Thursday, September 22, 2016

Con = "Together" or "With", Sacrare = "To Make Holy"

Consecrate, Consecration

Fron the Latin "consecratus" past participle of the verb, "consecrare";
"Con", meaning together or with + "sacrare", meaning to sanctify, or to make holy

 Another way of thinking about practicing the concept of "consecration" as a way of life.

"I noticed how focused I was on each act, I sought to make every nail just right, and every cut straight and true. I wasn’t so much focused on trying to make everything perfect per se, but to do everything in a manner that made it sacred."   ~ Steve Reed

The difference between focusing on trying to do something "right", and focusing on trying to do something in manner that makes it sacred; dedicated to God.

It is no just giving up what you have to God, or just using what God has given you to further His work.  It is the process of you humbly seeking to make yourself, and all you have, and all the work you do, become an element of holiness and oneness with Him.

Steve Reed's writing on the subject:  "What if Everything Became Sacred"

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Teaching Real Faith and Discipleship

 “At their best, youth ministries attract and at least temporarily retain teenagers who might otherwise leave the church. But the relentless attention to teenage tastes ends up communicating that God exists to make us feel good.  [And so] Christianity operates as a lifestyle enhancement…And increasingly, Americans of all generations take it for granted that emotional fulfillment is one of the main purposes of religious faith…"

~ Thomas Bergler "The Juvenilization of American Christianity"

Some of our young volunteers have not been fooled, but some still struggle because they have not seen beyond "how it makes me feel", or "personal performance of church standards makes me feel good about myself" as the measure of faith, light, truth and discipleship. 

So today I am contemplating ways we can help them catch the vision of living a life of profound strength in Christ amidst the foundation shaking challenges of life; to see faith and discipleship as deeply personally transforming both our hearts and our actions; a force for strength and peace and love that makes us His committed and holy servants who are finding strength in Him through all things life brings, rather than seeing faith as a form of hoping for and expecting and depending upon divinely bestowed, indulgent and random, (or, alternatively, performance based)  gifts of happiness boosts amidst the vagaries of our lives.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Materialism and "Self-Reliance"

This week the phrase "enough and to spare" has been rolling around my mind as we evaluate the monthly allotments  that our branch builders work with each month.  A conversation with a young elder about dealing with roommates who want to eat your food, that evolved into a discussion of seeing one's funds as not only an opportunity to support yourself, but also the empowerment to plan acts of thought-out generosity within one's budget has made me think about our own attitudes about the income we have.

"Self-Reliance" is, in my opinion, an inaccurate term used in the church to denote the state of being careful and knowledgeable and wise and humble and hardworking enough to work hand in hand with God as you seek to support yourself and your family.  It's not really just reliance on yourself.  It's working with God.

The principles taught in the "Self-Reliance" course here are very helpful in all of the above qualities of "self-reliance".

There is, however, as we consider the notion of "self-reliance",  a way of viewing our financial situation that we are all susceptible to falling into and that can lead to 1) very foolish decisions and 2) pride and selfishness, and seeking increasing acquisition as the measure of our competency.  It is the sin of materialism.

This quote by Dallin H. Oaks, from his book "Pure in Heart" is one I wish to refer to as I re-evaluate my own stewardship of my abundance.

"Men and women who have heard and taken to heart the scriptural warnings against materialism should not be vulnerable to the deceitfulness of riches and the extravagant blandishments of its promoters . . . 

"If Latter-day Saints are specially susceptible to materialism, this may be because materialism is a corruption of a virtue in which Latter-day Saints take special pride. Materialism is a seductive distortion of self-reliance. The corruption occurs through carrying the virture of 'providing for our own' to the point of excess concern with accumulating treasures of the earth."

And, frankly, I have accumulated more stuff than I need.  As I said...good for me to refer to.

Friday, August 05, 2016

What Ellie Wrote about Married Love

"And who knew: staying in love is actually the same thing as growing up. To stay married means to shed the illusions of romantic love and replace them with the reality of two damaged (as we all are in some way or another) human beings trying to care for each other and to learn to love, rather than seek to recapture the early childhood paradise of being completely cared for and accepted unconditionally. Love involves two people constantly stepping on each other's emotional toes and finding a way to forgive each other, continually, year after year. It means learning to tolerate failure in oneself and the other, to be disappointed, to realize that a life can be merely ordinary and yet take great courage to live...

"[And] along with tolerating a lot of frustration, maturity [growing up] means embracing those moments of happiness wholeheartedly, recognizing how precious they are. Happiness is not a goal but when it comes,...allow it its sway. "

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Parsing John 6: King? Food? They don't get it.

 Jesus feeds the five thousand and then goes off to be alone when some of the crowd, all excited about the wonder of getting free food, wants to take him by force to make him the “king” Messiah that they anticipate.  

His disciples take a ship to go to Capernaum and He joins them later by walking on the water.  

Those he fed discover his departure and follow him to Capernaum, looking for Him.  And then there is this conversation:

The Crowd of Followers (TCOF): When did you come here?  (We can’t figure out how you got here.)

Jesus: You have not followed me here because of the miracles you saw me do that helped others.  You are here because you were hungry yesterday and, to your surprise, I gave you enough bread to eat that you were not hungry anymore.  But that should not be the reason why you are here.  Your motive should not be the fact that you received temporary solution to an ongoing, physical need; that I gave you food.  Your motive for being here should be a hunger for that which gives light and life to the soul sufficient to qualify you for life with God.  The Son of Man (I) can give that to you.

