rather than undergo a radical transformation of our very mind and heart (Rohr,
Immortal Diamond).”
  You see, just
because you are a saint doesn’t you have adopted some form of moralism to
prove, via technique or ritual, some private perfection.  Rohr writes,

“It is NOT
that you can be independently “good” without the love and mercy of God (or
anybody else for that matter).”

Remember this about “moralism”…any moralistic
agenda is usually utilized by people who want to be insiders of a particular
group.  When others say that you are not
good enough, or holy enough, or moral enough, or trained enough, or
theologically astute enough these are BOUNDARY markers placed in your path and
mine to tear down that for which Jesus died. 
Any boundary, any wall, or agenda that separates those whom God has
called and sacrificed for the purpose of oneness is just as Rohr says,
“anti-religious.”  See Ephesians 2 on
that one!  You see, the GOOD NEWS of what
Jesus has and is doing is that we are now no longer to be motivated in life by
outside reward or punishment but by a NEW identity.  You and me are not longer so much “driven from without as we are driven from
within.”
So the question of faith and identity is not about earning
anything or excluding anybody it is rather this – does your life give any
evidence of an encounter with God? 
Here’s a hard truth about history – what most Christian history did was
largely dress up and disguise the sinner (what we’ve talked about in other
devotionals as the “false self”) instead of focusing on transformation.  Rohr writes,

“We
baptized it, confirmed it, married it, and made Christians go to church instead
of realizing they were the Church (1 Corinthians 3:17)…it always had to be
mediated by a Bible, priest, minister, church or sacrament, and very often the
mediators, and the defending of their meditations, became the primary message
itself.  Most sermons reminded us quickly
of our unworthiness before first telling us of our inherent worthiness.  Many were so deep in a black hole of low
self-image that they had no way to climb back out.”

As Paul
says in Romans 3,  “What if some were
unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?”

In other words, there were and have been and there
still are some that would rather keep us trapped in a dead identity instead of
encouraging freedom and turning our attention to God’s faithfulness in crafting
our new identity.  I have to stop
now…here are some sections of scripture to read and on which to meditate as you
glorify the Lord for His new life in and through you!

Further Reading: 
Romans 1:7, Ephesians 2:19-21, Mark 2:21-22, Ephesians 4:24, 2 Corinthians
5:17

Immortal Diamond – Resurrection Edition

Sometimes, it is hard to wake up!  Had that experience before?  One of the most popular modern conveniences we have
is something we call the “snooze alarm”…love it or hate it, it is still modern
necessity for most of us.  Why a
necessity?  Because if the truth were
known, no one really wants to wake up!  You see, sleep is more than a physical state. "Sleep" can
actually be a great metaphor for a mental state or, for many of us, the state of our
lives!  The phrase “sleep walking through life” just doesn’t apply to those who
are actually sleeping anymore.  It is actually a relatively “easy to define” state of
being.  In fact, there is actually a "SLEEPWALKING through
Life diagnosis" being given by some psychologists and therapists…see if any
of these symptoms apply to you:

1.  Lack awareness of bigger picture – bigger
world.

2.  Not living in alignment with real purpose in
life.

3.  Auto pilot living – going through motions.

4.  Engaging in non-value added activities –
addictions to gaming, eating, TV – wasting time and life.

5.  Passive or denial based approach to life.

6.  Can’t find time to do the things you want to
do.

7.  Unconscious of thoughts/emotions.

8.  Lack of ambition or motivation.

You
see, you can live your entire life in an unconscious state, not aware of what’s
really going on, living, as one author I read said, "a DRONE like or ROBOT life
existence."

Here's something for you to chew on – Resurrection is the ULTIMATE wake up
call! Resurrection is 
God’s way
of saying, “WAKE UP!”  
Let me tell you why:

"…and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men
and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery
after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared
to many people."  Matthew 27:52-53 (NLT)

Now for some of you, you might be thinking, “cool,
the first references to Zombies in the bible." But let me assure you that it has NOTHING to do with
Zombies.  What it does have to do with is this – Jesus’
resurrection was MORE than just about Jesus!   Here’s how this works itself out:  Each
of these words in these two verses have HUGE implications – I’m just going to
take two:

  • "kekoimEmenOn" –
    what is translated in many contemporary translations as “dead” is actually
    better translated, “laid down to rest or fallen asleep or asleep”
  • "EgerthE" – what
    is translated “raised” as in, raised from the dead, is actually better
    translated “wake up or woken or woken up or ROUSED” 

So actually it reads better like this – 52 The
tombs also were opened, and many the saints who had fallen asleep were woken up.
53 And After his resurrection they came out of their “tombs” and entered the
holy city and appeared to many. (NRSV)

OR, better yet, for MY purposes:  "When Jesus rose the people who had fallen
asleep were told, “wake up” and when they did, they came out of their “tombs”,
come out of their state of sleep and started showing up in their world."

