Prepare us for your kingdom

The amazing “Jesus for President” has this amazing thing, it’s called “Litany of Resistance”  It’s this complex, provacative call-and-response thing.  (What do you call that, when the pastor says a line, and the congregation basically says the same thing, over and over again?)  I modified it a bit.  It’s below.

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One: Lamb of God, you take on the sins of the world.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Lamb of God, you take on the sins of the world.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Free us from the bondage of sin and death.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Women, men and children:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: the maimed and the crippled:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: the abondoned and the homeless:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The improsoned and the tortured:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The widowed and the orphaned:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The bleeding and the dying:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The weary and the desperate:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The lost and foresaken:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: In the realization that we are all of these:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: In the work you do us for the least of these:

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we live on a scorched and blackened earth

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we hoard our what we have while others have nothing

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we have our Caesers and Herods

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though violence is rooted in our hearts

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we turn others into our enemies

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we are victims to the arrogance of power.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we sometimes believe the myth of redemptive violence

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we succumb to the tyranny of greed

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we are surrounded by the ugliness of racism

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we fall victim to the cancer of hatred

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we are seduced by wealth

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we are addicted to control

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we make an idol of our nation

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we are paralyzed by cynicism

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we suffer the violence of apathy

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we live in the ghettos of poverty

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Though we live in the ghettos of wealth

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: You guide our feet in the way of peace.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One:You hear our prayers.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: We will not conform to the patterns of this world

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: We will be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: You bathe us in your grace

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be the waging of war

All: Prepare us for your kingdom

One: And there will be the slaughter of innocents

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be those who seek to destroy community

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be those who speak maliciously

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be the idea that happiness must be purchased

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.
One: And there will be powers and principalities which opress

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be the theology of empire

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be the hoarding of riches

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: And there will be the dissemination of fear

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Yours is the kingdom and glory

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your peace is not like Rome’s

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Yours is the gospel of enemy-love

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom belongs to the poor and broken

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom is of the least of these, where Christ dwells.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom is of the refugee of Nazareth

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom is of the homeless rabbi who had no place to lay his head.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom is of the cross, not the sword.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom places the banner of love above any flag.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom belongs to the rider of the donkey, not the war horse

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom belongs to the revolution which sets both the opressed and the opressor free

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Your kingdom leads to a new way of life

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The new way of life is through the lamb of God.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: The lamb of God took on the sins of the world.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

One: Lamb of God, you take on the sins of the world.

All: Prepare us for your kingdom.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

17 thoughts on “Prepare us for your kingdom”

  1. (What do you call that, when the pastor says a line, and the congregation basically says the same thing, over and over again?)

    In Catholicism, it’s a responsorial psalm; not sure about other denominations

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  2. No, what this thing seems to be is a litany, another great, contemporary example of what Jesus was talking about when He said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7 KJV)

    Brethren, stand back a moment, take a deep breath, and if you can, try to remember that Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you to the end of the age,” and believing His words, and acknowledging that He is here with us right now, see if you can stand in His presence and really perform this stupid litany.

    As the Lord said then, He says the same now, since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Don’t defile yourselves with foolish fantasies pretending to be prayer. It’s tiresome, really boring, and a waste of your chronos time. God expects more from His children. As Elder Ephrem of the Holy Mountain has said, “God does not want those whom He will save, who seek His mercy, to be ignoramuses.” So let’s straighten up our thinking, and get in line with God’s Spirit, not wander off with the purveyors of religion, whose way is doomed.

    Read the rest of what Elder Ephrem said about not being an ignoramus…
    http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2007/03/god-does-not-want-those-whom-he-will.html

    Go with God.

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  3. I would disagree that the above represents vain repetition. They’re not saying it over and over again to be heard; they’re responding in fellowship fashion in order to create communal intent both within themselves and in the fellowship at large. It’s a participatory process that works not only a religious level, but a cognitive one as well. If you look at the science of cognitive framing, the words we use evoke certain concepts that end up defining the words we’re using. So in saying “prepare us for your kingdom” the congregants are, given the right context, involved in an ongoing act of social framing by which to transform themselves and their societies for the arrival of the kingdom of god. Were they saying it over and over simply to be heard and rewarded by god, you’d be correct, but we have a much more complex, active, participatory process at work in Jeff’s suggestion.

