Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Gospel Message

And I think He's saying that the Kingdom, if we respond to it, that the truth of it and the power of it will become manifest in our lives, for such is the purpose of God. Notice what it says after this in the third saying, "Take heed, then, how you hear." That's exactly what I have been saying. "Take heed, then, how you hear, for to him who has, more will be given, and from him who has not, even that which he thinks he has will be taken away." If you've got a glimmer of the truth, press for more. And more will be given to you. If you're content, saying, "I think I've got something", when it's really next to nothing, even that will be taken away. "Take heed how you hear." Listen up, search, inquire, question, be hungry for God. Press in. You get no credit whatsoever for attending a lecture, or clocking in and clocking out of Mass. Open your heart to Him and hunger for Him. And change your life. And together we need to reflect this light to the world. He will bless us.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What I've Never Heard at Mass

Maturity in Christ?

From an email to a friend ...


This week, in my regular Scripture readings, I read Ephesians chapter 4, which is pretty much the heart of Paul's theology of regeneration in Christ.  It is the great and profound mystery that we don't hear a whisper of from the pulpit - at least I haven't in any single Mass I've been to in the last 17 years.  But it is at the center of what the Faith is.  

We are remade in Christ.  As Christians, who we are is different from what we were.  We experience a change in our being: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

I have never heard that mentioned at any Church I've been to, beyond the readings.  It may be read by the lector, but it's never preached by the priest or deacon.  And it is as unbelievable as the Resurrection.  "If Christ be not raised, then is our faith in vain, and we are the most miserable of men, and we are still in our sins."  If the Resurrection is false, then we are all fools and we should burn down the churches and stay in bed on Sundays.

And - crazy as the Resurrection sounds - even crazier is the belief that our natures are being remade.  "You have been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him in faith."  

And even more difficult for modern Christians: we are all supposed to be growing into Christ.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Growing up as Christians, becoming "mature", "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ", no longer "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."

We are not only to mature in Christ as individuals, but as a Body, conforming ourselves to Him who is our head, Jesus.  When we mature in Christ, the Church matures in Christ, and we grow into the fullness of Him as a Body.

The "fullness of Christ" to which we are to strive is (in this passage from Ephesians 4) derived from the Greek work πλήρωμα (pleroma), meaning fullness and completion and final perfection.  In Colossians, Paul uses this word to extol the divinity of Jesus: "For in Him dwells all the fullness (πλήρωμα) of God in His body".  

Pleroma is a mature completeness, and in Christ it is the fullness and completeness of a man who is God.  

But this is lacking in our whole vision of our faith.

Today a friend told me about an atheist she knows who now wants to pray and be Christian. My friend kept giggling and talking about the "miracle" of this atheist's conversion, but there was no hint of the reality of it.  It's as if the game is won.  The story is over.  He's Christian, no longer atheist.  End of story.  Ta da!  

But what of the reality of who this man is?  What of the struggles and disappointments he's bound to face?  What of the next step, maturity in Christ?  Who can lead him from infancy in the gospel to maturity, "attaining to the fullness (πλήρωμα)", so that he is not "swept by every wind of doctrine blown by the cunning and craftiness of others"?  Somehow my friend sees this as a game, as a switch you flip, as a yes that drowns out the no, as a complete victory, rather than a wobbly and tentative first step toward the light that is still far away.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tragedy and Maturity

“The truth of the tragedy is action itself, that is, action on the new, differentiated level of a movement in the soul that culminates in the decision . . . of a mature, responsible man. . . . Tragedy as a form is the study of the human soul in the process of making decisions, while the single tragedies construct conditions and experimental situations, in which a fully developed, self-conscious soul is forced into action.”

My gosh, this is tremendous.

It's Eric Voegelin, and again I am alone among my friends in loving this guy.  

"A fully developed, self-conscious soul" is spoudaios - "Serious, earnest person. Aristotle's term for the `mature' rational and ethical person, the fully developed human being capable of intelligent thought and responsible decision and action."

But in our world, and most remarkably in the Church at large, consequence is divorced from action, and maturity is divorced from Christ.  We see ourselves as infants saved from nothing by a God who makes no demands.

As Niebuhr said, making fun of the theology of the day in most American churches, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

And that's not tragic.  That's pathetic.