TCOF:  So, what do we need to do to have life with God and do his work?

Jesus:  If you wish to live a godly life, one that involves doing His work, you must believe the one He sent.

TCOF: Okay.  You're saying that's you, right?  Show us a sign so that we may believe.  Show us what you do.   (Ironic…they recently saw a him heal the sick numerous times, see John 6:2.  It seems they are mostly interested in another show.  Miracles for personal entertainment?  Miracles for generating enthusiasm?  They seem to have missed the whole purpose of those healing miracles—compassionate healing for others).  How about manna? “Bread from Heaven”. Moses did that for our ancestors.  That would be a good sign. (Back to the notion of “feed us food” again).

Jesus: Moses did not give you “bread from heaven”.  Manna was a miracle, but it was to meet a physical, earthly need. It was a physical, earthly substance for a physical, earthly need.  Heavenly bread fills a spiritual, heavenly need and comes from God.  Heavenly bread is the person who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.

TCOF: Great!  Give us some of this bread!

Jesus:  I am that bread.  A person who comes to me will never be spiritually hungry.  A person who believes me and trusts what I have said will never be spiritually thirsty.    You have seen me, but you do not believe me.  You will need to believe first.  Every good blessing that God promises, He will give to me.  And if you come to me, I will share it abundantly.  You see, I came from heaven, not with my own agenda, but with the full intent to do what God wants.  And do you know what He wants?  He wants everyone who comes to me, and understands and embraces this new way of life of loving God and fellowmen, to be raised up to everlasting life.  With me that is possible.  I will do that.

TCOF:  Good grief.  The gall of calling himself “the bread that came down from heaven”.  Everyone knows he’s Joseph and Mary’s son.  “Bread from heaven”, indeed!

Jesus: Don’t murmur.  The fact is this:  The only way to come to me is for you to do what the Father wants.  What does he want?  He wants you to accept me for who I really am: the Son.  The Father testifies that that is who I am.  And if you understand and accept that testimony from the Father, and you live a life committed to doing what the Father hopes and wants you to do, then the result will be that I will raise you up in the resurrection of the just.  Every man, woman and child will have the opportunity to be taught this.  And those who learn this from the Father (recognize its truth from personal revelation) and live a life attempting to do the will of the Father are those who “come to me”.  And that believing—the kind that transforms your life—is what everlasting life is all about.  The fact is, I am the bread of life.  That’s different from the manna.  It’s also different from the bread you ate yesterday. Those were helpful, but they did not bring everlasting life.

At this point Jesus then launches into an analogy which refers to his atoning sacrifice, his crucifixion and the ordinance of communion/sacrament which is a renewing of our covenant to come to Him and which he will revisit in his teaching at the time of the Last Supper.  And it is way over the heads of his listeners.

TCOF:  This is just too weird.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Birthday Visit

Look who dropped by to wish L. a happy birthday (and bring him brownies).  We love these fine, young people.  Such courage and goodwill.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Goodman's Home: the site of the last supper and the first Communion/Sacrament

“And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare [the passover meal]?
"And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. 
(I know he's not carrying a pitcher...but I really like the expression on this water-carrier's face.)
"And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.”  
Luke 22: 9-12
What we know:
In this household, a man or manservant was not above doing service in the form of unconventional work or traditional women's work in order to maintain the well-being of the people living there. There is an indication here of a household that is more interested in working for the benefit of the group as a whole than it is in maintaining appearances or maintaining traditional hierarchical patterns that designated some tasks as "beneath one's dignity".
Jesus did not name the goodman (head of the household) of the house when he gave his disciples the information they needed to locate him.. It was a man that the disciples did not know by name, though likely Jesus did.
The goodman was a man who recognized Christ as “the Master” and was readily willing to welcome other of his disciples, whom he did not know personally, to use a room in his home for worship.
And it was in this house, where a goodman readily welcomed others to worship, and where household members were humbly willing to serve, regardless of the opinions of others or traditional views of who is supposed to do what, that Jesus, washing his disciples' feet,  again taught his most powerful lesson on servanthood and leadership.
He had taught it earlier: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”  Matthew 23:11
They had not yet understood this fully. Peter's strong, initial objection when Jesus started to wash his feet indicates that he was still too aware of conventional ideas about leadership to fully accept the idea that true leaders engaged in activities that were considered “beneath them”.

And therefore, Jesus' words:
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
There is a correlation, perhaps, between the master who washed his disciples feet, and the man who worked in the house where He did so and who carried the woman's water jug to the well and back. Both were undertaking humble service that was considered beneath them by those who embraced what followers of traditional rules of hierarchy expected of them.
And I find it telling that this household, where a man was not too proud to serve others by doing work that others would consider “beneath him”, and where unknown believers were welcomed, was the place where the first recorded ordinance of the Sacrament was performed. Those qualities of humility, service and welcome that seem to have been part of the culture of the household where the first breaking of bread in remembrance of Him occurred are what I think Jesus hopes and expects in the culture of those of us who are part of a any congregation that partakes of communion/sacrament in remembrance of Him.
The goodman and his servant created and maintained that culture in their sphere.   Do we?