Who Am I?

The Didache 34 – Watch For Your Life’s Sake

Posted: July 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately. Today we reach the end of the Teaching and the conclusion of this series.

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.” Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Watch for your life’s sake. Is that truly our attitude as we go about our business each day? Oh, not in fear and not in ways that cause us to withdraw from those around us. And not in obsessive ways that we see in some trying to calculate the moment or constantly looking for signs. But simply ready for we do not know the hour. I remind myself that I also do not know the hour of my death. I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told of the man who made plans to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold his wealth of grain. He was a fool for he had no time left at all.

I like my modern luxuries and wealth very much, thank you. But it is easy to be lulled into comfortable rhythms and complacency. It is so very simple to stop watching. My tradition has abandoned the disciplines (church calendar, set prayers, corporate fasting, etc.) that maintain rhythms in our lives that are different, that remind us that we are not governed by anyone or anything other than Christ, that act for our healing so that we might work out our salvation in fear and trembling, the salvation that flows from Christ, that we might participate now in the Kingdom of Christ.

This also affirms once again the resurrection of the dead, which Paul defended so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 15. If the dead are not raised, then our faith is meaningless. We are not looking forward to some disembodied existence like Plato’s happy philosophers. Our spirits and bodies are inextricably intertwined and interdependent. Only in that union are we living souls. Death is the ultimate enemy Christ had to defeat for our salvation. We were enslaved to death and through death to all sorts of powers, evil, and sin. But Christ has “trampled down death by death” and we in him we find life.

Thanks to those who have meandered through the Teaching with me. I hope you’ve found something interesting somewhere in my reflections on it.


The Didache 13 – The Faces of the Saints

Posted: June 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 13 – The Faces of the Saints

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words.

This section begins with an exhortation to always remember and honor the one “who speaks the word of God to you.” It’s an interesting phrase and none of the other translations make it clear. The “my child” reminds me of John. And thinking of him leads me to think that it does mean the shepherd, the episcopos, the bishop.

The next sentence is confusing, but after reading several translations, N.T. Wright came to mind. Whereever it is proclaimed that “Jesus is Lord,” he is particularly present. Of course, Jesus is Lord everywhere and over every power whether or not his lordship is proclaimed. Nevertheless, there is a particular and mysterious power in the proclamation itself. Further, connected as this is with the first sentence and the one following, there is a particular connection between the proclamation, the proclaiming community, and the bishop who shepherds the community in that particular geographical location.

In addition to its obvious meaning of those who live in the same place and time as you and with whom you should be closely bound, the last sentence above led me to think of icons. Those are representations, mystical connections if you will, to those whose bodies sleep, but who we still believe are with us, surrounding us, and involved in the life of the church. As Christians, we do not believe that death has any power over us. We know that the history of iconography stretches back at least to the second century. And it seems likely that is goes all the way back into the first. In fact, you don’t find any major influence or presence of iconoclasm in the church until Islam began to influence it. At any rate, it was a picture that came to my mind as I reflected on that sentence and the way it connected to the other two. The Teaching is often dense and says much with few words.


The Didache 3 – Fast for Those Who Persecute You

Posted: June 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 3 – Fast for Those Who Persecute You

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you.

What does it mean to love the other? We find the injunction to bless those who curse us, to pray for our enemies, to do good to those who intend us harm repeatedly in the Holy Scriptures. We see it lived out in the lives of the saints. But very often we do not do it. I know that, at best, I manage feeble, faltering steps in that direction.

Today, I want to reflect on the phrase I never really noticed before. My eyes, for some reason, tended to slide right over it.

fast for those who persecute you

I am developing some idea what it means to use my words and my body to bless the other. I’m slowly developing some understanding of what it means to pray. But how do you fast for another? How can our fast in our own bodies be offered up for the benefit of another human being? For surely this is what the saying means. I do understand that in the Holy Scriptures, fasting and prayer are often tied together. I have some grasp how to intercede for another through prayer. I’m less certain how I can intercede for another through fasting — how my fast can be for their good. And yet there seems to be some aspect of that here.

I don’t yet have an answer to this question. If you’re expecting answers in this series or from me in general, you probably have set yourself up for disappointment. I tend to always raise more questions than find pat answers. I even tend to find questions within such answers as I already have. But this question is important to me.

If I am going to live a lifelong fast, I would prefer it to have meaning.


Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 7

Posted: May 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Fasting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Not the Fast I’ve Chosen – Part 7

But it is the fast that I’ve been given.

As I’ve written the posts traveling the thread of my own experience and personal journey, it’s dawned on me that some, perhaps even many, might read that statement from my earlier posts as some form of fatalism or even is if I’m blaming God for this disease. Neither is even close to the truth, as I’m sure anyone who knows me well would recognize, but I should spend some time to explain why that’s so.

It’s extremely common in our culture for people to have an image of God as a figure who stands apart from us, guiding and intervening in our lives. There are a variety of different images of this sort of God. I want to take a moment to explore a few of the more common ones.

Sadly, some people have internalized an image of an angry God smiting those who cross him and punishing those who screw up in some way. It might be all people with whom this God is angry or only certain ones. It seems to vary. This is also one of the more common images of the God whom those who have abandoned God have rejected.  Personally, I don’t blame them. If I believed that God was anything like this particular God, I wouldn’t worship him either. This God is a God unworthy of worship and certainly unworthy of love. Worthy of fear, maybe, in the same way you would fear a rabid wolf, but not worthy of love at all. So no, I don’t believe that God is ticked at me for not adopting and practicing the “right” rule of fasting and prayer and celiac is his way of punishing me for my failure.

Others hold a milder version of this same God. It’s not a God who is necessarily angry with us, though perhaps he does get disappointed. This is a God who is, perhaps, more like the stern parent who will sometimes reward you and sometimes punish you in order to train you properly. I don’t believe in this God either. Yes, God teaches us. The Dark Night of the Soul shows us one way that he sometimes teaches us and moves us on to deeper and more solid practice of our faith and lives. He never actually leaves, of course, but for a time he lets the strong sense of his presence fade so we trust him and not that emotional experience. He also teaches us through the consequences of our actions, through illumination and revelation of Holy Scriptures, through other people, through the saints, and in a host of ways. He is the one truly good Father. But as such, he does not “teach” us by doing evil to us. Never. So no, I do not believe God gave me celiac disease so I would be able to move past the point where I have been waiting these past couple of years.

Still others imagine God controlling the minutiae of all that is. Of course, God does sustain and create all that is, but that is a different concept than the concept of control. Still, there are a small minority of ‘Christians’ who perceive a universe without any freedom whatsoever. God manages everything down to the smallest of subatomic actions and absolutely nothing ever happens at any level that is not precisely and exactly as God intended it to happen. There are varying degrees of this perspective and I will point out that I’ve never seen anyone who actually lives moment to moment as if they truly believed this were so. This God is perhaps the worst God of all of these. This is the God of scientific determinism. This is a personal, active God who originates all evil as well as all good. In such a scheme, there isn’t really any such thing as evil or good in any sense we would recognize. Every permutation and manifestation of this God that people paint makes me absolutely shudder. No, I do not believe that God foreordained I would have and manifest celiac disease and is putting me through my paces for his own narcissistic self-glorification and honor.

Indeed this is the fast that I’ve been given, but God didn’t give it to me. More on this in the next post.