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.

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Musings on Irish Theology

Today was Saint Patrick’s day. On this day of celebrating and focusing on the Irish spent some time thinking about the influence and impact of the Irish Christians.  A brief examination of church history in Ireland consists of things that challenge any Christian today and things to be careful of as believers.  I want to share three brief thoughts on each.

The three things in looking at the Irish Christians that at some levels lacks in the modern day church are creativity, community, and pilgrimage.  The Irish church was known for its creativity. There was no shying away from use of the imagination and using creativity to point to God.  The Irish church also was very relational, open, and vulnerable to other brothers and sisters.  The Irish church also focused on following God where ever He leads and treating life as a journey and pilgrimage.  Time was spent learning and remembering the significant parts of your walk with  God and looking for where God moves next.  Each of us would benefit from growing in these areas of being creative in pointing to Jesus, connecting beyond superficial with others, and treating life here as a journey looking to meet God’s purposes as He leads. These principles played a role in the Irish church impacting those around them with the Gospel, even to the point of spreading the good news across knowledge to the point of Ireland being known as the land of saints and scholars. 

There are also aspects of the Irish church that are concerning.  Three areas that find most concerning were the compromise, aesthetics, and elevation of individual mystical experience seen in some Irish theology. Examining the Irish church there is evidence of syncretism of old practices into Christianity. This was done with an attitude that anything can be transformed or redeem but some of that compromised polluted the faith and growth.  There also was a focus on being welcoming to the point where there may have been acceptance at the expense of the Gospel.  The Irish church was also known for aesthetics and engaging in self-wounding and harsh fasts in terms of pleasing God and reducing the sinful, selfish part of self.  The Irish church also emphasized experience of the individuals. The individual relationship and experience took pre-eminence and those observed to have unique and special experiences were elevated to “Saint” status, of which many were claimed. Personally, the question comes in these areas is about finding balance.  There is need to reach others in ways they understand, but needs to happen without compromise.  There is need for discipline, growth, and works of surrender to God, but it is not done by self-inflicted suffering or external means of chastising self.  Individual experience can be mystical If God show chooses, but when God does chose to give such experiences it does not make that person special or unique to God, but rather someone God chose to use and communicate with in that manner.

Sadly, the path of the church today is moving farther away from the positive aspects of Irish theology and embracing out of balance elements of Irish faith.  Acceptance is done at cost of truth, experience is used to shape biblical understanding and the adaptation and assimilation of culture is frequent.  There are people who in the name of loving others fail to include communication of truth.  It would be of great value of each of us developed a mindset of being actively engaged in relationship with God and others that it impacts our walk and choices in new and creative ways.  The Irish church was not passive, but engaged and many were brought into the Kingdom of God.   So we need to examine self. Are we active, are we compromising, are we presenting both truth and love?  Truth without love is rigid and cruel.  Love without the sound truth is empty and can lead for people remaining on paths to destruction.

Guest Movie Commentary: Avatar and Paganism by Andrew Strom

‘AVATAR’ and PAGANISM – Movie Review
-by Andrew Strom.

‘Avatar’ is an enormous worldwide blockbuster movie – the first to
use truly lifelike 3D – a huge leap forward that is sure to revolutionize
the entire industry. I managed to see the movie in 3D this week,
and like everyone I was utterly wowed by the lifelike 3D images
and special effects. But there were some things about the film
that truly disturbed me.

Maybe we should expect spiritual outrageousness from Hollywood
by now. After all, they hardly seem to be able to make a spiritual
statement in their movies without alienating every Christian in
the audience. (They have been warned about this before. As
Michael Medved has stated, Hollywood loses billions of dollars
simply by offending Christians and church-goers – who number in
the hundreds of millions in America). They often don’t seem to care.

But Avatar takes this to a new extreme. Many critics have
commented that it has a deeply pro-environmentalist message.
And indeed, it seems almost loaded with every touchy-feely New
Age environmentalist theme that you can imagine. Some critics
are calling it “Dances With Wolves in space.” But it sure does
look amazing – in fact, stunningly real. It truly is a work of art.

The futuristic story revolves around an ex-marine posted to a planet
with rich mining deposits – who has to inhabit an alien “avatar”
body so he can infiltrate the local tribe that opposes the mining.
Thus he becomes one of these blue-colored humanoids.

Though the film’s images are stunning audiences worldwide, the
spirituality in it is at the far extreme of New Age. And it is not
“subtle” either. It is a huge part of the story. More and more you
see the “Gaia”-type ‘Earth-goddess’ stuff – plus pagan or wicca-like
rituals – until half the film seems almost saturated with them.