Here's the point – Resurrection is dangerous, friends…resurrection
wakes people up!

Now, I
must digress for a minute or two though in order to explain to you why Resurrection does what it does.  
You would think that we would GET resurrection!  You
see, the resurrection of Jesus was a turning point in history but it wasn’t
something completely NEW from what God had been doing since the beginning of
time.  When people
I’ve known over the years say that they can’t believe in a resurrected Jesus, I’ve told them, "what’s so weird about raising from the dead…resurrection is all around us all the time."  God has and is
always about bringing things to life.  One of the reasons so many of us look forward to
Spring is because it is the time of NEW LIFE.  Dormant flower bulbs deep in the
ground wake up and produce glorious flowers.  Grass that has
lied fallow for months now is begging to be cut.  There are a
1000s upon 1000s of kinds of newness every single day. In fact, it is
so common we forget just how powerful it is.  Resurrection
is reveals is every aspect of creation – yet for some reason, we are still
surprised how leary people get when we talk about it.  You see, Death seems to grab our attention and us
more effectively than new life – I don’t necessarily know why that is but it
just is!  Death grabs
our imaginations, fascinates us, emotes all sorts of feelings of fear and
negativity in us.  The truth is human beings have spent centuries trying to solve
the problem of EVIL and death when it is MUCH MORE CONFOUNDING that as we do
that we ignore what is truly astonishing and staring us right in the face – NEW
LIFE!

The New Testament tells us that what happened on Good Friday with Jesus’ disciples and it is the same dynamic that happens to us – we all
focus in on Jesus’ death (good thing in many respects don’t get me wrong) but
when all we expect to see and have is a dead Jesus on a cross, when all we
expect is a sleep walking Jesus who gives birth to sleep walking followers it
is as if Jesus were still in the tomb and the stone is still there, then we've missed the point.  In many
respects we forget the ONE THING about Jesus that started the whole story –
Jesus was the INCARNATED – made real in the flesh God.  Jesus wasn’t just a human
being or a great teacher, Jesus was God, the Savior of the World…the Alpha and
Omega of history.  For many of us sleepwalking through life we don’t
get it!  We don't get that JOY and EXCITEMENT and GROWTH should be a natural
by-product of the "resurrection soaked life."

I hate to write this but many faith communities that
I’ve seen and even been a part of where more dictated by the reality of death
than NEW LIFE!   Here’s what
Jesus was about in Resurrection:  Rohr writes, "Jesus didn’t come to change the mind of God about
humanity and you and me…Jesus came to change the minds of humanity, you and me
about God."  
You see,
resurrection is God’s reality – Resurrection is God’s final word on what he
plans to do with every life.  Resurrection is God’s pledge and guarantee of what
God will do with all of our crosses and with all of our suffering.  Resurrection isn’t some sort of temporal optimism – it is not just a big picture about who Jesus is or proof that Christianity is true or
even proof that there is life after death!  The Resurrection of Jesus is MUCH BIGGER
THAN THAT and much more pervasive.  It shows us once and for all – wake up!  Wake up to the fact that because of the Resurrection there are NO MORE only dark clouds in life – there are silver linings to all of the
darkest hours we experience.

Rohr says, "Easter
– the Resurrection shakes everything up – the Resurrected Jesus is the standing
ICON of humanity in its final and full destiny." 
The
resurrection is God’s final pledge of what he will do with all our
crucifixions.  The
resurrection is God’s promise that NO hurt is immune from God’s transformational
process – HE, God turns hurts into Hopes.  HURTS INTO HOPES…think about that and meditate on that for a bit!  It really is LIFE changing!

