Saint Patrick’s day musing: learning from the Faith of the Irish

 Today, 3/17/2012 is Saint Patrick’s day. A day where people celebrate their Irish heritage. This writer does have family who immigrated from Ireland, so the day has some meaning. Yet, the meaning for me does not rest on green beer and alcohol, but rather the roots of the Church in Ireland. There is a lot of history related to Ireland. Now I am not talking about the modern and infamous Protestant and Catholic battles that can easily focus on. The history is not even the legend and stories related to Saint Patrick. Rather, it is the unique elements of the early Church in Ireland and what it should point us to today. It is very worthwhile to examine and explore the early church history of Ireland. Granted, this writer has only viewed a few articles here and there over years and seen varied writings about “Celtic Christianity” but there is a core element that runs through the early Church and Ireland that want to discuss and encourage others to take to heart. Some of these thoughts are triggered by an old article found here: http://www.cslewis.org/journal/hearts-and-minds-aflame-for-christ-irish-monks%e2%80%94a-model-for-making-all-things-new-in-the-21st-century. There are three key elements of the Irish faith that is important for us to learn from: growth focused, other focused, and wholly surrendered. Let’s look at each area briefly.

 The early church in Ireland stressed growth with a balance of both knowledge and spiritual.  The encouraged discipleship. Growth of the whole person. They developed schools, monestaries and varied means of encourage growth in relating to God and growing in knowledge.  Ignorance was not tolerated. In order for people to grow in truth they needed to learn, so people were taught through a variety of means. Growth was not just limited to education either as creativity was embraced and used to spread and teach the truth. The just not teach things from a growth in knowledge standpoint but encourage over all growth. They truly embraced Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This focus should encourage us to each continue to learn and grow much like the early Irish Church.

The second area to examine is that the early Irish Church was other focused. They engage others. It starts with Saint Patrick who is rumored to have brought the whole Island of Ireland to be disciples of Jesus. Now, while that is interesting piece of legend, those reach in Ireland were reached because of actions Patrick took to share God’s love with others. The same is true for Columban, who brought the Gospel from Ireland to England and beyond. The Gospel spread greatly because of early Irish Christians. They lived not to hold back but to share and give to others. They did so by word and deed. They created great works that spread. Even the Hymn “Be Thou My Vision” has Irish history. The used the gifts they had and created whatever God put on their heart, by it for a few, or be a reach of many. They gave of themselves to others. Too often in today’s church the focus becomes on what is good for self and what makes me comfortable in the world we live in. We want the world to shape to what makes us comfortable. The early Irish Church impacted the world by engaging with the Gospel and living fully as salt and light. It is a challenge to us to be that engaging and not dependent on what others give, but to give what we have to give to reach others.

The third area is that of a while surrender. The early Irish church recognized that whole submission to God was vital. They gave of all. They even often pursued a “Green martyrdom” of giving up all of self. They encouraged the fully giving of all not just for the purposes of self, but to reach and touch others. A relationship with God was considered, that a relationship involving the whole person with total commitment. In terms of what is best for the whole person, it all stopped and started with growth in knowledge of God. As one grew deeper in knowing God, one also grew in experience of God’s love. As that grew, in turn it flowed to those with whom they interacted. That love built great passion for God and others and that passion was seen in their expressions of music and art. Today, we settle for “good enough” and too often simply lean on the works of others. We sing songs with passion, but do we create? We recycle what others have done, but how much of gifts and self do we give? Do we have limits, do we give all that God asks of us? These are things the example of many of the early Irish Church pushes us to examine.

Admittedly, the early Irish church was not perfect and there are elements of what they said and did that are flawed, for we are all but just a part with limits that skewed by our own minds and imaginations. The early Irish Church though did not shrink back. They advanced the Gospel. They encouraged growth with actions that impacted others with a passionate whole surrender to God. This is the Faith of The Irish that should impact each of use today.

Resurrection Sunday Video’s for Meditation and Reflection

 Hope you are having a blessed Resurrection Sunday. Last year posted a variety of Video’s celebrating the Resurrection. Takes some time to review them: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/resurrection-day-songs-of-worship/. This years approach is a little different. The videos being posted are really ones to meditate and reflect on what Jesus Resurrection means for us and the impact. There are some interesting pieces that are not quite as well known at least by me. Some comment will accompany each piece. So take some time and examine and see what God stirs in you. Then perhaps go back to the video’s posted last year and celebrate.

