gospel

How to forgive

Recently, I realised I hadn’t properly forgiven some people. I wanted to, but couldn’t figure out how. I thought things like, “I forgive them, but they did still…” I realised that I didn’t really know what forgiveness was.

So I looked to the cross to learn, and there I saw that forgiveness means letting yourself be hurt. Jesus didn’t have to endure the cross, but He did, accepting every blow and every lash, rather than fighting the sinners attacking Him. All our sins are against Him, and so in choosing to suffer our sins, He was directly and immediately forgiving us.

So to forgive, we must allow ourselves to be wounded. Those we must forgive will be the ones who have wounded us, and are wounding us.

I think I had been thinking of forgiveness as being a matter of letting go, but now I think of it as accepting. I can’t just drop my pain, physical or otherwise, but if I accept it, if I say yes to the pain, then I’m free, and the pain, and whoever inflicted it, is no longer an enemy I can’t escape.

It feels pretty great. Unforgiveness creeps up again sometimes, but then I remember to accept the pain, and I’m free again.

And I think that that liberty is a small foretaste of the resurrection.

God bless!

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The crazy real meaning of Easter

Easter reminds us of the essential truth, that Christianity is a weird cult centred on escaping death by means of death.

We believe that one historical man was so fully alive, that life burst forth wherever he went. And that He was so fully alive, because He was always ready and willing to give Himself/His life away. But Life will always have enemies, because it destroys the control that comes from death and violence. And so this man Who was Life itself, was brutally put to death. Yet even in His own death, He gave His life so freely, that He brought life to death itself, and in dying, was only made more alive.

And we, by accepting and living by the gift of His life, that gives itself freely even to death, may be united to Him, and live and die and rise again in Him.

Christians, when they realise what they are, are an uncontrollable people, who will live fully even if that means dying, and will even rejoice to “give” their lives.

That is the crazy religion we call Christianity.

God bless you! Christos anesti!!!

Nothing to say

I really like writing my various thoughts on this blog, but often, including now, it doesn’t feel like I have anything to say. I want to reveal something profound, or deep, or life changing, but it all seems to be simple to me for once.

The gospel is the gospel. The faith is the faith. God is God. There’s no need for my insight. All we need is right in front of us.

It’s nice to realise that my religion doesn’t need me. I don’t need to add anything new. There is no secret ingredient.

This isn’t to say I won’t be writing again. Just that I have no need to write anything new or original.

In fact, if I were to be new or original (regarding the faith), I would only be diverging from the truth, and bringing about corruption and confusion and misery. On the other hand, if I merely stick with the faith, I may end up being swept up in the eternal newness of the Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New. Like every sunrise, breaking out as though it were its first time. Or every blossoming flower in every new spring. Or every newborn’s first cry.

The gospel is simple. Don’t overthink it. Just listen to it, live it, and let it transform you.

God bless you!

The prodigal son smells

After taking and squandering his inheritance early, his new homeland was struck with famine, and he ended up working with pigs. And in fact, he was treated worse than the pigs.

So, when he comes to his senses and returns to his father, he is very dirty and very smelly. When his father sees him in the distance, he sees first of all just a man covered in pigs muck. Then he recognises him as his son, and everything else becomes secondary.

He runs out to him, and doesn’t think twice about clasping him tight and tenderly kissing him, despite inevitably getting smelly, unclean pigs muck on himself. He takes on his sons filth, and embraces him in it. And his tears, borne of long sorrow and fresh joy, begin to cleanse the son.

And then he orders the best robe to be brought out and put on him. He is clothed in his father’s righteousness, dignity, and glory. He is his father’s son, and all the father has belongs to the son.

No doubt he will be washed first. To put on the father’s robe, he will first be stripped and washed. His shame will be removed, to make way for his glory, that is the glory of his father.

The transformation is striking, from penniless wanderer, reeking of pig, to honoured, celebrated, dignified son. He is a new creation.
God bless you!

Have we become worldly?