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  4. Good for you, Ian! I was just testing you guys to see if there were any real followers of Jesus among you, and not just highly educated, sophisticated and articulate professionals.

    Your response gives me a good idea of what the priests of baal might have said to support their antics at the contest with Elijah…

    Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it. So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (from 1 Kings 18, NKJV)

    When Elijah mocked them, am ha-aretz that he was, they being patient and very professional might have responded, “We’re not saying “O Baal, hear us!” over and over again to be heard; we’re calling out in fellowship fashion in order to create communal intent both within ourselves and in the fellowship at large. It’s a participatory process that works not only a religious level, but a cognitive one as well. If you look at the science of cognitive framing, the words we use evoke certain concepts that end up defining the words we’re using. It’s circular reasoning! Any am ha-aretz should be able to see that!”

    Too bad Elijah was too insensitive to be involved in an ongoing act of social framing by which he could’ve helped transform the people of Israel for the arrival of the kingdom of god. And yes, that’s god with a little g. Just like you wrote it.

    We all know how that story ended. At least those of us who know the Bible. The same pernicious spirit is with us to this very day.

    Again I say, brethren, Go with God.

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  5. Wow! A dude goes to sleep and when he wakes up… Bam!

    I will reply at length later. For now, a couple quick comments.

    #1) I wonder, Ian, if you’d care to clarify your religious stance. My friend Romanós made some assumptions about where you’re coming from.

    #2) Obviously, I think Ian is on to something. I’d submit that the issue isn’t so much what the Ba’al worshippers were doing. It’s who it was aimed at. It’s sort of like you’re suggesting that the way they were dialing a phone number wasn’t getting them anywhere. I’m suggesting that nobody was home at the house they were dialing.
    (Elijah’s mockery of his opponents seems to suggest that.)

    #3) I was actually surprised to read this from a participant in an orthodox Christian tradition. I’ll agnowledge that I’m probably operating from a stereo type, and further that Romanos has always been clear that it’s the Christian part that’s important, not the orthodox part, nonetheless, I’d believed that the orthodox folks were quite liturgical and engaged in quite a lot of what outsiders would see as empty ritualism.

    #4) Wow, Romanos, I seem to have struck a nerve. Your response to this post lacked some of your characteristic gentleness. I’m not sure I’ve ever read you utilizing sarcasm against other real people in this manner.
    (A disclaimer: perhaps I’m being defensive. Ian is my brother in the literal we have the same earthly dad sense.)

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  6. Let’s not lose sight of the motive. To vainly repeat the same words over and over isn’t some mystery. There’s no parable here to reveal or conceal some secret of the Kingdom for those who have ears to hear.

    “Vainly” implies intent already. It is comtemptuous to God that we would assume the effort exerted to say the same mantra over and over should count as work. It’s of the same vein (excuse the wordplay) that might cause us to assert that God will eventually owe us something if we’re able to tip the scales in our favor. It’s an insult to God’s character and ability.

    And it’s boring.

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  7. A quick response just before I hop into my car and drive off to work…

    Jeff, what you are thinking is sarcasm in my response is, yes, sarcasm, but I am using it in a somewhat jopking manner to (1) get Ian from taking himself quite so seriously and (2) to use tomfoolery as a gentle way of prodding someone who seems to be heading down a dead-end path (albeit with the best of intentions) to turn aside from that path, and take another look at the map.

    The Word of God is pivotal, central, primary. The language of the Bible must be OUR language if we want to follow Jesus, because the thoughts contained in it must become OUR thoughts. What I see in Ian’s explanation and brotherly defense of your litany is human sophistry, plain and simple. I am not out there to destroy either of you guys, but only to try by my foolish words to keep you both from destroying yourselves.

    Roman Catholicism contains soul-destroying heresies, and I see evangelicals heading right into the mouth of that pit every day, like fools looking up and walking over the edge of a cliff.

