The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Monday, October 24, 2016

What does a Christian look like?

What does a Christian look like?

Lots of people are asking this question lately.

Is it a matter of belief? Do you look like a Christian because of what you say you believe? Or do you look like a Christian because of how you behave?

Yes and no.

Christians do believe in Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus died on a cross and rose again on the third day. They also believe that Jesus’ death matters and his resurrection means even more. Jesus by his death entered into human sinfulness and bore the penalty for that sin. Jesus by his resurrection defeated the power of death which comes by sin. This we believe.

But there is more!

In his letter to his fellow believers, Saint Peter outlines some of the behaviors that  should characterize those who call themselves Christians. (See I Peter 3:8-17).

General characteristics of Christians:

Be of one mind, that is, seek the unity of the faithful. If you are a follower of Jesus, your fellow followers are not your enemies. Will we agree on every fine point of doctrine, no, but we do not curse each other, instead we will live with

“Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind toward each other” (I Peter 3:8).

Reflect on these qualities.

We all have burdens and struggles that need the sympathy of another one. If we say we love God, yet we do not love our fellow follower of Jesus, then the love of God is not really in us. Tenderness is the ability to be open toward each other’ struggles and hurts. We can all learn from each other so let us be of a humble mind.

Peter goes on this letter to talk about how we relate to those who wrong us or do evil toward us. The old way was an eye for an eye. The new way is to bless those who do you wrong. When you and I bless those who wrong us, we pay it forward: we are blessed. Peter quotes from Psalm 34. The Psalmist adds another reason to seek peace: God will hear our prayers. God is looking for people who will be peacemakers. When we are peacemakers, we reflect the true character of God. We look like God; we bear a family resemblance of our Heavenly Father.

There is another reason to live as person of peace: It will drive people crazy and they will be asking you how you can be a person of peace in the middle of the insanity around you. You and I should live our lives so that our lives leave question marks in their mind. Why does she always smile in the middle of her pain? How does he keep on going with a smile when there are so many wrong things happening?

Many years ago I worked with a principal at a school whose life was overwhelmed with challenges. Besides being responsible for about a staff of 30 and a student body of about 120 each day, she went home to care for a disabled husband and a mother with progressive Alzheimer’s. I asked her, “How do you do this?” She quickly said, “Because of Him. Christ in me helps me.” She lived her life as a question mark for those around her.

I found this reading on the internet yesterday:
"Do you know, do you understand that you represent Jesus to me?

Do you know, do you understand that when you treat me with gentleness, it raises in my mind that maybe he is gentle too? Maybe he isn't someone who laughs when I am hurt.

Do you know, do you understand that when you listen to my questions and you don't laugh, I think, "What if Jesus is interested in me, too?"

Do you know, do you understand that when I hear you talk about arguments and conflict and scars from your past that I think, "Maybe I am just a regular person instead of a bad, no-good, little girl who deserves abuse?"

If you care, I think maybe he cares--- and then there's this flame of hope that burns inside of me, and for a while I am afraid to breathe because it might go out.
Do you know, do you understand that your words are his words? Your face, his face to someone like me?

Please be who you say you are, please, God, don't let this be another trick. Please let this be real. Please, do you know, do you understand that you represent Jesus to me?

"Please be who you say you are. Amen."

(This was shared as a message at Oasis for the Nations, Phoenix, AZ, October 23, 2016.)



Sunday, October 23, 2016

God hears... do we?

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.

R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.

R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

- Psalm 34

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Be transformed

We Christians are given the privilege to name the mystery—as the path of descent, the Way of the Cross, or the paschal mystery. Although we name and symbolize it quite well, we have not lived it much better than many other religions and cultures. All humble, suffering souls often learn this by grace.
Jesus, however, brings it front and center. A “crucified God” became the logo and central image of our Christian religion: a dying, bleeding, losing man. If that isn’t saying you win by losing, what is it going to take for us to get the message? How often do we have to look at the Crucified and miss the point? Why did we choose that as our symbol if we’re not going to believe it? Life is all about winning by losing—losing with grace and letting our losses teach and transform us. And yes, this is somehow saying that God suffers—and our suffering is also God’s suffering, and God’s suffering is ours (Colossians 1:24). That has the power to transform the human dilemma of tragedy, absurdity, and all unjust suffering—which is just about all suffering. - Fr. Richard Rohr