As I said, most people have grown to expect this stuff from
politically-correct and spiritually-weird Hollywood by now. But we
are talking here about the most expensive ($300 million) and most
revolutionary new film in history. Surely they have to be concerned
that preaching such a message may lose them hundreds of
millions of dollars in potential revenue? Apparently not.

It always strikes me as sad when these great breakthroughs in
the arts fail to glorify the One who gave us creativity in the first
place. And sadly, this is one of those times. And I guess that is
why, even after the awe and wonder of seeing one of the greatest
visual spectacles of our age, I left the theatre feeling pretty flat.
And I wonder how many others felt the same – even non-Christians.
I wonder how many left sensing there was something very wrong
at the core of this story. I would guess it might be quite a few.
(There have been a lot of complaints about the storyline). Even
many non-Christians may not like seeing the “Earth mother
goddess” getting all the glory. Which is why I think this movie will
never take top spot as the most-watched film in history – despite
all the money spent on it. And also why I think the sequel will
never earn the kind of money that they hope for.

Will Hollywood learn its lesson? I strongly doubt it.

Send feedback to – prophetic@revivalschool.com

God bless you all.

Andrew Strom.


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Christian Poetry: Who am I? by Kris Blake

My mother recently wrote a poem that I consider to be in the form of a Psalm.  It really stresses our identify in Jesus and God being mindful of us. It reflects on who we are to God.  Please read and pass this on!  

 

Who Am I?

Postby Kris Blake 

Who am I that you placed a cup before me?
Who am I that when I was hungry that you fed me?
Who am I that under your wings you hide me?
Who am I that when I was naked you covered me?
Who am I that when I sleep you guard me?

Who am I that you carry my burdens for me?
Who am I that you place a banner over me?
Who am I that you built a tent to shelter me?
Who am I that you put your cloak upon me?
Who am I that you put a shield around me?

Who am I that you bind my wounds for me?
Who am I that you mend my broken heart and uplift me?
Who am I that when I fall you pick me up and hold me?
Who am I that when I cry my tears are gathered for me?
Who am I that you sit down beside me, and you whisper that you love me?

Who am I that you clear the path and go before me?
Who am I that you wrote down your story for me?
Who am I that you open the doors for me?
WHo am I that your right hand is held before me?
Who am I that when I run the race you are cheering for me?

Who am I that you build a fire to warm me?
Who am I that your wind blows all around me?
WHo am I that your oil runs down upon me?
Who am I that your water washes over me?
Who am I that your table is prepared before me?

Who am I that you keep thinking of me?
Who am I that you looked down and saw me, and then you chose me?
Who am I that you listen to me?
Who am I that you delight in the fragrance of me?
Who am I that when I knelt down you put a crown upon me?

The Communication of Dance and Creativity: This Woman’s Work and Everything

One show that I enjoy is So You Think You Can Dance. It is a show that gives a broad spectrum of dance.  Dance is something that is an amazing form of artistic expression that can express things that words cannot.  In the past weeks show there was a particular dance that demonstrated through dance the struggle that goes on for women who have breast cancer.  Take a moment to watch the dance.

This Woman’s Work:

In praying about what to say and how to respond to this video, my mind goes several different directions.  This certainly has triggered thoughts about why suffering exists and the struggles in this world.  Questions exists as to why God heals some people and why others move to the healing of death.  Questions exist about how to reach out to those in the midst of struggle.  Yet, none of that seemed to be an appropriate fit for the power of the message communicated in that dance.  Those things will be addressed further at some point on this blog.  What seemed the best fit was to point to another message communicated in dance or drama. A couple years ago I came across a powerful dance/drama Christian presentation set to the Lifeohuse song Everything. It is a drama/dance performed in churches throughout the country.  It has a powerful message, even if it is not danced with the percision of the So You Think You Can Dance routine about breast cancer.  Take another moment to watch one version of this dance.

Everything:

Both performances are powerful means and show the importance of the use of creative measure to communicate the message.  One performance about the struggle with breast cancer. The other performance the temptations of life and answer found in Jesus.  Words cannot express either fully.  I hope both make you stop and think and ultimately grasp the intended connection that the suffering and the battles in life are also part of “everything.”  God is there in the suffering, turn not to the suffering but to Jesus.  In Jesus there is healing and victory even if your suffering brings the end of this life.