The starting point is a piece of music and choreography reflecting on our brokenness and the need for resurrection. The piece was created by Nicole Sponberg in 2008. The Dance is by a dance group, Selah Warriors:

From that piece the next one is passed on Psalms 30, a Psalm that really points to the resurrection. A key element of the psalm is that God will turn our mourning into dancing. The song is entitled Alright Psalm 30 and is by the group Tree63. (Apparently need to go to you tube to watch it, click on the video to watch it on you tube)

 Next up is a 5:00 minute sermon jam on the empty tomb and related facts. I do not know who the quotes are taken from, perhaps John Piper, but it worthwhile to listen and review the facts related to the empty tomb. 

 Next brings us to spend time focusing on God’s act of love and that Love Crucified Arose. This piece is by Michael Card and draws into the focus of what Jesus did and the importance of His resurrection and how the grave became a place of hope.

The next piece is from Hillsong United: My Redeemer Lives. It is a song of some celebration of what God has done with God conquering sin and His cleansing us from sin. (Apparently need to go to you tube to watch it, click on the video to watch it on you tube)

The celebration continues with a piece of music from Tim Hughes focusing on how Happy this Day is for each of us. (Apparently need to go to you tube to watch it, click on the video to watch it on you tube)

The next song really continues the meditation and celebration of the Resurrection. This is more widely know. It is Casting Crowns Glorious Day with focus on Jesus coming to this earth, died, and then rose again to justify us. It looks forward to His return, the next Glorious Day. (Apparently need to go to you tube to watch it, click on the video to watch it on you tube)

The next piece focuses worship to God Almighty for His actions, for the victory the resurrection provides. It is by a group called Forerunner and is based on Psalm 136 with the key phrase: His love/mercy endures forever.  

After focusing on giving thanks to God for His love that endures forever, the next piece of music is a worship song known as the Victory Chant.  It follows the Celebration and focus on Jesus return and surrender to the Lamb of God who is the Lion of Judah.

The last piece for meditation is a “flash mob” kind of experience. Last year in Budapest Hungary a worship dance was performed.  This year the plan is for the same dance to occur in multiple locations around the world. Information on this action is found at http://uptofaith.com/.  When I watch the video the Holy Spirit was stirred within me. It is the perfect video to draw this post to a close.  I hope you were blessed by the Music, let God stir within you what He will.  Celebrate the Resurrection:

(Disclaimer: Nothing is known of the varied groups the pieces of music included on this blog or the theology of the people who compiled the music.  The pieces of music were what God led me to include. The inclusion does not show support or promotion of theology of the people who created the pieces.)

Holy Week Musings: Good Friday and the Crux of the Cross.

The day of April 22nd, 2010 is Good Friday.  It is the day we focus on Jesus death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  The very action taken on that day is really the fulcrum point of all of history. The cross and Jesus death as the eternal lamb is central.   Now in order to understand how essential and critical Jesus death was to the whole of history let us go back to the beginning of humanity and the first sin of man.

Back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.   In that disobedience, lies of being able to be able to determine right from wrong and elevate self to be “like God” was at the core.  It was a move out of being dependent on God, to being able to determine for self what is right and wrong.  This decision brought separation from God and resulted in consequences for the whole of creation. Those consequences entail the varied forms of suffering and the twisting of all creation.  The consequences that are suffering were designated by God, for apart from God, nothing is right, nothing is as intended.  It is a natural out-flow. When things are not in correspondence with how God intended to work, through dependence on Him, the result is pain.

Now recognizing that the pain and suffering comes as consequence to the initial deportation from depending on God, let us look a bit more closely at what Jesus death means.   Jesus came because of love. God had the plan ready to go when humanity chose to go on way.  The plan was for the innocent to take on the wrath for the guilty, but not just any innocent, a member of the Godhead himself,  Jesus the Son.  He left the full dynamic relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, took on humanity, and took on all of suffering.  He lived perfectly, was wholly innocent, and suffered that we might live.  It was God’s plan, for there had to be away to redeem that which went another way.  Love dictated such an act.  The wrath of love dictated that the price be paid. So God paid it Himself. 

