Milton Keynes is well known for its concrete cows. Cows in a field would make a new town look idyllic thought the architects. But would farmers keep some cows nearby? Never mind, we’ll make fake cows so it looks right. But concrete cows are not right. They are fake.
Moses had a similar problem. Beware of Holy Cows.
Scanning through Facebook posts yesterday I noticed this quote from a friend:
[A] clergy person told me today that I should not just be good, I should be holy.
I immediately felt irritated and for good reason. I am always suspicious when spiritual leaders tell followers that they need to be holy or ‘more holy’.
The reason for this is that for the last twenty or so years I have noticed a pattern relating to such pronouncements.
A very respected leader came to our church conference. He spoke passionately about holiness as a prelude for revival. He left us all certain that we were far from holy. In a way, it put a guilt trip on us all. If only we could pursue holiness like the man who taught us…
Two months later that man was arrested for paedophile offences.
Another man came and repeatedly told us we were unworthy and needed to pursue holiness. He often left good people feeling guilty and unworthy.
He was arrested and jailed for fraud.
These are two examples but I know of many more.
According to Wikipedia:
David Yungi Cho is a Korean Christian minister. He is Senior Pastor and founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church the world’s largest congregation with a claimed membership of 830,000 (as of 2007).
I have often heard him speak on holiness.
In February 2014, he was convicted for tax evasion, given a 3-year suspended prison sentence, and fined the equivalent of almost US$5 million.
The call to holiness is sometimes a tool of manipulation. If you can make a group of people feel guilty and unworthy, you can often get them to do things they would not normally do, in order to ‘prove themselves’. Usually this involves them giving money or time to further the manipulators ends.
So here’s a couple of thoughts on holiness.
– dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.
First of all, every human being is created in the image of God. That is quite a holy thing in my book. In that sense it is not what we do but who we are that makes us holy. When Jesus was accused by the ‘holier-than-thou-gang’, he didn’t big himself up so much as include us all as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’, to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?’ John 10:34-36
In spiritual terms, it is by seeking God that we come to share in his holiness. His Spirit is the Holy Spirit, so when we join ourselves to him we become one with his holiness.
‘But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.’ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Some people think that holiness is wearing spotless clothes, going to a lot of church meetings and events, and stinging your enemies with a condemning Bible verse here and there. It isn’t. It soooo isn’t that!
Jesus was a real man. He hiked up mountains, went fishing, visited the poor, and spoke about being really alive.
The least, the last, and the lost all found a welcome from Jesus. He went to parties and dinners, and he was the life and soul of the party. He talked about all the stuff we talk about.
He spoke about children and fathers, money and debt, fishing, living and dying, marriage and divorce, childbirth, farming and the weather, governments and corruption, crime and punishment, telling the truth and lying, sex and adultery, food and wine, tax and fairness, work and rest, jewellery and investments, love and hate, climate change, earthquakes, famines and wars, Friends, Neighbours … Home and Away.
He talked about all the things we are still talking about today. And then he staggered the men and women he hung out with, in a single sentence.
‘If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
Living in the real nitty-gritty of life, with real ordinary people, laughing with those who laugh and weeping with those who weep – that is real holiness.
Pursuing God, reflecting on life, loving others, enjoying a sunset, rejoicing in nature, trying to make the world a little happier for someone else – that is real holiness.
Removing great burdens of guilt and shame from people’s backs – that is true holiness.
Being a complete Pharisee and telling others they don’t quite measure up to God’s expectations – that’s the work of the devil... because that does not bring life, it brings death and depression.
I think Ghandi said it best, ‘I would have become a Christian until I met one.’
Here endeth the lesson…
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This week I caught up with listening to the God Journey guys on their podcast. This episode is helpful not only to those exploring spiritualty beyond the Sunday Event, but it also explores the major change going on in the way people follow Jesus.
Highly recommended listening.
From their blog:
Where have all the people gone? Pew Research announced a couple of years ago about the rise of the “Nones”, those who no longer claim any religious affiliation. Now, there’s a growing conversation about the rise of the “Dones”, those who are leaving traditional Sunday morning congregations to find more authentic expressions of community. Research shows that these maintain a deep passion for God, but that it is unlikely that they will ever return. Brad joins Wayne as they talk about the research here as Wayne had an opportunity to speak with the lead researcher on this project. The research does not bode well for the future of traditional congregations.
Have a listen. See what you think.
Here’s a video of a murmuration of starlings. The question I want to ask as you watch this is – which bird is in charge? This phenomenon is a wonderful example of how a community can be led by the Holy Spirit with each playing their part but without organisation or hierarchy.
I think the early church was like this.
I meditate on this often.
St Anthony is known as the Father of monasticism. He was a man who sought spiritual truth and decided to get away from everything and everyone to find it.
Anthony began his spiritual journey into monasticism by going into the desert and purposely living alone. He was the first known ascetic going into the wilderness (about AD 270–271), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown. He is notable for being one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert proper, completely cut off from civilisation. His lifestyle was remarkably harsher than that of his predecessors. Yet the title of Father of monasticism is merited as he was the inspiration for the coming of hundreds of men and women into the depths of the desert, who were then loosely organised into small communities.
As the rest of the church fitted in with the Roman legalisation of Christianity – a move which led to the introduction of pagan elements into Christianity, like temple, priest, and ritual – Anthony, and eventually his followers, developed an alternative to the Romanised version of the faith. It was, once again, people seeking an ‘aliveness’ in their faith rather than being stifled by the institution.
Anthony seems to be a great example of some parts of the emerging church.
The friends I meet with are seeking a similar alternative to institutional or organised religion.
The idea of the Community Of ST Anthony came to me one day as I sat in a coffee shop waiting to meet another Free Range friend. I was thinking about having some loose community of like-minded people. As I looked down at my coffee cup, the logo on the cup – COSTA – seemed to suggest the Community Of ST Antony. I wouldn’t for a minute say ‘God told me’ but the idea of something light and all about friendship, which often happens over coffee, readily suggested itself.
I started this blog to help develop friendships in a group of scattered spiritual seekers I meet with individually from time to time. I believe in the power of cross-fertilisation of thoughts and conversation – the synergy of friends on the journey.
Sometimes we are viewed as those who ‘don’t go to church.’ But who we are is not a negative – we don’t meet to not do something! We meet for positive reasons of mutual encouragement, growth, friendship and exploration.
There is no particular creed in this community – we are friends on a journey, exploring spiritual truth.
Perhaps we have in common a dissatisfaction of the institution and hierarchical leadership. We seek the mutual respect of each other and a belief that the Spirit of God moves through all of us in different ways.
We are not looking to start another institution but perhaps feel the common bond of fellow travellers on a similar journey.
We meet here and there, in ones and twos, now and then. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.
This blog is a place to share thoughts and insights and resources, like books we have found helpful on the journey.
Fellow travellers are welcome.
[ If you are wondering who ‘I’ am, there’s info my personal blog at http://donegan.wordpress.com ]