    Orthodoxy has many long ceremonies and many poetical rites, which outsiders will see as meaningless, and even mistakenl;y identify and compare with Roman Catholicism, but they are wrong. If they stopped to consider and examine closely what the Orthodox are doing and saying, they will find that there is no meaningless detail in Orthodox worship. What I do admit and allow is that there are some vain repetitions in the services, like saying “Kyrie eleison” 40 times in a row. I( don’t approve of this kind of thing, but it happoens like once a year in a certain service, and while the chanter is doing this, I spend the time talking to God. There must be no meaningless detail in Orthodoxy, but so must there be no “down time” in worship, just standing there looking blank. I admit that for many Orthodox that is exactly what they are (unfortunately) doing, but that’s their problem, not mine. If one is given the tools of the trade and sits on the toolbox, whose fault is it?

    In short, brethren, don’t take offense, as none is meant. I don’t combat, I only wrestle, and to the end that you, not I, come out the winners.

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  8. Correcting some notable typos (I’m surprised there aren’t more!)…

    “…what you are thinking is sarcasm in my response is, yes, sarcasm, but I am using it in a somewhat JOKING manner …”

    “…and even MISTAKENLY identify and compare with…”

    “I don’t approve of this kind of thing…” [Lose the left parenthesis!]

    Since I’m already back with my muddy face, let me continue for a moment…

    Jeff, it’s obvious that you yourself view Orthodox Christianity, as many do in the Protestant churches, as some kind of Roman Catholic offshoot, maybe a kind of Catholicism without a pope. In this last sense you are right, but probably not in the context that you may think. Orthodoxy IS the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church IS that Church which believes in what the Bible teaches as received by the apostles and ratified by the early ecumenical (world-wide) councils. For us, though, “Catholic” is not a denominational qualifier, but only a grouping word, to describe those who accept “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.”

    Part of the problem that is emerging in the contemporary Protestant churches is the fact that most of them are and some even think they are just better or updated versions of Roman Catholicism. That’s why they don’t flinch at going back and picking up a tradition or two from the Roman Catholics that they can integrate into their evangelical non-liturgical worship, and they think it’s cool. Even Baptists are doing this now, which has caused many of them to leave their churches.

    Well, from an Orthodox viewpoint, Protestantism IS a form of ROMAN Catholicism without a pope. At least you have cut yourselves free, centuries ago, from that antichristian construct, but you have not cut yourselves free of much else. But that primal lie, the “vicar of Christ,” being shed makes you all candidates for Orthodox faith, even if you don’t join the Orthodox Church.

    From our point of view, the reformation of Roman Catholicism should have consisted of taking the whole structure down, brick by brick, to the very Foundation, which is Christ. Luther and the reformers started the job, but neither they nor their successors finished the job, and what proves it, is that many of their spiritual descendants are putting some of the bricks back up in place! It’s the job of the Orthodox who love the Protestant brethren, to try to get them to stop putting back the bricks and, if possible, to work with us on the true building, “the spiritual temple made of living stones” (not man-made bricks!) that we are building on the Foundation, which is Christ. So, Orthodoxy humbly asserts that the entire construct of Roman Catholicism (or Western Christianity) must be dismantled before it can be reassembled.

    Since this seems to be impossible, we encourage those who can to escape that man-made system and come to the Church of the Living God, built on the prophets and apostles, and that grows and matures without changing, and that is willing to suffer opposition and abuse from the antichrists of this world rather than fight them, thus recognizing their false authority at all.

    No, Jeff, I don’t agree that Ian “is onto something” as you do, at least not something that he should be “on to.” That’s not to put either of you guys down, but simply to put a stumblingblock in your path, to slow you down long enough to look more closely at what you’re doing.

    If you are following Jesus and not the world, then there is no essential difference between us, despite the externals. “Orthodox” is just a convenient label and nothing more. What is important is one thing only, that we make the Word of God our home, as Jesus says, “If you make my Word your home, you will be my disciples,” and as holy apostle John exhorts, “My children, stay away from false gods!”

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  9. Jeff- I think you’re absolutely right that I should clarify my stance a bit; I would have earlier but felt it smart to delay any further reply until you chimed in yourself.