It is very important to grasp the depth of what it means that the Son of God came in the flesh.  Jesus, in whom “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form”(Colossians 2:9), came to earth, entered in to suffering all in order that we may be free.  All God actions prior to the cross pointed ahead to the event and after everything points back to the cross. It is the center point.   He endured the suffering of humanity. He took on the worst death humanity could conjure. He was betrayed, mocked, belittled, and scourged.  This all because He did not measure up to what humanity expected, that He make the immediate life more comfortable and undo the tyranny.  He came to undo a tyranny, but that tyranny was the consequences of humanities sin. Just as through one man, sin entered the world, so too by one action, a solution was provided and tyrants defeated.  Just not in accordance with human perspective. 
Jesus came, suffered, and died so that the justice demanded by human pursuit of self-determination and moving away from surrender to God was fully satisfied making the action on the cross the crux of God’s plan and His story for humanity.  

It starts with sin and God establishing the consequences as the whole of creation is twisted. God takes on humanity, takes on suffering, and dies.  Dies, rejected of men.  For the first time the relationship of the Godhead is broken as the Father turns away from the Son for he cannot look upon the sin, for it is too much.  Jesus takes it all on, willingly, following the fathers plan, always in perfect submission to His will.  It is noteworthy, that at the moment of the death there were many events testifying to the importance and crucial moment.  Storms, darkness, earth quaking, and the veil tearing in two.  There has never been a greater act of love.  For some the act is foolishness, how can a Father require a Son to die for those who reject the father and are in conflict?  What is not grasped is the Son was fully on board, always in surrender to Father’s will, for there was no other way to make things right.  No other way to undo the twist and the suffering that entered due to self-determination.  God took the initiative. One that demands response from all and one of which to all response will one day be given, some just with weeping and gnashing of teeth because they continued along the way of self-determination instead of surrender to the one who suffered all so that all can be freed.

Holy Week Musing: The waiting in-between of the Garden

Today thoughts go to the garden of Gethsemane.  It is the place where time was spent after the Last Supper and before the events of the crucifixion.  It is the place of Jesus sweating blood, of the disciples falling asleep, of Judas’s betrayal, and of impulse action of cutting off an ear.  It is in essence an in-between time.  A time of anticipation and waiting, for events are about to transpire. Jesus knew full well the weight and importance of what was to come. He maintained surrender through all the emotional intensity that could have held him back.  The disciples meant well but could endure.  Judas submitted to his greed and the darkness, Peter acted impulsively not grasping what was to come.  The in-between times are tough. God gave us this picture of this in-between time as an encouragement. For God is faithful.  The thing is we cannot rush the waiting, we can make things happen any quicker than they are supposed to.  Each time anyone has tried to rush the in-between waiting, the results are not good. The waiting always seems beyond endurance.  Yet, Jesus endured.  He resisted going off on his own way or doing his own thing in place of God’s plan. He submitted.  We though can be much like Judas and do our own thing out of greed.  We can be like the disciples and mean well but shut down.  We can act on impulse and move in directions that are God’s way, thinking we know the plan.  It is in these in-between times that faith is tested. It is in between times that the twists of the heart and areas of needed change become apparent.  The waiting tests and reveals what is there and what is lacking.  The in-between time is always temporary and although it seems to go on and on and will never end, the duration is limited.

Right now, in essence each of us are at such an in-between time.  We are waiting for the return of the King of Kings. We are following whatever path God sets before us and waiting for the results.  Yet, it is this time that is key. It is our response that is critical.  We need to learn our weaknesses and submit. We need to grow in faith. We need to be awake, alert, and sober minded.  We are to endure whatever intensity of difficulty we are in.  For this time is but temporary for Jesus is coming, He is coming soon.  Yes, we wait but in the waiting we are given directions to walk in truth in love, to be sober minded and alert, and to make disciples.  However that looks, God has intent to be glorified through us in whatever way He puts before us.  So as we go through this in-between time we need to keep   focus, love, and endure. This is what God asks and requires for the ways of self, betrayal, and impulse are always lurking promising short cuts and a way out of the in-between time. But this time is always for a reason, for God’s love and patience is great and His desire is for all who will come, to come.

Video Selection: Jesus You are Holy performed by Charolette K.

In response to my last article my sister-in-law Mary Blake referenced a song, Jesus You Are Holy. It is a worship song written and performed by Katie Miner on her Live From Sunset Strip album published November 16, 1999.  My understanding is Charolette K. made some alterations from the original arrangement, yet this is the only version I have ever heard.

Here are the lyrics to the song. Hope it blesses you.

