Tag Archives: Christ

Servant

I want to be of some use. But I don’t want to be used.

Matthew 20:27

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

We don’t want to be anyone’s fool. We won’t let anyone put one over on us or walk all over us.  We are strong.  We are independent.  We can think for ourselves, thank you very much, and don’t need anyone telling us what to do — or what not to do.  If one of us is asked to do some menial task, we think that such a thing is beneath us and say to the person asking, “I’m not your servant!”

We will not be used.

But…

Are we of any use to anyone but ourselves? What happens when we are the ones using ourselves for fruitless pursuits, enslaving ourselves to our own whims and selfishness?  I’ll tell you what happens: we become the worst kind of fools — our own fools.

I was once self-centered.

When I was an atheist, I spoke like an atheist, I thought like an atheist, I reasoned like an atheist. When I became a believer, I put away with atheistic things.

I was not a mean and nasty atheist, angry at the world, disgusted with people. I was one of those secular humanist kind of atheists, appreciating beauty and kindness, concerned with the plight of others, and wanting to make the world a better place.  You would not have known by my interactions with people, by my words or by my actions that I was a “godless heathen”.  But, well… I was.  I did what I wanted and what I wanted was what made me feel good about myself.  That very sentence can describe many people — including those who claim belief in, and love for, God.

The thing is, even when I might have said or done something that was of service to another, I cannot say that I did it purely for that other.  My act of kindness was not a selfless act, it was not true charity, because I was doing it to bring myself pleasure.  You know that pleasure that you get when you do something good for another person?  It gives you a kind of lift and can lead you to think very lovely things about yourself, and you are happy for that moment.  In this way, I can see how some people could actually get addicted to do-gooding.  But, what kind of good does it really do?  The other person who was helped is benefited.  But am I who did it?  I don’t think so.

You see, there were always people, who I helped out in some way, who did not experience the same pleasure as I did from my action. Sometimes, they received my kindness with ingratitude.  Sometimes giving meanness in return.  And, believe me, I snapped back at those people in a hurry.  “You don’t want me to help you?  Fine, then.  Suffer.  See if I care.”  Because, well, I really didn’t.  I centered all of my goodness, my talents and gifts, my beauties and strengths, in myself.  I did these things, I deserved full credit, I, I, I….  I hoarded any good quality of mine like a treasure.  I might pay out some of it somewhere if I thought it was a good investment and would give me a pleasurable return.  But, if it didn’t, then I would withdraw very quickly.  I was self-centered.

And then I became God-centered.

What does it mean to be God-centered? Well, it could be explained in many ways, but to explain the difference between being self-centered and God-centered, I’ll continue along the same lines that I wrote above.  As an atheist, I gave full credit to myself (including my genetics and experiences) for any of my gifts and talents, and anything that I thought, said, and did that was good, true, or beautiful (I was the determining judge of what was good, true, or beautiful, anyway).  But, as a believer, I give full credit to God (the true judge of truth, being Truth Itself) for all of my gifts and talents, and everything good, true, and beautiful in my thoughts, words, and actions.  God is the treasure and the treasure house.  God is the center.  And, by the love and mercy of God, God chooses to dwell within me.  Not because I deserve this.  But because God loves.

It’s like this. God created human beings in His own image and likeness and saves us from our sins, from our waywardness (a kind of drunk-on-self stumbling stagger, which is life that ends in death) by becoming one of us.  Christ sanctifies all of humanity through his Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension: the Paschal Mystery.  And when we choose to enter into the life of Christ, we first enter into the death of Christ — and then we are reborn.  And we are not reborn in order that we may serve ourselves, our own whims and pleasures.  We are born again from above in order that we may truly become ourselves by serving others.  It is that entering into the death of Christ that allows us to truly be of use — without being used.  We Christians sometimes say that we “die to self”.  And that can sound kind of scary and weird to non-Christians — even to Christians who have not come to a fuller understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, yet.  But, you see, it is by emulating Christ, in giving ourselves away, that we are able to fully recognize God as the center and then able to give tirelessly and selflessly from the Divine treasure house within each of us.  No need to hoard.  And no need to be thanked or even recognized for the good service given to the other.  All glory to God.  For we are doing what we simply must do as true believers.  In much the same way, a rose must breathe sweetly and a flooded stream flow quickly.  It is the true nature of who we are and we cannot weary of it as long as we remain who we are.