    Romanos- I’m not a Catholic. I’m not even Christian. I admit to being an abject failure at a dozen or so different religious paths, but in failing to choose one I’ve realized the wide and deep theological learning that’s pushed me to. If I have to boil myself down to a working term, I call myself a contemplative. My religious path *is* to search, and think, and pray, and meditate. I’m not even going to say unequivocally that god exists, because I don’t know; and I’m not one to bandy about as fact something I’m not sure of.

    I realize this flies in the face of just about everything you’re talking about. I consider that a good thing in that conversation will stimulate us both. Homogeneity in belief, as in genetics, leaves much to be desired upon interaction.

    I’d be happy to talk about your points regarding Roman Catholicism, several of which I agree with, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the topic at hand and it doesn’t affect me or my theology, so it might be best left for another day. I’d like to stay on-topic for the moment, and that topic seems to be the above responsorial activity.

    That you start off by equating me to the priests of Baal is somewhat telling on its own. The majority of the contexts I’m familiar with in the Bible, references to Baal are references specifically to a false god or worshippers thereof. Thus, you start off at the outset by giving no hypothetical possibility of life to the idea, but simply shrugging dismissively and saying “false god.” You use the reference to create a cyclical argument. Let me illustrate this:

    A. Argument begins with Baal (as it would begin with the god of any denomination, as the foundation of that denomination). As the argument begins with Baal, it is false in its beginning and deserves no contemplation.

    B. Argument begins with the activity (a bottom-up approach, less common in theology but not unknown). Activity leads to Baal, and so it is false in its end and deserves no contemplation.

    It’s a rhetorical device used to invalidate the beliefs or suggestions of someone with a different viewpoint. I mentioned ‘cognitive frames’ before, and your fallback onto equating me with the Priests of Baal fits into that science perfectly. By evoking the cognitive frame of the Priests of Baal, you evoke a cognitive frame by which anything I say is false, and paint yourself as Elijah. It is interesting to note that Elijah interacts with the Priests of Baal in a substantive way, rather than dismissing them outright.

    Outnumberedby5- you’re correct in that “vain” can imply intent, depending on the context (whether we’re talking the conceit definition or the “to no avail” definition). The activity above isn’t done with the idea that god will owe you something at the end; you’re inferring that from other practices or contexts. I haven’t seen Jeff say that Jesus’ll owe him big after he does this (hypothetical, i’m not saying Jeff or his fellowship WILL do this), or that his fellowship will be owed. It might be helpful here to request a clarification from Jeff on the goals of this practice, instead of carting in baggage from other areas.

    I’ll admit, I see this practice with my own prejudices and blinders. I believe self-development is one of the most important things in religious practice; having involved myself significantly in different religions over the years, that’s one of the universal (perhaps even catholic, if you’ll excuse the pun!) aspects I’ve identified. To me, the above practice seems a statement of intent and restatement of faith in a participatory manner geared towards developing oneself individually, and oneself in a communal/fellowship context, to prepare for the coming of god’s kingdom.

    We’re also looking at an invalidation of all ritualism in your argument, or even regularity. Extending your argument, it would be contemptuous to God to always gather for worship on the same day every week, and any common elements of service would be an insult to His character and ability. The extension of your argument is a requirement for spontaneity in each and every aspect of worship. Any regularized aspects of worship become frivolous attempts at repetition, rather than meaningful steps toward a regular relationship.

    I realize my views stated above might be wildly unpopular, and let me also state for the record that Jeff and I disagree on many things as well, so please don’t mistake my argument for his. I do hope we can continue to have a civil conversation about all this, though!

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  10. In either case, “vain” meaning superficial or self-centered the outcome is the same…a valueless excercise. And that solely in the context of an agreed upon external scale of value.

    My comment was intended to be a generic one and not specific to Jeff’s original post. Often times “vain repetition” is in the eye of the beholder. It’s up to the reader to discern in their heart if it’s vain.

    It isn’t my intent to cast aspersions on the value of disciplilne or on the practice of doing things religiously. One man’s liturgy is a helpful tool where it’s an annoying distraction to another.

