Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The tempation of being awesome

I've seen a few things over the years. I meditate sometimes on the tangles people - me included - can get themselves into. Usually, right inside, at the heart of the tangle, is a lie. A big fat deception. One of the tangles Christians - and not only Christians - can get into is the desire to be awesome.

I've been looking around, and can confidently declare that wanting to be awesome has become an epidemic. It is highly contagious. The blogosphere is full of the confessions of addicts:
'Please help, I desire to be awesome and unfortunatley I am already light years ahead of all my professors.'

You have to feel sorry for the poor guy. Here's another:

'I have an intense desire to be awesome at everything I do. I'm finance major who likes to read books on leadership and just about anything else.'

There are also pages of advice out there in the ether on how to be awesome. One expert suggests fireworks: 'Irresponsible use of pyrotechnics is clinically indistinguishable from being awesome.'

Wikihow - a site I never knew existed - explains how to create your own clique at school by manipulating the desire of others to be awesome: 'Do you want to be in that clique but don't know how to get your friends to commit? Heres how to subtly make your friends want to be awesome...'

In the Christian faith, people interested in the prophetic and the miraculous can succumb to this epidemic big time. The goal of seeking prophecies, healings or other signs of God's grace can end up being reduced to the pursuit of personal awesomeness. Other more ordinary souls, who at the start simply want to lead some people to Jesus, or to become good preachers can end up in this trap. It becomes not enough to lead a healthy church, or to teach faithfully, they long to be an AWESOME leader, or an AWESOME teacher.

It's a very bad deal. A very unawesome dead end to get into.

The scriptures have a simple, ugly word for this 'wanting-to-be-awesome' condition. It is pride. And the fruit of pride is complete and utter unawesomeness - fallen people embarrassing themselves before a holy, righteous and ... totally awesome God.

There is a lot in the Bible about awesomeness, but the truth which undoes the lie of this condition is that Only God is Awesome. He is the Awesome One. Our goal should never to be awesome, because all the awesomeness is totally, only and forever His. If someone does not believe this to the depth of their being, then the entangling desire to be awesome can overtake them and bog them down in spiritual irrelevancy.

A Word for Lent - identifying with Jesus

Here is a meditation by St John of Dalyatha, on identifying with Christ in his incarnation. May it be a helpful resource for you during these days of prayer and fasting, as you draw close to Jesus in his spiritual struggle in the desert against the powers of darkness, and may the Lord grant you victories in prayer.

Homily on Meditation on the Economy of the Lord

Hold him in your arms like Mary his mother. Enter with the Magi and offer your gifts. Proclaim his birth with the shepherds. Proclaim his praise with the angels. Carry him in your arms like Simeon the Elder. Take him with Joseph down to Egypt. When he goes to play with little children steal up to him and kiss him. Inhale the sweet savour of his body, the body that gives life to every body.

Follow the early years of his childhood in all its stages, for this infuses his love into your soul. Cleave to him: your mortal body will be scented with the spice of the life in his immortal body. Sit with him in the temple and listen to the words coming from his mouth while the astonished teachers listen. When he asks, when he answers, listen and marvel at his wisdom. Stand there at the Jordan and greet him with John. Wonder at his humility when you see him bow his head to John to be baptized.

Go out with him to the desert and ascend the mount. Sit there at his feet in silence with the wild beasts that sought the company of their Lord. Stand up there with him to lean how to fight the good fight against your enemies. Stand at the well with the Samaritan woman to learn worship in spirit and truth. Roll the stone from the tomb of Lazarus to know the resurrection from the dead. Stand with the multitude, take your share of the five loaves and know the blessings of prayer. Go, wake him up who is asleep at the stern of your boat when the waves beat into it. Weep with Mary, wash his feet with your tears to hear his words of comfort. Lay your head on his breast with John, hear his heart throbbing with love to the world. Take for yourself a morsel of the bread he blessed during supper to be one with his body and confirmed in him forever.

Rise, do not keep your feet away that he may wash them from the impurity of sin. Go out with him to the Mount of Olives. Learn from him how to bend your knees and pray until the sweat pours down. Rise, meet your cursers and crucifiers, surrender your hands to the bonds, do not keep your face away from the slapping and spitting. Strip your back to be lashed. Rise, my friend, do not fall to the ground, bear your cross, for it is time for departure. Stretch your arms with him and do not keep your feet from the nails. Taste with him the bitterness of gall.

Rise early while it is still dark. Go to his tomb to see the glorious resurrection. Sit in the upper room and wait for his coming while the doors are closed. Open your ears to hear the words of peace from his mouth. Make haste and go to a lonely place. Bow your head to receive the last blessing before he ascends.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Common Word Between Us and You

I have prepared some notes on the Muslims' letter to Christian leaders "A Common Word Between Us and You".
My notes can be found here.
A group of Yale scholars have written a response.
My reflections on the Yale Response can be found here.

I hope these may be of assistance to Christians.