And, so, as a believer, I know that I can be of use to others without ever being used. If someone wants half of my desert, then I should offer them the whole thing.  If someone needs help with a computer problem, I should patiently give it and not begrudge one moment extra spent doing more than might be “necessary”.  Yes, this is the God-centered life.  (God, help me live it!)  And it can be tiring, and thankless, and even lonely, sometimes.  But, the greatest human that ever lived, and ever will live, was humiliated, abandoned, tortured, and killed cruelly.  And, yet… He was willing to go through it all for the sake of the very ones who hurt Him… and so He is is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  To be like Him is more than a good idea, a pleasure, or something that might be rewarded — it is simply and profoundly who I am as a human being, first, foremost, and always.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

With Open Face Beholding

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire, and, so, what would she have to gain if she would scare away her own propagators, the midwives of her progeny with which she will be so heavy pregnant? She is humble and knows that she is merely a creature bound to the life-giving sun, and by no means desires to be a substitute. Yes, she stands tall and bold, but her height and breadth is but a measure of the depth of her humility, for her only wish, as far as a flower can wish, is to look up to that which she adores. It is the looking up that has raised her. It is the love of heavenly light that has opened wide her green-leafed arms. It is her submission to her Master that has given her flowery majesty.

For, all day long, while the sun shows forth his open face, shining full with glory, her rapturous gaze is all caught up in him. Every minute of every hour that passes, she faithfully follows his path with steadfast love. No matter what may come between them, whether mist or cloud or dark of night, it is him she always seeks, it is him that her hope will always find. Some dark days will fall, when a downpour may weigh her head too heavy to lift, but when the rays of the sun are visible again, the drops will slip from down her sunny cheeks and she will pay them no mind, not even to shake them away. She looks upon the sun again, never having lost him, for she has kept the thought and memory of him, the warmth of the gift that he has given, deep in her heart.

Yes, even when the sun slips over the edge of sight and pulls the veil of night down behind him, she is patient and trusting, and does not collapse in the darkness. Her head she bends down low – but not in despair, for one who loves as she loves can never hold despair – but in ever recognition of where her beloved lives. Though invisible to her petal eyes, her heart is not deceived and senses, with true love’s faith, his presence beneath the surface of the world. And so her vigilant gaze, ever fixed upon its deathless source, follows him as he shines on realms unknown and unseen, far from his touch get ever near to his soul. And when the night is opened slow, with tender, aching rush, the sun’s rays find her ready face, expectant in faith, and she receives anew the outpouring love of him whom she adores.

From this cause, then, is this flower called for the sun. He is her love, her reason, and her destiny. Her blossomy pledge of devotion is her very blossoming – and she is transformed by and into the one whom she loves.

© Christina Chase

Before the World Began

Pefect Gratuitouness…

2 Timothy 1:9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Before I was… I AM.

Before time… Eternity.

Before space… Infinity.

And even now, as I live and breathe,

in me, around me, all through me and

everywhere there is a there – and even where there is not… Grace.

Beyond matter, the particles and energy and all that can be detected with tools and brains,

beyond matter is Ultimate Reality, is Truth;

The Source, still and silent as It churns and sings with Life,

is beyond the reach of our physical senses, of our intellect and imagination.

Beyond grasping, the One Who IS, Infinite/Eternal One… is.

 

So… who am I?

I did not exist before the Word,

I would not exist without the Word,

for, through, with, and in the Word,

I am made flesh

and spirit.

No useless matter hurls through a meaningless universe,

for all is called forth into being by Being Itself.

Why does something exist instead of nothing?

Because the Infinite/Eternal One, Who is no thing, exists.

The finite cannot reach for the infinite

without losing its fine uniqueness that is its own particular identity;

Rather, the Infinite, ever-invisible/intangible and ever-motionless, reaches out

for us.

