Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Two years of Read, Reflect, Pray

Greetings all.
It is hard to believe that it was two years ago, but back in 2014 I gained permission from a variety of publishing companies to use quotes, prayers, and bits of liturgy to stitch together a prayer book focused on the seven central things of worship, the readings and prayers of each day pointing toward one of them. I took from A Minister’s Prayer Book and added some diversity in a variety of ways.
Well, tonight my copyright runs out.
It’s been a good run. I’ve sold enough books to recover the money I paid for the copyrights, and RRP has a facebook following of 276 people who receive a prayer or quote daily.
To everyone who was involved in the creation of the book, those who purchased it, and those who participated on the facebook page.
Thank you.


Chris Halverson

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A letter to the Galatians of New Jersey

Then I preached this:

Dearest siblings,
            I write this letter leaning on a single question that I pray that Christianity will continue to wrestle with, even long after I, Paul, am dead.
            “Who occupies you?”

            In case I’m being obtuse, or a certain level of rugged individualism has clogged your ears to what I’m asking, let me try to state my question a little more clearly
—Who occupies y’all?
Or maybe, “you’se
or “You’uns”
or “you folk
or even just “the congregation?”
            While every individual is precious, and that truth must not be lost
—our life together as Christians, as the body of Christ, is of utmost importance to my question today “Who occupies you?”
            I pray that the ages will not neuter my question, tame it, make it into a question of private morality or some sort of spiritual hobby.
            Because this is about all of us,
how we live as freed people,
how we are Christ for one another.
            “Who occupies you?”
            Have you noticed there is a vicious,
going on?
In the seeming plainness of our lives there is a war going on.
This power holds us down,
has occupied the lives of so many,
has enslaved so much of the world.

            In my letter to the Galatians, I called this occupying power,
this enemy,
“The Flesh.”
It saddens me to hear that many have taken this word to deal with human bodies,
and has led some people to feel great shame for being an embodied human being.
This was not my intent,
in fact if you read my letters carefully you will note I make a distinction between The Flesh, this thing that has pulled one over on us and has captured us,
and The Body, which is part of the good human thing we’ve been created to be…

            So, perhaps I could come up with a way to re-name this power, for all your sakes, so that you might more easily understand what I’m saying,
            What then shall I call it?...
            This occupying power is Sin.
            This occupying power is Self-obsession.
            This occupying power is Neighbor-Destruction
            You get my point now, don’t you?
            We are occupied by, self, by being turned away from our neighbor and fixated on MEEEE!

            That’s what I mean when I say “we are occupied by The Flesh.”
That’s what I mean when I say that The Flesh is at war against us, intends to take us prisoner, and enslave us.
“Who occupies you?”

            Like any occupation, there are those who resist. Those brave groups of people who fight back, who escape, who will not cooperate with the enemy, no matter what.

            One way of resisting, a force used to combat the occupation, a good one, a godly one even, is The Law.
            Yes, The Law,
a set of rules we can follow to stop hurting our neighbors,
to quit seeking after selfish things,
to resist Sin,
resist the Flesh.
The 10 commandments,
the stories of God’s acts for God’s people,
community rules,
at their best basic, the rules governing society,
are put in place to restrain evil and make good neighbors.

            I repeat, The Law is a good solution, even one given by God.
            Yet it, like us, has been enslaved by the Flesh, infected even, not allowed to act as it ought.
            It’s proper use is to help us love our neighbor, but it can be made to be exclusive and can keep us immature.
            The Law creates insiders and outsiders,
those who follow it, and those who do not,
and that separation has a way of coming back at you like a boomerang.
You start defining yourself as not a lawbreaker,
and soon enough you are defining yourself as not your neighbor
—soon enough you build a wall between you and your neighbor and you start to care about only those on your side of the fence of the Law.

            Isn’t that wild, the very thing that is supposed to help you love your neighbor, can be tricked into making you hate him!

            Think of those disciples of Jesus who enter into a Samaritan village, the village of a people who keep a different law than they do
—and these disciples, people who’ve been toddling after Jesus like a flock of ducklings behind a mamma duck
Even they wonder if they should ask God to destroy the village!
After all it’s not their village,
it’s not their people!
Not their laws…
Yes, The Law, both scriptural and secular, transformed by The Flesh, can create exclusion.
            It can also keep us immature,
it’s like a helicopter parent who won’t let us grow up.

            Think of it, there are many ways to love your neighbor,
fixating on a single way,
because it’s the rules,
can make you miss out on all kinds of good ways to show God’s love to people.
            Take something as simple as tying your shoe. When you first learn the rules to tying a shoe you learn the rhyme:
Over, Under, Around and through,
Meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through.
            But if you repeated that song every time you tie your shoes for the rest of your life
you’d get funny looks at the office,
and for that matter,
you’d never learn a double knot,
or that knots can hold together hammocks and sails and many other things, not just shoes.
            So too, learning from The Law is wonderful,
and regular refresher courses are great reminders of how to love our neighbor,
but if it is the beginning and end of the way we love other people,
 we’re missing out!

“Who occupies you?”
            The good news is that there is another way to fight the Flesh.
            Christ has freed us, and we hold onto this freedom and resist the power of the Flesh,
by being captured by one another.
            Get that?
We’re going to be captured by something, so it is imperative that we are captured by each other, captured by the love we share with one another.
            Every other option ends up with us eradicating each other.
            This loving way
—bound to one another in liberty
—is the way of the Spirit, the way Jesus continues to move us into freedom.
The Spirit liberates us and puts us to the work of loving one another.
We can be occupied by The Spirit, instead of The Flesh.

            “Who occupies you?”
            When we look at our life together, do we see the Spirit or the Flesh?
            We’ll know, at least in part, by the fruits that we produce.
            Are we as a community: sexually exploitative, spiritually suspect, a public embarrassment, and a fractured family?
            Or, are we as a community filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, gentleness, and self-control?

Together we struggle against sinful-selfish-neighbor-hate—the Flesh.
We resist it with The Law, but find it wanting.
We cling to the freedom given to us by Christ by clinging to one another in the Spirit of love.

            Let us live in the Spirit,
let us carry out our life together under the guidance of the Spirit.  A+A