    Jesus in the context of “vain repitition” is warning against substituting something loud and lengthy for something authentic and heartfelt. God cares little for anything other than our affection for him. How we express that in worship is largely a cultural or an individual thing.

    How we are to express it in a life lived is quite another thing. The Bible is not lacking for examples of how one ought to structure their values and priorities.

    Enjoyed “talking” with you very much, Ian. Someday hope to meet you.

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  11. A civil conversation indeed! What else can it be, since there’s no animosity involved. But Ian, you are a rare individual, and far too educated in your approach to things for me to even have anything to say in response to your comments above. There really are times when two individuals even speaking the same language cannot communicate, because the source of all real communication (and its ultimate basis of meaning) emanates from a place inside of us deeper than verbal language. Until this latest comment of yours, I had no idea who it was I was dealing with. Now that I know, it is pointless for me to dialog, because though it looks like we’re talking about the same reality, I don’t think we are. So I will bow out of this conversation with you, and perhaps with Jeff as well. I stand by what I have written thus far in every place, but it is not known to me if either of you really understand it. That’s okay, though. Like the fool that I am, I rush in where smarter folk fear to tread, in the hope that I might prevent a mishap. That’s the Greek mind for you. Philanthropia and philoxenia are the warp and woof of our being. That means, sometimes I am warped, and sometimes I’m just a woof—I mean a wolf—no, what do I mean? Oh well, I don’t really know, except that I mean well.

    And Jeff, forgive me if I appear to be out of line in my comments. I read your blog sometimes but most of what you post here is so far from my experience that I have nothing to comment on, and rarely leave a comment. And when I do, I end up commenting as an Orthodox Christian—what else would you expect?—though a very elastic one, most of the time. You should know this about me by now (and I think you do), that Orthodoxy doesn’t hem me in or prevent me from fellowshipping with other followers of Jesus, but that I am convinced that everyone who follows the Lord Jesus is of the same Body, of which the Orthodox Church is the special, human representation, a living icon of the Bride of Christ, not perfect, but faithful to her Lord. And I always extend the hand of friendship and welcome to everyone who wants to follow Jesus, and treat them as exactly the same as I myself am treated by the Lord.

    That’s it. Again, brethren, forgive if I have offended, and keep on following Jesus (or start following Him, if you aren’t). No need to look for Him who is already looking for you. Just acquiesce and let yourself be found, if you’re lost. Or as C.S. Lewis says, quoting the London bobby’s words to a man he has just been apprehended in some crime, “Just come along quietly.” We’re all thieves. But we still have a choice to be the bad thief or the good thief.

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  12. My bad…

    “…quoting the London bobby’s words to a man he has just apprehended in some crime, …” [I thought “been” was an extra word that didn’t belong!]

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  13. Romanos- Disappointed that you want to disengage but alas, I understand! No offense felt on my end, my friend.

    Outnumberedby5- Thanks for the clarification! I admit that I misinterpreted your original post a bit. However, I would add a communal/fellowship caveat to “God cares little for anything other than our affection for him.” Something about our affection for, or at least demeanor towards, each other.

    I’ve enjoyed this a lot, and if you find yourself in Central Massachusetts, I’d be happy to meet up for coffee or something!

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  14. Wow guys… I feel like a bunch of good friends all gathered at Starbucks, chatted, and then left before I had a moment to show up!

    I’m actually smiling as I write this because the three of you are quite a fascinating combination. Perhaps with me thrown in, we sound like the beginning of a joke, “An Orthodox, a conservative evangalical, a progressive evangelical, and a contemplative walk into a bar…”

    Maybe more in a few minutes…

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  15. I’ll have no hard feelings if nobody responds, as you all seem about done… but I think I’ll throw a few observations and questions out. I’m very much on the same page with “Outnumberedby5” (Who serves in the small group ministry with me at Fellowship Church.) So all I have to offer him is “Yeah, I think that’s about right.”

    Romanos:
    I was fascinated by your explanation of the relationship between your tradition, mine, and Catholicism. I never recognized that I thought of Orthodox Christianity as an offshoot of Catholicism… but you may well be right. I think I see your point, though. You see yourselves as the more accurate representation of what Christ was all about and the Roman Catholic Church as being the offshoot. You did lose me when you began to speak about your tradition as an icon… If you’ve got more to say on this front, I’d be interested to hear.
    I appreciate your keen awareness of the importance of these issues. It’s courageous not to soft peddle difference when eternity is on the line, and I thank you for that.