The perfect gratuitousness, which is the measureless Will powering Creation,

calls forth, through the unfathomable Word, the finite from no-thingness –

for no reason and no need, save for love.

Pure love, unadulterated by the finite, is Divine Reason…

is the eternal why…

is the Life of Grace.

 

Restore me, Infinite/Eternal One, to my reason for being.

Still and silent, with the speed and song of Thy Love, of Thee,

reach into my intellect and imagination, reach into my finite body and senses,

without a word, speak Thy Word into my soul,

and I shall be redeemed.

Not because I deserve to be, not because I have grabbed such,

not for any reason or any need – save for love.

The finite cannot take on the infinite without losing itself infinitely;

But the Infinite assumes the finite

in Christ

and, by the Gift given us before the world began,

the finite loses its finity in the infinity of the soul, and

restored, renewed, those who live,

though in the darkness of intellect and the weakness of human will,

shall see Light… Infinite… Eternal… Truth.

Christina Chase

The Faithful Witness

Revelation 1:5-7

  1. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

  2. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

  3. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Here upon our Earth, we see the Sun in all its radiance and feel the goodness of its heat. Above our bony skulls is sky of blue and white, through which clouds sail, breezes blow, and birds fly; from which rain, lightning strikes, and snowflakes fall. Gold and pink, purples and reds give our eyes delight with the Sun’s coming and going, and we are secure, here, in our green and blue home. But, with the sun’s setting, the veil of sky is pulled away. In the night, when the clouds are taken from our sight, we see the spaces of the universe, the cosmos revealed before us in the far-flung stars. So far above our bony skulls that we cannot comprehend the depths of space… Infinity.

Our minds filled with wonder and awe, our bodies sensing transcendence – though some of us may fear, tremble and cower in the night; some of us may revel in the darkness and name the stars as our own; and some of us may imagine the night sky as a poetic kind of ceiling for our Earth. The truth of existence, once revealed, cannot be ignored without willful ignorance. Is the Earth, our home, insignificant in the vast reaches of Space? Are we no more than a bacteria crusted rock hurling through space/time? Scientists will take out their telescopes and microscopes for the answer. Poets and philosophers will lyrically lament and laud with symbols and syllogisms. Spiritually minded people will find meaning in the gaps of their intellectual understanding. Pleasure seekers will take advantage of the night with probings and pursuits they would not undertake in the light of day. Most of us, however, will simply sleep.

The Faithful Witness is the one who does not cower and hide, who is awake and does not ignore. The Faithful Witness does not dissect or pretend or fear silence and limitations. The Faithful Witness does not close in upon himself and drown out life with too much noise. The Faithful Witness testifies. He comes with the clouds so that he may bring light to others, pours out his blood in death so that he may bring life to others, descends to brown soil so that he may wash others clean. The King of kings, the highest of high rulers, rules not with a bony skull, with sticks or stones, or the pink and gold and flaming silver of stardust. The solidity of Earth causes us to feel at home, secure in our blue and green sanctuary. But the true Sanctuary, with the infinite depths of the true holy of holies, is hidden from our earthly sight. No where in the far-flung universe can that to which the faithful witness testifies be seen. Nor can the truth be felt. Nor can the awesome, infinite truth even be known by us of bony skulls. The truth can only be loved. The rule of existence is love and the faithful witness is the one who loves without beginning and without end..

How do we, who are at home on Earth, receive the Faithful Witness? With telescopes and microscopes, with sentimentality and lucky charms, with sticks and stones and the self-centered limitations of our bony skulls. Him we pierce with our scalpels and switchblades and self-inflated ideas, with the lances of our arrogance and the swords of our desperate feelings. But, we do not truly see the Faithful Witness whom we pierce. We are blinded by the created light of sky and the light of our own making. One day…

One day that is not a day we will see without seeing… and then we will know without knowing even as we have always been known…

Christina Chase

For As the Body

Show me the money.

James 2:14, 26

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

There’s a song from the movie musical My Fair Lady that I love, Audrey Hepburn singing to the man who would woo her, “Don’t speak of stars shining above, if you’re in love, show me.  Don’t say your heart’s filled with desire, if you’re on fire, show me.”  She didn’t want him to just tell her pleasing things.  She didn’t want mere words.  She wanted action.

