Category Archives: 2015-05

Pastor’s Pen for May, 2015

. . . it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) The Bible is full of stories about people of action.  Moses, David, Deborah, Esther, Jesus, Paul, and others all stand out in our minds because of the things they did.  It wasn’t just the great ideas they had or the profound thing s they said, but the way those beliefs and ideas expressed themselves in their behavior.  But for all the great things they did, we rarely hear any of them say, “did this!” and blowing their own horn.  Instead, they always talk about how God is the one responsible for these magnificent accomplishments and that God is the one who deserves all the credit. What do we make of this?  Are these people all just being overly modest about their own achievements, or did they all experience something at work in their lives other than their own egos?  We know that ancient people often described experiencing the influence of “supernatural forces” and having their lives shaped by “demons” and “spirits” -- things that in our day are usually described as psychological events.  We refer to “mood swings,” “anxiety disorders,” “chemical imbalances” or “psychotic episodes,” with a wide range of drugs, self-help books and counselors available to help us control them.  The modern workplace (and society generally) expects us to take personal responsibility for our behavior at all times, and we are usually held accountable in some way if we don’t.  Today, any reference to God’s activity in our lives runs the risk of making us sound mentally unstable on the one hand, or unwilling to take responsibility for our own actions on the other. But the Christian mystical tradition knows that inviting God into our lives is neither a sign of mental illness nor a method to escape personal responsibility.  On the contrary, welcoming God’s Spirit makes us responsible to God for tasks more difficult and demanding than normal.  Rather than cutting us off from reality, God connects us to Cosmic Reality on a much deeper level, allowing our behavior to address values and concerns of univeral importance, and not just seeking our own personal or institutional advantages. When the Apostle Paul speaks about Christ living in him, he is neither delusional or irresponsible, but now living and acting in a way that expresses more perfectly the person that God created him to be. The Bible has many stories of ordinary, imperfect people who come to discover that God has somehow made them capable of so much more than they ever imagined possible, if only they will let God bring that “enhanced capacity” to a fuller expression.  This is the “new life” that Jesus brings to us, but the transformation it brings about rarely takes place all at once.  Instead, God reveals this new inner landscape to us gradually.  Just as the dawn of a new day allows us to see more and more of the world that was previously hidden in darkness, so Jesus helps us to see the undiscovered sources of vitality hidden within us.  As that spiritual sun get higher and higher in the sky of our consciousness, we see more clearly the destination that lies ahead of us, and how to avoid the obstacles that stand in our way. God doesn’t call us to think a certain way or believe a certain set of doctrines.  God wants us to live our lives to the hightest possible standards of justice and love.  Unfortunately, we can never discover our hidden capacity for such behavior on our own - it always eludes us until God reveals it to us in the life of Jesus.  It’s a wonderful revelation!  It’s hard to believe that our lives can be so full of love, so free from fear, and so rich in joy!  It’s such a change from our previous experience that it feels like our old self has died and a new one taken its place.   Or, as Paul puts it:  “. . . it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  Maybe when enough of us start saying similar things, people will begin taking churches seriously again!                                     -- Duane