Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review of The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controveresy is Shaping the Church by Phyllis Tickle with Jon M. Sweeney

For those hoping to engage in The Age of the Spirit by Phyllis Tickle and Jon Sweeney with a desire to obtain a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit, you may come away disappointed and left with as many questions as when you began reading. The Spirit is shrouded in mystery and it is with humility and compassion that the authors guide the reader to be content with this ancient conundrum. As declared by the book’s subtitle, the reader will walk away with a deeper understanding of “How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church”. For if the Church is truly moving into a new era; The Age of the Spirit, is it not even more imperative that the Body of Christ have a more firm grasp on the Trinity and the Spirit’s place within? Have we reached a crossroads in history where we can no longer remain content with unanswered questions?     

As Dylan so prophetically declared to the past generation, “The Times they are a Changin”, Tickle now declares change for a generation of Christians just as frustrated, confused and in search of answers. Understanding cultural change is difficult to comprehend when staring in a mirror. One often has to look behind at the historical vehicles that have transported to a particular point in time. By carefully reflecting on the historical ups and downs that have occurred within the Church, Tickle helps the reader understand that the mysteries enveloping the third person of the Trinity are no different for those who sought solutions over 2000 years ago. They make it very clear from the beginning that in order to understand where we are, we have to have a firm grasp and understanding on where we’ve been, who we’ve been and how we’ve arrived where we are today. Ironically, before we begin to look ahead, we must first look behind. It is with this logic that the authors build the structure of The Age of the Spirit with historical clarity and simplicity.    

From the apparent subtle changing of words within the Nicene Creed (see below) in 689 CE that led to the spark of the Great Schism, to the birth of Pentecostalism on Azuza Street in 1906, Tickle illustrates how the differences of interpretation and understanding of the Holy Spirit can cause division that, at times in history, have seemed almost irreparable, but also create unstoppable movements that change the very fabric of who we are as Christians. Whether intentional or not, she paints a historical illustration that makes clear why we see so much division within the Church today, and how we struggle with the same issues. 

“Filoque”, the Latin word for “and from the Son”, is as Patrick Leigh Fermor is quoted as saying, the “tintack which split Chistendom”. How could such a seemingly insignificant altering of words create such chaos that could possibly be the main contributor to our confusion over the Holy Spirit’s place within the three-in-one Godhead? Could this re-wording of an ancient creed in 689 be the cause of heresy, theological division, political upheaval and even the birth of new religions? Has the struggle come down to the simple issue of as Tickle sees as “One-God-in-Three-Parts and the impenetrable question of Spirit: what it was, what it was in devine relationship, what it was in function, how it was to be known – Separately? En masse? How?”  

It is with reading the The Age of the Spirit, that the reader will be forced to re-examine the mysterious third Person of the Trinity and ask ourselves who the Spirit is, what the Spirit is, and what place does the Spirit have within the Trinity and the Church itself? Tickle makes it clear that if we are in fact moving into a new age within the Church, and witnessing a movement of “religionless Christianity”, the mysteries of the Holy Spirit must be wrestled with.  For at no other time in history have we confronted the reality that God is not “out there” waiting to be found, but rather supernaturally among us, living and breathing.  

No longer does the Church need to rely only on hierarchical authority, historical forefathers, political structures or even scripture to face the mysteries of the Spirit. In fact, Tickle has reminded us that the Spirit is wanting to be known. So it is with joy and excitement that the Body of Christ begins the process of discerning, critiquing and understanding the Spirit’s movement within. We must embrace the Spirit, wrestle with the Spirit, put our arm around the Spirit and walk with confidence into what the future holds. The Age of the Spirit could very well be the catalyst for the future. Tickle and Sweeney have opened the proverbial dust covered chest in the closet to reveal the treasure that has been waiting to be discovered. 

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week Reflections: Sanhedrin

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

John 18:30

Trumped up charges. Deception. Misinformation. Half truths. Embellishments. Lies. Lies. Lies.

A reflection of modern day culture.


"We cripple ourselves with lies." - Jim Morrison 

Lies are cowardly and weak because we use them as a weapon which the other person cannot see. It's covert destruction. Incognito weapons of mass deception.

The origin of lies? Selfishness. The culprit? Culture.  

We live in a culture that teaches us from the very earliest years to look of for number one. We grow up with a self-centered mentality that learns to defend itself at any cost. The means of self-preservation become irrelevant. And lies become one of the means that causes the most pain. Not only do lies destroy the victim, they eventually destroy us as well. We can only get so much blood on our hands before someone notices.