I learned two new words this week,  "evasion
and untethered."  Both have to do with what happened when smart phones got
“disconnected” from specific networks.  In other words, for example with an Apple
iPhone, you can now PICK a provider of service instead of having to buy a phone
and be TETHERED to one specific cell service.  The software/firmware to do that
is called, “evasion.”  So here’s how
this correlates – the Resurrection is the ULTIMATE evasion firmware for your
life and mine.  Resurrection
is the ultimate jailbreak from an operating system in the world that is
tethered to death, sadness, and destruction.  You see, God
is untethered in the resurrection – as long as Jesus is in the tomb, that’s
where we expect him to be…dead, or asleep – definitely not alive and messing
around with our lives.  But no, when we
are most preoccupied with stability and control, when we are most satisfied with
sleepwalking, boredom and even death, here comes the resurrected Jesus!

Here’s the bottom line – ONCE you know in your
heart of hearts that there is NEW LIFE as promise of God for you:

You can live with faith!  You can rest with purpose
and a living hope!  You can take the risk of loving all the time because even
your mistakes and misfires are redeemable.  If the crucifixion is God’s way of standing in
solidarity with every bit of suffering, tragedy and disaster and death with the
assurance that HE will have the final word, then the Resurrection is that FINAL WORD!  SO that
WE CAN LIVE IN HOPE.  OUR HEARTS AND LIVES CAN WAKE UP TO THE GREAT HOPE FOR LIFE
NOT JUST IN THE ETERNAL KINGDOM BUT LIVING IN AND FOR HIS KINGDOM RIGHT HERE
AND RIGHT NOW.  
No wonder that’s a wake up call!  No wonder that the people in Jesus’ time who
were asleep WOKE UP and started testifying to that type of love and power in
their lives and in their world.

I’ve often wondered, what if we just didn't remember
the resurrection but actually could find some way to
RE-LIVE it?  The concept of "remembering" in Hebrew means essentially that –relive or re-experience.  What if the
risen Jesus woke some of us up today? 
What would we do?  What if, like
the post resurrection appearances of Jesus – what if we were safely tucked away
in our little church building expecting a dead Jesus only to have the
LIVING JESUS walk right down this center aisle?  I wonder – whom
would He comfort, whom would He confront? 
Who would He heal?  Who would He
forgive?  What tables would He
overturn?  And what would we do as a
result?   So, what about you?

Immortal Diamond – Take FIVE!


1akeFiveLogo1 “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous

Richard
Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work

Look up the word “Metaphor” sometime on
Google.  Not only will you get a definition
of the word but you’ll receive some examples that will bring the word to
life.  We use metaphors constantly.  Try these on for size: 

  • Broken heart
  • The light of
    my life
  • It's raining
    men
  • Time is a
    thief
  • He is the
    apple of my eye
  • Bubbly
    personality
  • Feel blue
  • Fade off to
    sleep
  • Inflamed your
    temper
  • Rollercoaster
    of emotions
  • Stench of
    failure

There doesn’t seem to be a moment in life that
can’t be captured by some metaphor.  The
primary reason we utilize metaphors in language is that we are attempting to
paint word pictures.  We are attempting
to experientially illustrate what we are experiencing through communicative
content, helping another person to understand what we are feeling or thinking.  If you think about it further, even language
itself is a metaphor…words are formed as a means to communicating to another
human being our perceptions, ideas, and emotions.  The truth is, we cannot experience life
without metaphor. 

Think about the realm of the infinite – how do you
capture in language that is finite something that is “transrational” or
spiritual?  We have no real words for
God.  We really don’t…every time you
attempt to explain God to someone, the best you can do is use metaphor.  He is “my rock, fortress, deliverer, Savior,
Lord, Eternal/Ultimate reality, etc.  As
Rohr points out in “key section” of Immortal Diamond is the understanding that
Metaphor is the “only possible language available to religion.”  Why is that true?  According to Rohr,

“…Because
it alone is honest about Mystery.”

In other words, there is always available to those
who use metaphor in communication DEEPER meaning and understanding.  I think it is EXTREMELY provocative and
profound that he spells it out this way:

“Metaphor
is invariably more meaning, not less. Literalism is the lowest and least level
of meaning.” 