    From the outside, it looks like you’re doing a bit of special pleading, though. I imagine that a Roman Catholic would claim that no detail within his tradition was accidental or random. I think that being within a practice imbues it with meaning that outsiders won’t get… perhaps being on the outside prevents them from getting it.

    I was also wondering if you were being literal about the language of the bible. I never gave it much thought, but I suppose it’s ancient Greek that is spoken at Greek Orthodox churches?
    One of my reactions as I consider this is to consider the way I’m wired. I have a brain like a black hole for languages. It is nearly impossible for me to memorize things arbitrarily. It’s probably tempting to respond with something like, “You could if you really wanted to.” but that simply isn’t true. I was on my way to completing a Master’s Degree in philosophy. A French Foreign Language exam stopped me dead cold. I was highly motivated and interested. I simply could not do it.

    There are many ways that we are seperate from the world Jesus occupied. Conquering the dictionary definitions of the words he used strikes me as just one among many. Even if I spoke Greek fluently, does it follow that a modern suburban American would appreciate the parable of the Sower in Greek more than a farmer would? Or somebody who lived in a pretechnological society?
    I see a number of obstacles which we ought to prayerfully attempt to remove to understanding scripture. It seems to me that to focus my energy on the linguistic ones would be a mismanagement of the gifts God has entrusted me with. I’d be interested, Romanos, to hear your take on these considerations.

    Ian:
    I can answer the question you ask about the intent of all this in a somewhat trivial way. I’m trying to put words to a more general, philosophical explanation. I might post one as a new blog entry in the next couple days.
    The trivial explanation:
    Al is in charge of what happens on the stage on Sundays at church. He’s been trying to broaden the ways we worship. He asked me if I had any poetry I’d care to share on the topic of preparing ourselves for God’s kingdom.
    I didn’t have anything I loved; but I recalled the Litany of Resistance from a book I’d read. After discussing it with Al, we decided to simplify the audience response and focus it a bit more on the topic in the sermon. (There was also some language in the original that isn’t just strong but even divisive that I toned down)

    A lot more can and should be said, but to radically over simplify, I love the idea that a community might be given an oppurtunity to collectively state beliefs, I love that we can model some of the interplay between individuals and God and that we might enact this on a larger level.

    If I was coming from where you were, I would probably share your emphasis on what might be called the psychological side effects of these practices… But for me, these are far distant secondary benefits to the fellowship we experience with God.

    Again, everybody, thanks for your time… I hope you’ll consider shooting off one more reply.

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  16. Jeff- I’ve found the combination here pretty fascinating as well; and intelligent and communicative, which can often be lacking on any given side of the debate, so I think we were pretty blessed with the mix we achieved today!

    I’ll toot my own horn here in that part of your intent was pretty close to what I figured it was (unless I misunderstood). My emphasis on the psychosocial aspects was definitely my own and I figured it would be a little too secular in context (which prompted the explicit acknowledgment that my argument was mine and not yours, didn’t want to be seen as trying to talk for you). Just wanted to point out a benefit from my point of view, was all!

    I missed the idea of modeling interplay, though. Went right past me without notice. But I like it!

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  17. Okay, I wasn’t going to continue this conversation, but I owe it to you to explain some things I said and also to correct your unexpected wrong interpretation of one of my main points, so I’ll start with the biggie.

    I wrote, “The Word of God is pivotal, central, primary. The language of the Bible must be OUR language if we want to follow Jesus, because the thoughts contained in it must become OUR thoughts.”