In my relationship with God, who alone is worthy of all love, all honor, all glory, I extol praises and profess my belief in Christ Jesus, His Only Begotten Son, my Lord and the Lord of all.  I keep a blog (Divine Incarnate) full of postings in which I reflect upon the heart of God and man and try to layout some of the ways in which we can all live full lives, our hearts filled with truth and love.  I witness with my words.  But… What about my actions?  I write about my faith and the value of what I believe in – but what do I do in my daily life?  I write that we should do this or that – but do I?  Like in the movie Jerry Maguire, where the sports agent makes lots of promises to the athlete, but he, in turn, just keeps saying, “Show me the money!”  – Where is my money, where is my invested output, where are my expenditures of time and effort – where are my works?

As Jesus tells us through St. Luke’s Gospel account, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  And these were not mere words to Jesus.  He lived what he professed, he carried out that to which he bore witness – he did what he said he would do.  “Love one another as I have loved you,” sounds pretty.  And it could be just that: a pretty phrase.  But, Christ loved us bodily, with his actions, with the entirety of his being his very body and blood.  He put his money where his mouth is.  By his actions, there is no doubt where his heart is.

We love because God first loved us – and this love is not just a nice feeling or pretty sentiment, it is not merely a metaphysical kind of holding in one’s heart.  This is brilliantly clear in the Judeo-Christian faith, which testifies to God’s works, God’s direct action in space and time.  God loves us into existence – the act of Creation.  God unites Godself to us and sanctifies us – the act of God becoming Man, Christ Jesus.  And God saves us – the act of dying on the Cross and rising from the Dead.  Through Christ’s actions, God restores us to the fullness of life, life eternal.  To receive what is given graciously to us, we must follow Christ.  To follow him with our minds, our thoughts and intellects, is not enough.  To follow him with our affections and sentiments is not enough.  To fully follow Jesus Christ, and so be true Christians, we must follow with our bodies, too.  We must follow with our whole selves, mindful that love is not something esoteric – love is action.  So, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength is to DO.  ACTION.  We love, not with our lips or sentiments, but with our works.  We love with our choices and our actions.

The jobs that people do every day to actively contribute to society are called professions.  The tenets of faith that people believe are also called professions.  I need to find a hearty, meaty, bodily way to bring these two concepts together in my daily life.  Writing about the faith is an action – but I do need to be careful and be sure that the faith about which I am writing is not dead.  This truly needs to be my faith, the faith that I profess by living it, my profession.  And, so, to facilitate this  – to bear better witness by being a better witness – I will try to post some of my personal acts of faith, the “works” that I do in everyday life.  (Hope I can find some….)   Mindful always, however, that I do nothing on my own.  If any of my actions are worthy of the faith that I profess, it is the Holy Spirit working through me.  All that I will have done is to accept, by the grace of God, the love that is given to me and to let that active love do what it must do as true love.

(If you wish to find out whether or not I put my money where my mouth is, I invite you to follow my blog Divine Incarnate and look for the category “works” or the tag “faith without works is dead”.)

Christina Chase

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

Martha, Martha, Martha… We cannot just go out and do and expect greatness – we must first have direction and meaningful purpose.  If we do not first listen to what God wants of us, then our actions are just busy-ness without holiness as our end.

Luke 10:39-42

39. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It wasn’t Martha’s serving of others that was wrong – for Jesus said that he himself had come to serve and that, if others wished to follow him, then they, too, must serve.  However, in her serving, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” she was “cumbered about much serving” and complained about it.  Was there, then, true love in Martha’s heart that inspired her serving?  Or was she, on that day, being one of those people who takes pride in being seen as hospitable and laying out a sumptuous table?  Martha’s pride seems rather evident for she questions whether or not Jesus cares about her plight, about justice, and then proceeds to tell him what to do.  Compare that to Jesus’s mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she brought what she saw as a problem before her son – she did not tell him what to do, but, rather, told the nearby servants to listen to Jesus and do what he told them to do, whatever it would be.  There is deference here and trust in Jesus, something which Martha did not demonstrate in serving (but which she did demonstrate later when her brother Lazarus died).

Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, was purposefully sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to him.  She left Martha with the details that the older sister had chosen to encumber them both with, choosing, rather, to hear the word of God.  Mary’s humility here is visually evident as she sits in a low place, at the feet of Christ.  Her eagerness for and attentiveness to what Jesus says is not lost on him.  She “heard his word” – it won’t be lost on her.

Jesus reminds Martha that there are only a very few things that human beings truly need.  This makes me think of how we need to eat in order to survive – but we don’t need to dine with elaborate meals that are difficult to prepare and serve.  We need shelter to keep us safe – but we don’t need spacious houses appointed with every convenient or luxurious amenity.  And as Christ tells the over-anxious server, “But one thing is needful”.  As he makes clear elsewhere in the Bible, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  Martha seeks to attend to Jesus the man in the flesh, but Mary seeks to attend to the Word of God.  By her choice, Mary is truly serving the Word of God made flesh, who is Jesus Christ, because she is attending to what he says and seeking humbly to learn from him as his disciple.  Meanwhile, Martha is busy.  Yes, she is adopting the role of a servant, which should be a good thing – but she is adapting the role of a servant to suit her own self-centered needs, worrying and troubling about many things that are not necessary.  On the other hand, a God-centered servant listens to God’s word, attentive to what is truly necessary for every human being: divine love, mercy, redemption.

The fact that I’m writing this two days before the beginning of Lent is not lost on me.  Soon, Catholics around the world (and other Christians, too) will be “giving up” something for the season of Lent.  We humans, like Martha, can daily encumber ourselves with the care and trouble “of many things.”  How many of these things are needful?  Letting go of some of them for the 40 days of the Lenten discipline can help open our eyes to see how very few things we really need.  Some people think that they can’t function in the morning and start their days properly if they don’t begin with a cup of caffeinated coffee.  If they give up that coffee for Lent (and stick with the deprivation through the first week or so of difficulty) then they will see that they were able to live and function well without that supposedly needful thing.  Someone else may want to give up daytime television or staying up late playing video games or going onto Facebook every day – and the time that that person will gain every day can be spent being with family and friends, thus nurturing essential relationships, or reading to expand the mind and soul, or embarking on that creative project he or she has been dreaming about but has not yet started.  I often see Lent as a kind of spring cleaning – I get rid of the clutter of things in my life so that I can get back to basics and remember what is truly important: love.  The giving and receiving of love that is divinely sourced – this is what is truly needful.  So, I will try, with the grace of God, not to worry and busy myself about things that, in the end, don’t matter at all.  And, being thus freed, I will be more aware of who I truly am and of what – Who – I truly need to be ever joyful, to be fulfilled.  I sit at His feet…

Christina Chase

Cut to the Heart

Who likes to hear that they are wrong?

Acts 7:52-54

52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

53. Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

54. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

I like being right.  I like knowing the answer to a trivia question when no one else around me does, I like being able to explain something to someone who is confused, and I like being recognized and praised for a job well done.  Who doesn’t?  Now, I don’t like flattery or pretty lies, and I don’t like being patronized with compliments or winning a competition or game because someone let me.  I like being right – not being told that I am right.  But, of course, there are many, many times when I am wrong.  Most times, I don’t know the answer to a trivia question and am unable to explain something to someone who is confused.  I don’t do that many things well and I know it – I know it and own it freely.  I am flawed, as all human beings are, very far from perfect.  And, in my own human particularity, I have many, many faults and have made many, many mistakes.  I know this and I don’t hate myself for it at all.  But, still, I really hate being wrong – I hate that feeling that I get when my answer is incorrect or my understanding of something is totally off.  It does feel very much like being cut to the heart for a split second.

With years of maturing and becoming more fully myself (a human in need of grace) I’ve learned to get over this infuriating blow of being wrong and the feeling stabs much, much less – though I am no less often wrong.  But, I have to continually guard myself against anger at the person who shows me to be mistaken; I have to perpetually remind myself that I should be grateful to those who show me where my faults lie, how I need to improve so that I can become a better person.  Because life isn’t just about knowing trivial knowledge, facts and figures, but about living in relationship with others.