Jesus used metaphor constantly in his
teaching.  Parables, primarily, are
Kingdom “snapshots.”  They are
expressions of God’s reign and what it “looks like” to experience it.  To say it any other way would rob us of some
of the deep, satisfying and challenging meaning of Jesus’ words on discipleship.  The Kingdom is “mustard seed, a sower and
seeds being sown, a loving father’s acceptance of a wayward son, a valuable
pearl, a pinch of yeast, salt and light, and the list goes on.  Think about it this way:

“Often
that which looks like mere symbol is indeed the doorway to all that you really
need to know – if you approach it humbly and respectfully.  How else could an always-available God be
always available?  It cannot depend on
having a college education or even a common education, but on a simple ability
to read the symbolic universe, which some ancients seem to have done much
better than we do.” 

In other words, without metaphor (without art,
music, and literature – all forms of metaphor) meaning would be restricted to
the intellectually elite.  That’s why it
is often the “educated” that attempt to “lord” over others…they sincerely
believe that most of us don’t “get it.” 
Metaphors give us an opportunity to reframe, reorganize and reset core
meanings again and again.  Why is
that?  Because our experience always
“expands” the meaning of a text or spiritual truth.  In other words, meaning continues to be MORE
MEANINGFUL when a divergent of personal experience is brought to bear.  Let me put it this way – if there were NO
MORE NEED to experience meaning, life and salvation in Jesus, why would we work
so hard to articulate the Gospel into our primary life context?  Why not JUST read the bible and NOT attempt
to “translate” that meaning into our contemporary world?  Metaphor expands meaning and transcends one
particular time in space and experience. 
Again, meaning in life needs to be experienced anew for every time, age
and relationship…metaphor gives us an opportunity to re-understand and reorient
our lives around meaning as it gets PERSONAL in and to us.  Metaphors CARRY US BEYOND (actually meaning
of the Greek word, “meta-phore”). 

What does all this mean to you and me?  We are living in the shadow of a historical
“movement” that confused the rational and provable with what is “real.”  It is still called the Enlightenment (though
Rohr, and I agree with him, sees this historical time as actually “wrongly
named”).  During the Enlightenment (which
by the way occurred at the same time as the Reformation) mystery became dogma
and faith became more intellectually driven by creed than something that is
alive in heart and action.  Experiencing
God became a science project and knowing Jesus was relegated to propositional
statements and explorations in history. 
Don’t get me wrong, there is importance to an intellectual journey of
faith…but when Mystery becomes over analyzed and robbed of “metaphor”, the life
gets sucked out of it.  Jesus said the
same thing when he said that parables would “confound the wise” and when he
remarked to Thomas, “happy are those who believe without seeing.”  In Mystery, our inner world and the outer
world meet…God comes to humanity…the Word becomes flesh…meaning takes shape in
the heart which is the ONLY place where the well-spring of life has the
potential to be transformed. 

So, what metaphor would you use to describe your
relationship and understand of God?  What
words would summarize your life as a disciple? 
Sometimes, the best way to articulate your experience is through a poem,
song or piece of art.  Sometimes you
don’t need to say anything but use the “metaphor” of humble submission, a hand
raised in praise, a knee bent in worship, or a deep breath of trust.  If you feel like you “measure up” to those
who supposedly can articulate and understand the faith “better”, remember,
metaphor levels the playing field. 
Everyone can express and experience the Kingdom as the Mystery of God
makes itself real and present in our lives.  

Immortal Diamond – Take FOUR!

 
1akeFour“We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous
 

Richard
Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work. 
 

Sometimes, you just have to call them as you see
them.  That isn’t just a reality for a
baseball umpire or someone who evaluates or inspects, it is a foundational
truth for all of us.  To live otherwise
is to live in a fantasy.  To not deal
with reality leads to a plethora of life dysfunctions, from relationships to
personal struggles.  Dealing with reality
is that first “step” toward a better life, a healed heart, a more intimate
relationship and fuller sense of truth in your soul.  Someone once told me a long time ago that we
are only as “sick as our secrets.”  I
couldn’t imagine a more true statement as we enter into another section of
Richard Rohr’s book, Immortal Diamond

Since we have investigated a couple of terms over
the past couple of weeks, that being, a sense of what it means to be live our
lives out of a “true self” (see last week’s devotional), this week we’ll dive into the “flip side of the
coin.”  As I mentioned above, reality is
a good place to start when we take steps toward living in God’s light.  Before we discover MORE about what it means
to live out of a true sense of self in the love and grace of God, Rohr postures
that we need to understand and embrace that reality which fills our lives, that
being, a false sense of self. 