Then you become branded:  LIAR

You become a member of the Sanhedrin.

"Crucify him!" because.... "A lie cannot live" - Martin Luther King Jr.  Lies lead to death.

"What is truth?" - Pontius Pilate

 "I am the....truth."

Jesus came into this world as the quintessential example of truth. When the world is presented with absolute truth, nothing can distort the truth but lies, because truth is truth. By lies, distortions, half truths and deception, Christ was presented as a criminal to be accused so that those in power would not be.  Lies led to death.

"Let's get him, before he gets us!"  

Lies cannot exist during Lent, because Lent is about self-evaluation. If we lie, we only lie to ourselves. Lent is a mirror, more clear than any reflection we can behold. Lent is about presenting the truth, not of others, but ourselves. If we lie, we don't falsely accuse someone else, we falsely accuse ourselves.

Lies lead to death. But through Him, we have life. 

Lord, You who were falsely accused, guide us in perfect truth as we make our way through this season of Lent. Help us to choose truth, not lies. Help us to choose life, not death. Help us to reflect complete truth to ourselves so that we can come before you completely blameless. And in doing so, help us to reveal truth to a culture built on a foundation of lies. Amen    

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Holy Week

"The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" 

Matthew 21:9

Saturday night, the lights of the city were in view. 


We stretch our legs and cast off the dust that we had been carrying for 40 days.

Our long journey will soon come to an end.

It's been a "long and winding road", hasn't it?

Palm Sunday. The embodiment of Lent and all that we've been through and experienced. Utmost joy and deepest pain rolled into one. Celebration and mourning. Two birds killed with one stone.

The overwhelming welcome for Jesus and His followers would soon give way to a roller coaster ride of events and emotions that would leave Jesus rejected, beaten and killed, and the disciples scattered, confused, dejected and terrified. They had no idea what was to come.

A joyous "Hosanna!" would soon morph into a bitter and cynical "Crucify!"

The one they called "Messiah" and begged, "Save us!", would soon become someone that they saw no salvation in whatsoever.

We are no different. Standing at the gates of Jerusalem, cheering with self-righteous cries of group-think, we change what and where we find our salvation.

Yesterday morning we shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." 

This week we'll join the crowds: "Crucify Him!"     

Lent will soon come to an end. We will cast off the dust that we've carried since Ash Wednesday. Our mourning will turn to joy. Celebration. Culmination. Long awaited redemption.

But reality stares us in the face with those who rejoiced over 2000 years ago. Rejoicing is short lived and transparent.

We join the crowds. We condemn. We spit. We beat and torture. We crucify.

Let's not kid ourselves. We still have a few difficult days ahead of us. Have we learned enough from Lent to carry us to Golgotha? I can see it in the distance. Can you? Does Christ look better to us on his thrown, or on the cross?  

Lord, as we join with the crowds in declaring, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.", help us to not turn our backs. Help us not join the crowds. Help us to stand on our own if we have to. We know how easy it is to follow others, even when it means betraying You. Keep us close. Let us suffer with You as we celebrate as well. Because it is in our suffering that we find our perfect joy. Amen 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lenten Reflections: Forth Sunday of Lent

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28

We've been together on this journey of Lent for quite some time now. Four weeks are now in the rear view mirror. Four weeks under our feet. The soles of our shoes are wearing thin. The dust is building up on our hands and our faces are red from the sun. 

From Ash Wednesday to this point, we've faced the difficult aspects of who we are.  That's what Lent is all about.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

We've been humiliated, faced violence, been accused and found guilty, all by simply looking in the mirror. We've confronted our own demons of pride, selfishness, arrogance, lies, deception and looked in the face of death. We're tired. We feel the exhaustion that inevitably comes from the miles of a difficult and long journey.

But unity keeps us going. 

We're together.

United as one Body: The Body of the One we journey to meet in a few weeks, naked as we are. Resurrected and unashamed.

We unite with Him on Easter, but we've still got quite a ways to go.     

Lent can be an exhausting journey. We face things that stir up deep emotions within. Whether emotional, physical or spiritual, we all feel the miles that we've covered. 

Weary and burdened.

But today we rest....









Today we rest.

Lord, today we rest and celebrate you. We put aside our burdens, rest our weary bones and reflect on your goodness; your grace, mercy and your love for us. Enable us to rest. Help us to turn off the distractions and refresh our minds, bodies and spirits.  Today we rest in you. Amen