To be my true self, to be who I am created to be, I must always seek right and good and true relationship with my fellow human beings, with Creation, and with our Creator.  If my relationships are not right (which also means not good, which also means not true) then I myself am not right.  I can be the most ignorant person on the planet when it comes to knowledge of the world – but, if I have love, then I am enlightened in the ways of truth and goodness, far wiser than the smartest person in the world who has no love.  The smartest person might think that he is loved by the world for his knowledge and, being honored and praised, think that he has love.  But, love is not something that is possessed.  Love is given and the moment that love is received, it is given again – to the one from whom it was received and/or to others, without end.  For true love can never be stagnant.  And the only reason, the only way, that we human beings can love at all is because we are first loved by our Creator, by God.  Receiving God’s love and then giving that love is the first and most essential right relationship.  If I can do this, if I can let God love me and then love God and God’s creatures in return (for if I am to truly receive God’s love then I must give it away) then I am relating to Creation, to the universe and every being, every creature, within it in the fullness of truth.  The truth is that we are all loved into existence.  And so, without loving, we will always be out of order, out of step, out of touch – we will always be wrong.

Next time somebody points out any kind of error that I have made, whether it be in the knowledge of information, or in the loving of God and God’s Creation (which includes myself and my fellow human beings) I will try very hard to remember not to kill the messenger.  I may not like the feeling of being wrong, but if I try to defend myself against the feeling with anger and deflection and excuses that are lies, then I will be even more deeply and painfully wrong.

I am a human in need of grace, as each and every one of us is, and if that grace comes through the form of a rightfully correcting teacher, preacher, or loved one, let us not be afraid.  It is Christ, who knows all of our hungers and shares all of our sufferings, who is helping us.  We may feel hurt by the human style or tone, but we must not let that harden us to the truth of the message.  What is true is true.  And the truth will set us free.  So, let us not gnash our teeth at each other, but, rather, learn how to love.

Christina Chase

Thy Corn

Deuteronomy 7:12-13

Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:

And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Hmm… I’ve been writing these Bible bursts for over a year now and there have only been a handful of times when I disliked the verses randomly given to me.  Not that I “dislike” the content of the Bible – but some passages leave me shaking my head.  Like this one from Deuteronomy.

Is it the word of God that, if I listen to God’s judgments and keep them, keeping all of God’s commandments, then my family will be large and healthy and my possessions vast and increasing?  It sounds like God is saying, “If you do what I tell you, then you will be worldly wealthy.”  Sure, I could reinterpret this to mean that God will bless me with spiritual richness and abundance in Heaven – but I don’t think that’s how the people who kept this Scripture as sacred understood it.  For them, plagues and hardships were punishments from God for being bad, while healthy crops, livestock and children were rewards for being good.  And I know that there are people today who believe that this is true.  But I don’t.

When I was a child, crippled in my wheelchair, I remember picking up from other people this thought: “If I am a good girl, then God will make me be able to walk – but I really have to believe that it’s true or God won’t cure me.”  And I remember praying to God and believing and then pushing downward with my legs and upward with my torso, ready to be wowed by the miracle.  But nothing new happened.  The thing is, I don’t remember being devastated by the lack of miracle.  (Perhaps “authentic” faith would have been devastated?)  I do remember thinking something like, “Does this mean that I’m not good enough?”  And then my little mind began to work.  With a slight smirk and furrowed brow I tried to figure out the puzzle.

I knew that I felt my faith surging in me when I made the prayer and the attempt to rise.  But I also knew, when I didn’t rise, that I doubted that this was how God worked.  I would hear about miracle stories, like a contemporary one where a woman with MS, I think, was cured at Lourde’s, and I would think that maybe I had to go all the way to France for God to work a miracle – but this just didn’t make any sense.  I do mean logical sense, in that, if God is God then God is all-powerful and doesn’t need me to buy a plane ticket in order for His cure to work.  (But, then again, I knew that such a trip could be a sign of my faith, of my willingness to go the extra mile (literally) in order to receive God’s blessings.)  Having to go the extra mile also didn’t make sense to me in a personal way, though, based on my faith.  Because, and I think this is important, I didn’t believe that my disease was any kind of a curse or punishment.  My legs are not dysfunctional because of something bad that I did or my parents did – so they’re not going to become functional because of something good that I do or my parents do.  There is no curse to be undone.