    Was it this passage that made you think that I was insisting on the necessity of Christians learning to speak the koiné dialect of Greek in order to really be a disciple? You wrote this,

    “I was also wondering if you were being literal about the language of the bible. I never gave it much thought, but I suppose it’s ancient Greek that is spoken at Greek Orthodox churches? … There are many ways that we are seperate from the world Jesus occupied. Conquering the dictionary definitions of the words he used strikes me as just one among many. Even if I spoke Greek fluently, does it follow that a modern suburban American would appreciate the parable of the Sower in Greek more than a farmer would? Or somebody who lived in a pretechnological society?
    I see a number of obstacles which we ought to prayerfully attempt to remove to understanding scripture. It seems to me that to focus my energy on the linguistic ones would be a mismanagement of the gifts God has entrusted me with. I’d be interested, Romanos, to hear your take on these considerations.”

    I meant nothing of what you seem to think I meant. I am simply saying that we must live in the Word of God and make it our language, not koiné Greek, but the terminology, the words. You make it much too complicated trying to analyze what the original meaning of the Greek text is. If you are a bible translator, that might be your job. I am trying to testify to the basic truth of the scriptures, which is NOT found in textual criticism and analysis, but in simple acceptance of what the Word tells us and doing it. Yes, the Greek Orthodox Church worships partly in the koiné Greek dialect, and people like myself know what it means without having to translate it into English, and it means exactly the same as it means in modern English, though there are sometimes shades of meaning that give some interesting insights. But no, to live in the Word of God and make its language OUR language means that we frame our thoughts, our speech and our actions in scriptural terms, not secular terms. This is what holy apostle Paul teaches in his letters in many places, but more importantly, Jesus says, “If you make my Word your home…” That is a practical directive. We listen to what the Word of God is speaking, and do it. Hence, orthodoxia “straight thinking” and orthopraxia “straight doing.” They are inseparable.

    What else? Oh yes. The Orthodox Church as an icon. The Orthodox Church is an earthly icon, or human construct, divinely written in our flesh and in our fellowship, that reveals to the world what the Church really is, as it exists beyond space and time, the dwelling of the Holy Triad in us, and we in Him. I don’t know how else to explain it.

    As to the Catholic Church, no, it’s not an offshoot, it’s a corrupt member. The Church is One and can never be divided. The criticism of Catholicism from the Orthodox Church does not take the form of comparing their liturgies to ours and saying that ours is better. The original Roman liturgy is as ancient as the Byzantine, and was at one time an Orthodox expression of worship (we are not monolithic about these points, many forms of worship are acceptable in Orthodoxy). Our criticism of Roman Catholicism centers on its anti-evangelical teachings and practices. There is no such thing as an infallible head, no such thing as purgatory or surplus merits of the saints, and the Holy Spirit does NOT proceed from the Father and the Son, because Jesus says He proceeds from the Father only. Catholicism is a form of religious totalitarianism and bondage no different from Islam or Mormonism or Word of Faith Pentecostalism. All are examples of man taking charge and putting God in His place. Orthodoxy lets God be God. We wait on the Lord.

    You wrote, “From the outside, it looks like you’re doing a bit of special pleading, though. I imagine that a Roman Catholic would claim that no detail within his tradition was accidental or random.”

    There is no significance to this point, as I tried to explain in the last paragraph. I do not defend Orthodoxy’s liturgical practices; they need no defense, they simply are. They were put in place by our pious and Christ-loving ancestors as a safeguard, so that no matter what our conditions of life, whether we are free or suffering imprisonment or extreme persecution, we can still worship God, be taught by Him, and sustain our faith through memorization and repeated practice. There were other sects in the Middle East besides Orthodoxy when Islam came and took over the region. All died out except the Orthodox. Our liturgy is why.

    Hey, I think I’m finished. Did I answer your questions adequately? This has been, for me, a bizarre encounter. Again I am coming away with a feeling that real communication is still not going on, that we’re just wacking words back and forth. That’s okay. I know when to stop trying to make my point. Thanks for actually taking the time to try to dialog. Usually people don’t bother, which is also why I don’t blog as much anymore.

    But yes, you are right, brother, with this post of yours, you hit a nerve with me. Like an idiot who knows nothing else so keeps repeating the same phrase, “Watch yourselves!” Romanos is still trying to head you off at the pass, to keep you from falling into the fowler’s net. You were bought for a price not paid in gold or silver but in the precious blood of a lamb without stain, slain before the foundation of the world. Do not become a slave to other men.

    Go with God.

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