(Chorus)

Jesus You are Holy

Jesus You are holy

You are glorious

You are worthy of all praise…

All praise

Jesus You are holy

You are glorious

You are worthy of all praise…

All praise, all of my praise… all of my praise

1)You have seen me in the darkness

You have covered me with light

Rescued me from sin and fire

Behold! Your glory now in sight.

Yes, the glory of the cross

2. You have taken my disease and

You have healed me with your blood

Joy and sorrow deeply mingled

Behold! Your glory now in sight.

Yes, the glory of the cross

Video Selection: He’s Everything to Me

This is a song the Holy Spirit has me recalling and playing in my mind recently.  None of the video’s catches the memory of the way the song was sung at campfires, at youth groups, or any get together of believers.  This song does really capture and reflect on the essence of God’s divine empathy. Here are the lyrics:

In the stars His handiwork I see,
On the wind He speaks with majesty,
Though He ruleth over land and sea,
What is that to me?
I will celebrate Nativity,
For it has a place in history,
Sure, He came to set His people free,
What is that to me?

Till by faith I met Him face to face,
and I felt the wonder of His grace,
Then I knew that He was more  than just a
God who didn’t care,
That lived a way out there and

Now He walks beside me day by day,
Ever watching o’er me lest I stray,
Helping me to find that narrow way,
He’s Everything to me.

Musings on the Incarnation: God’s Divine Empathy

Lately God has brought to my mind a growing awareness of the depth of God’s empathy. Perhaps it is related to the gifts of empathy he has given me and the ongoing awareness of deepening levels of pain. As thinking about empathy and God in relation to this season where we celebrate the Incarnation, of God stepping down and taking on flesh, being God with us it cross my mind that the Incarnation really is a visible demonstration of God’s empathy. God became flesh, experienced life in a world twisted by sin and filled with pain and suffering. Jesus ultimately suffered greatly, dying a gruesome death in order to set us free and opening the door for God to be truly with us.  Emmanuel, God with us is all about divine empathy.

Divine empathy is a difficult concept to fully grasp for often times we fail to even grasp simple human empathy.  We have difficulty at times putting ourselves in the place of others.  Yet, God is constantly aware fully of others.  He knows our depth.  God daily is aware of the pain of all.  He knew from the moment of the first choice to go against His will the depth of pain, the twists it caused.  God is in constant awareness of the whole of pain. He is constantly filled with empathy. Then He took that empathy, came to earth and entered into the physical reality of the fallen and twisted world.  He moved beyond the emotional awareness to the physical experience. He does not just know of the pain, does not just feel the pain, but experienced the depth of the pain.  God’s awareness of the pain of sin, God’s empathy, really helps us understand even God’s wrath and actions that cause many to suggest wrath in inconsistent with love. Well if one begins to understand divine empathy the reason for divine justice and wrath is clear.  God is not capricious in His actions, there is purpose and that purpose pertains to the pain and twists caused being outside God’s will, plan, and order. 

Yet, even greater than understanding God’s wrath, is if we understand part of God’s character as divine empathy then we understand better the relational nature of the Holy God.  Personally, one of my struggles with God is truly entering and engaging God relationally.  God often has felt distant and far off.  Now there are certainly experiences in my life that helped shape that faulty perception but really grasping God as one who embodies true and pure empathy lets me grasp deeper the love and know that God is far beyond one that is distant.  He is always aware of every ounce of my pain and knows full well the pain of my own choices.  Each and every self-centered action is aware of.  In fact, God’s empathy stretches beyond humanity to the whole of Creation. He knows how it was twisted. He knows the pain of each living creature.  Divine empathy is beyond understanding.  And grasping God as divinely empathetic gives a grasp of His love and awakens me that there is not a moment, not a speck that God does not know and understand.  He knows my pains, my hurts, my pains, my fears intimately not just at the “awareness” left but also at experiential and felt level. 

Takes some time during this season of celebrating the incarnation and God’s carrying out His plan of salvation. His plan displayed divine empathy and enables God with us, enable God in us, and makes it so we can approach God, as no longer any barrier for the sin and pain and twist of actions outside of God’s will is more than He could bear in His Holy empathy for our sins cause God great pain.   God’s love and empathy and immeasurable, ever enduring.  Praise the Most Holy One who is beyond our ability to grasp, for who can measure the love of immeasurable empathy that bore all so that we may be made right.  Hallelujah!