I think, however, that this is not what the people of the Old Testament believed to be true.  Like many ancient peoples, they believed that God’s wrath was just and, so, God rightly inflicted punishments upon wicked people – and, therefore, they believed that God’s wrath could be appeased and punishments reversed through right behavior.  If one could follow the letter of the law – and with the spirit of the law, which is love – then one would be earning God’s esteem and receive happy rewards from God.  The afterlife was not a given to all ancient people and, so, these rewards would be received here and now.  Good people would get what good people want: healthy children, productive growing seasons, healthy livestock – comfort, plenty and ease.  This is a system that we humans can understand, because this is what we would do.  We reward good behavior and punish bad.  It’s part of conditioning children (and society) so that it may be shaped into something desirable for the parents (and the majority of people in society).  We expect God to act like us.  And God, who wants to reveal Himself to all of humankind, speaks to us in a way that we can understand, at every developing level, as individuals and as societies – just as a parent communicates with a growing child.  That’s why we have the promises in Deuteronomy.

As a Christian, I shouldn’t try to make the people of the Old Testament believe things that they didn’t believe.  As a Christian, I should try to understand the Old Testament writings in the light of Christ.  I heard somewhere that the Bible is a book of questions with the answers in the back.  In other words, the Hebrew testament contains the questions of life and the Christian testament contains the answers – not in black white, unmistakable, concrete terms.  It’s not a science book exploring material matters.  Rather, where God once communicated to us in words at our level, the Hebrew testament, God now communicates to us in the Divine Word (his level) made flesh – not just the pages of the Christian testament, but Christ himself.  Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”.  And when you hear Christ’s message and you look upon Christ’s life, then you start to think of blessings in a new light.

Yes, Christ’s resurrection and ascension, as well as his promises, cause us to believe in the afterlife.  So, it can just be an easy matter of changing the whole punishments and rewards thing to being meted out “in the life of the world to come” instead of in this earthly life.  But… This still doesn’t do it for me.  That’s like saying, “If you suffer enough (like Christ) and keep faith that you will be rewarded in Heaven, then you will be rewarded in Heaven – and don’t worry, all those bad people are going to get their punishment after they die.”  This doesn’t seem like we really learned anything by God becoming Man, does it?  God will save us from the injustice of earthly life when we die and are freed from the earthly bonds – no, unh-uh, not divine enough.

God created the earth, earthly bonds, earthly bodies – and looked upon them and saw that they were good.  Now, I know that the free-willed choices of man to continually choose pride and turn away from God wrecks things.  I believe that this “fall” has inherently darkened our intellects and weakened our wills – and I believe that we need saving.  God made a deal with the ancient people of Israel and they broke their end of the bargain – an act that they agreed would warrant their deaths.  God becomes a human being and takes on that broken act and its justified punishment of death – Christ atones for sin on the cross of redemption.  And then Christ rises from the dead and ascends into Heaven in order to reestablish the covenant – indeed, to make a new covenant – with its fulfillment in the afterlife, which he opens up for us, instead of on temporal earth.  And it could all end there.  Nice and neat and orderly.  But the danger – and there is a real danger – lies in focusing upon what needs to be done in order to be rewarded.  If I am acting in a good way solely in order to get pleasure and riches in an unknown, but promised and very material sounding, other place, then I am totally self-centered.  How is that different than being like Adam and Eve?

I am supposed to be like Christ – “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,  he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:5-8.)  And if this obedience is done solely for reward – then it is not done with love.  For we know that we can have the words of angels, but, if we have not love, then we sound like gongs.  Love makes the difference – and true love is given with no thought of reward.