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Path of Descent

The path of descent involves letting go of our self-image,
our titles, our public image. I think this is one of the many
meanings of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other
gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). What is at stake here is not just
false images of God (which mostly serve our purposes), but also
comfortable images of ourselves. That’s probably what the saints
meant when they said we have to move to the place of faith, to
the place of self-forgetfulness, of nothingness, which ironically is
the place of abundance!
The German Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260—c. 1328) said in essence that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic West, we keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success. Some Buddhists call it spiritual materialism or spiritual consumerism. We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room—and no need—for God or others, or otherness in general.
When C. G. Jung was an old man, one of his students read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and he asked Jung, “What has your pilgrimage really been?” Jung answered: “In my case Pilgrim's Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.”  That’s a free man. We aren’t really free until we’re free from ourselves: our ego, our reputation, our self-image, our need to be right, our need to be successful, our need to have everything under control, even our need to be loved by others—or to think of ourselves as loving. 
- Fr. Richard Rohr

The Path of Descent

The path of descent involves letting go of our self-image,
our titles, our public image. I think this is one of the many
meanings of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other
gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). What is at stake here is not just
false images of God (which mostly serve our purposes), but also
comfortable images of ourselves. That’s probably what the saints
meant when they said we have to move to the place of faith, to
the place of self-forgetfulness, of nothingness, which ironically is
the place of abundance!

The German Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260—c. 1328)
said in essence that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction
than with addition. But in the capitalistic West, we keep trying to
climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success. Some Buddhists call it
spiritual materialism or spiritual consumerism. We’ve turned the Gospel
into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of
 ourselves, we have no room—and no need—for God or others, or
otherness in general.

When C. G. Jung was an old man, one of his students read John
Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and he asked Jung, “What has your
pilgrimage really been?” Jung answered: “In my case Pilgrim's Progress
consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could
reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.”  That’s a free man.
We aren’t really free until we’re free from ourselves: our ego, our reputation,
our self-image, our need to be right, our need to be successful, our need to
have everything under control, even our need to be loved by others—
or to think of ourselves as loving. 
- Fr. Richard Rohr

Monday, October 17, 2016

Forgiveness - Part 1

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

A few years ago I heard a workshop provided by Dr. Ira Byock, the author of The Four Things That Matter The Most. The first two actions of the dying person in Dr. Byock’s book relate to forgiveness: “Please forgive me,” and “I forgive you.”

Many people find it difficult to let go of this world because of the resentments and regrets they hold. The concepts of resentment and regret address the ebb and flow of relationships. Resentment addresses the anger or hurt we hold against another; regret speaks to the anger or hurt we bear against ourselves.

I remember the resentment I held for many years against a church leader who actively campaigned against my ability to receive any opportunities to serve as a pastor of churches who expressed an interest in my gifts and availability. For many years this resentment was hardly available to my awareness. One day I was sitting in a Bible Study on forgiveness when I realized that I was nursing my resentment toward this church leader. At the very moment I was in touch with my feelings of resentment, I was flooded by gratitude. My resentment washed way as I became grateful for the very group in front of me. I wouldn’t be sitting in that room in Phoenix except for that church leader’s actions. To this day, when I sit with the dying, the mentally ill, the hurting, the grieving, I am thankful for how the trajectory of my life was set off by a man’s bullying and anger.

As I sit with people who are facing the final journey of their life, I talk to them about forgiveness. I remind them of this last word of Jesus and ask them if there is anyone they need to forgive.

Many times I hear stories of hurt, anger and resentment. I entered Mary’s home and began building a relationship with her. Over time, I told her about Jesus’ last word of forgiveness. “Is there anyone you need to forgive?” Lying in her bed, she quickly said, “Yes, my husband. He abused me for many years. I can’t forgive him.” She told me about his abuse. “He’s dead now. It is too late to forgive him.” I reminded Mary that forgiveness was for her not for her husband. Mary’s hurt was holding her to her abusive, dead husband like Superglue holds a finger to a piece of paper. I agreed with Mary that she could not forgive her husband if by forgiveness we were saying that what her husband did was acceptable. Forgiveness does not mean condoning the actions of the offender; forgiveness means releasing our judgment so God can actually God can judge the offender. The spiritual reality is that God cannot get to the offender while we playing judge and jury. Judging is God’s work; when we judge we are acting like God. God will stand aside and let us be judge and jury.

I agreed with Mary that she could not forgive her husband on a human level. However, as a Christian she could let Christ in her forgive her husband. The Christ who said to his abuser, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” would pray the same prayer on her behalf this very day.

As Mary opened her heart to receive my words, she opened her heart to receive the Good News of freedom through the forgiveness offered by Jesus the Christ. She learned the power of the words of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Mary welcomed new freedom into her life.