Can I honestly say, that when I look at myself or at my Church, locally or universally, that I recognise followers of Jesus, the Body of Christ, or the Kingdom of Heaven?

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’ [Lk12:49]

Where is this fire?!

I don’t see it in my life. And I rarely hear it in homilies. And I hardly see it in the Church. I start to wonder if we’ve forgotten Jesus.

There are saints amongst us, though. There are holy bishops and priests and religious and lay people, living the gospel. There are orders, and movements and organisations and just people. There are many people out there who sacrifice themselves with Jesus, living the reckless, radical love of the Father.

I just wish it were the rule. I wish that I heard this fire in every homily, and saw it in every Church activity. I wish that we were obviously so much more than a club, or an NGO. I wish that this fire was burning in all my flesh, down to the marrow.
But I’ve read, that all that’s needed to become a saint, is to will it. God wills it already; we just need to cooperate, accept His grace, obey His gospel.

And the truth is, there’s no real life apart from Jesus’ life. It’s a choice between life and — far worse than death– not-life. I could perhaps call it half-life, but I think not-life better captures the emptiness I’m thinking of. Or being, “lukewarm”. 


I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way. Please pray with me, that we will together be set on Jesus-fire.

Pope Francis reminds me of the Church Fathers

Pope Francis’ homilies remind me of the Church Fathers, such as St Basil, St Gregory the Great, and St John Chrysostom. Firstly, I think they all keep the good news as Jesus gave it to us, in its gratuitousness and its total demands. In today’s homily, the Pope called God a “loving and demanding Father”, and I think that captures a great deal. With all of the theological controversies of the past two millenia, sometimes it seems like orthodoxy is a balancing act (a Liberal Democrats sort of religion), when actually it’s more of a wild dance of extremities. And secondly, they are all happy to take creative liberties with interpreting Scripture. The stories in the scriptures are not taken as dead objects, but as part of a conversation with God, and so they continuously open up in new and unexpected ways. They allow God Himself to elaborate. A small example is last week, Francis said the lamps of the ten virgins is faith, and the oil is charity.

I especially recommend reading the Pope’s homily for today, which is what prompted me to think this. It’s powerful stuff.

If only more would preach this way.

God bless you

We’re forgiven before we ask

‘Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.’ [Luke 15:11-24]

prodigalson

Did you notice, that the father actually ignores his son completely? He doesn’t hear a word he’s saying. He doesn’t even let him finish, but starts talking to his slaves.

The father forgives his son, when the son hasn’t even dared to ask forgiveness. And it couldn’t be any other way. We couldn’t ask forgiveness, if we were not already forgiven. We have no right to ask forgiveness, nothing to appeal to. Except that the Father loves us, and rushes out to embrace and forgive us. His grace always comes first.

An excellent prayer of repentance: Say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And then feel the Father put his arms around you and kiss you, tears of joy running down His face.

God bless you

Caesar vs. God

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Separation of Church and state, right? Easy. God wants us to be good citizens, and good Christians. Everyone knows this, right?

Everyone is wrong

This isn’t about the entirely modern idea of the separation of Church and state, or the need to be good citizens. It’s about false gods.

“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.”

The image is of Tiberius Caesar, and the inscription reads, “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs”, i.e. “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus”. Now that Jesus has drawn attention to the claim that Caesar is the son of a god, is He really going to be immediately encouraging secularism and citizenship?

Or, is He saying to give back what is false to the false god? Let Caesar have his riches, not because he deserves them, but because they are no good any way. St Augustine said we must give Caesar money, that bears his image, and give God ourselves, because we bear His image. The Christian doesn’t live by wealth or power, but by love and lowliness.

I have been told that in Jesus’ day, the question of tax was extremely controversial: If Jesus accepted paying tax, the people would stone him, but if He opposed it, the state would kill Him. Jesus managed to not only avoid being killed, but also to accuse the emperor as a false god, in such a way that no religious leader could rat Him out to the authorities without being forced to agree with Him.

When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

God bless you!

P.S. here’s some more background, if you’re interested