“Your
false self is NOT your bad self, your clever or inherently deceitful self, the
self that God does not like or you should not like.  Actually your false self is quite good and
necessary…it just does not go far enough, and it often poses and thus
substitutes for the real thing…the false self is more bogus than bad…it only
pretends to be more than what it is.”  (Immortal
Diamond, page 27)

All of us continually “live” out of our false self
because that self is primarily that which shapes our beliefs about who we
are.  Rohr states that it is wrapped up
in our body image, job, education, financial state, car, degrees, success, and
those other trappings of our ego that is our projection of who we are onto the
world.  Over a lifetime, the problem is
that the false self (or small self) gets very comfortable.  We might even say that it is easy to OWN and
continue to be attached to that sense of self. 
There are a host of “payoffs” from living out of our small self –
payoffs like respect, titles, salaries, self-esteem, etc.  That’s why Jesus’ words, “whosever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for
my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39)”
are always so threatening to
people.  Despite the fact that Jesus does
promise fulfillment in the midst of denying self (a promise of life
inexhaustible and abundant), it feels to most of us that to do so ushers in the
end of our existence.  And, heaven
forbid, that happens!  Thus we
tenaciously hang on to that which gives immediate (or at least what we perceive
is tangible) gratification.

Unfortunately, we don’t deal with reality in our love
of the false self because, it is precisely that self, that is the foundation of
most of our addictions TO ourselves (which, in essence, is the definition of
idolatry and, thus, original sin).  
Despite the truth that that self is a social construct (in other words,
that which is “made or created” from roles and identities we embrace from
outside of ourselves), even as Jesus would say a “wineskin” (Mark 2:21-22),
take it from me, that sense of self HATES and fights change.  In a brilliant move of religiosity, the false
self often invents and utilizes a whole list of supposedly spiritual “acts” to
prove its value.  Moralism or spiritual
legalism (lists of dos and don’ts that we live out to prove we are spiritual or
acceptable to God), those acts which Rohr calls, “arbitrary and small”, are quick and easy applications that we are
apt to embrace over against the call of Jesus to deny ALL.  We say to ourselves, “if I can be good,
visibly and remarkably good and I can rightfully judge others at the same time
from a position of rightness/holiness or spirituality, then I have attained
that which my soul seeks.”  How
preposterous!  At that point, a personal
sacrifice (that being, a hidden sacrifice, so no “prid pro quo” is demanded of
God) is the ONLY way that the false self dies so that a NEW self can be
resurrected in and through the Spirit of God. 
Rohr writes,

“The false
self will create minor moral victories (like people who are scrupulous about
church attendance or doctrinal minutiae) to avoid the major and necessary one
(like underpaying their employees or demeaning their wife).  As Jesus put it, ‘You will strain out gnats
and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:24). 

“Satan
does not tempt you so much with ‘hot sins’ like greed, lust, and gross
ambition.  They are too obviously evil
and will eventually show themselves as such. 
Instead Satan tempts you to do proper, defensible, and often admired
things but for cold, malicious, or self-centered reasons.  Maybe we cannot see this pattern because we
actually admire the glamour of evil (1 John 2:15-17) and we often disdain the
seeming weakness of holiness and virtue (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).”

What does all of this mean?  I think ONE MORE quote will suffice:

“A true
saint is no longer surprised by his littleness or her greatness.” 

You see, the false self DOES care about those
things…and when we grow to grasp the meaning and power of “littleness”, when we
understand that “mustard seed type of faith”, when we are no longer admirers of
parts, labels or hierarchies, when we are more attracted to and motivated from
the perspective of WHOSE we are rather than WHO we are, then we have truly
walked into a new life.  Instead of being
so consumed with right/wrong, good/bad, or truth/lies, Rohr believes (and I
second his opinion) that once we get our “I am” correct then those scenarios
tend to take care of themselves.  In
other words, once you get YOU straight IN THE LORD, then God will take care of
the details.  That’s why faith is a
journey and life as a follower of Jesus is about trust.  Trust is that “letting go” of false self to
FIND true self and meaning in and through Jesus.  How about that!