I should love the Lord, my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength BECAUSE He is the Lord, my God.  That’s it.  Pure and simple.  There are no material rewards here for doing that.  There might be some kind of reward hereafter for doing that – but this is not my focus.  My focus is knowing that God loves me, sinner that I am, for no other reason than that God loves.  I love God because God first loved me.  If I love God (if I’m a good girl) then God will reward me simply with His love that He was already giving (I will be happy because I am loving and open to loving).  Without this earth there is no me to love God.  Heaven is the clear and eternal understanding of this love.

Times up and I’ve rambled away another hour – did I write anything of worth?  I’m more confused than when I began.  I really want to hear what other people make of these verses from Deuteronomy… I am a pilgrim on a journey, I am a student in God’s classroom, I don’t know anything on my own – help teach me, fellow pilgrims!

Christina Chase

Written Not with Ink

2 Corinthians 3:3

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

The word of God is not merely to be written down, memorized and recited.  The word of God is to be lived.  Those who have never read or heard a single word of the Bible may know God’s word better than those who can deliver chapter and verse.  For the word of God is not a concept.  The word of God is not some thing.  The word of God is someone.  The Word of God is a Divine Person, is with God and is God, existing before time and space.  All of Creation came through the Word, and nothing exists without the Word.  Into particular time and space, through the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word became flesh, assuming human nature and dwelling among us.  The Divine Person Who is the creating Word of God became a creature, became one of us.  This is Christ, the Lord.  And Christ, through the Paschal Mystery, gives the Holy Spirit to every human creature – freely gives the Spirit of the living God to all of us.

(But, do we receive?)  We are called to receive the Spirit, not merely with our ears or our eyes in spoken or in written words, but with our hearts.  Not so that we may merely “like” God’s Word, but so that we may truly love God’s Word and embrace the Divine Word in the deepest core of our beings, into the quiet sanctuary within ourselves, the sacred dwelling place that is the true heart of our lives.  Open to the Spirit of God, we are able to deeply understand truth and be transformed by truth: the truth of eternity, the truth of Creation, the truth of ourselves created, through the Word, in the image of God to know, love, and serve God in the fullness of truth.  We deeply understand, we know, not by grasping a concept, but by being in communion with God’s Word dwelling in our hearts.  Dwelling – not written, but living and breathing in us and through us.

God’s Word is given to every human being through the Holy Spirit – but not all of us willingly open ourselves to receive… for we can close ourselves in on ourselves through the self-centeredness of sin and, being hardhearted, fail to live truth, fail to live in the fullness of communion with God.  God’s Word Incarnate gives Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, for every human being to save every human being from this failure.  In assuming our human nature, the Word Incarnate, Christ, the Lord, takes the lethal poison of our sins into His own flesh nailed onto the Cross.  God tastes death… pouring forth Divine Grace and sanctification in self-giving love.  And when the Incarnate Word rises from the dead, He raises all of us up with Him, our antidote of mercy, sharing His eternal life with us – when we willingly share our lives with Him and open our hearts to Him.  If we accept the Divine Word and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, then we become testimonies to God, proof of holiness, not written with ink or carved into stone, but living and breathing in, with, and through us.  From the sacred abode of our hearts, where we dwell together alone with God, to all of Creation and every one of our fellow human beings – we send forth the Word of God: Love.

And, so, I say that even if someone has never read or heard the words of the Bible – even if someone has never been properly introduced to Jesus Christ – that someone can still know the Divine Word, Who is Truth, Who is Love, Who is God in Whose image every human is created.  Open to the Spirit of the living God, every person, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh, can be faithful to the creating Divine Word, living lives of self-giving love, striving for truth, reflecting God into the world.  And if those who have not been properly introduced to Christ encounter Him through someone who has been saved into fullness by receiving Him fully, then the growing intimacy with the Divine Word Incarnate that they will experience will become the deepest blessing, the most sacred understanding, the fullest salvation – the fulfillment of their lives.

May I , in the sacred dwelling place of my heart, marry with the Word and bear forth the fruit of Divine Love so that all the world may also deeply know and love the Divine Incarnate One.

I am an epistle…

Christina Chase