Called to be Holy

As we wander down this crooked road of faith together, you will realize that at least a portion of my posts are spurred by sermons I hear whether that be at my home church or others. Today, I was struck by the sermon at my home church.

We are currently doing a series on the Baptismal Covenant. For those that may not have been raised in the church or are not familiar with this particular piece of liturgy, the Baptismal Covenant takes place during the baptism (shocking, I know). It is a series of statements that are said by not only the person being baptized but also, as in the case of infant baptisms, by the family or other parties of person being baptized. These statements profess the beliefs of that denomination and present ways in which the congregation will support those who have come to the faith through baptism. Today’s message was on the 2nd of these covenants which reads, “will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” (The Book of Common Prayer, http://www.bcponline.org/).

Holiness_Santiago

Now, there are two things that strike me about this passage. I’ll talk about one of these things in today’s post and address the next in my next post.

For today, let’s tackle the idea that we are created in God’s image and as images of God, we are called to be as He is – Holy.

Not good. Not better than the guy on the corner that cheats on his wife or the woman you heard about that’s a kleptomaniac. After all, in the game of comparisons, it is always easy to find someone who is worse than you. As an aside, isn’t it funny that we rarely play the comparison game looking for those who are better than we are? Better at being compassionate? Better at being merciful? Or just in general better? But that’s a topic for another day.

As I said before, we are called to be Holy and this is something that we simply cannot do on our own. We will – not might, but will – fall short of this calling. You following me so far? Not too far out of the range of what you have learned, had you had the opportunity to be raised in the church? Great. Because here is where my ears pricked up and took notice beyond the norm.

The pastor today went on to say that we as Christians are called to be holy. That those to whom God was speaking, the people of Jerusalem, were called.

Not everyone.

Hmmm…

So does this mean that those who are not Christian are not called to be holy? And if those who are not Christian are not called to be holy, why do we evangelize? It would only seem logical to me that if all are not called to be holy, all are not called to be Christian and therefore evangelism is a worthless endeavor.

Well that seems sad, to say the least, and definitely contrary to both what I have been taught and what my heart tells me is true. I have always been taught and have read in the Bible that it is my duty to bring others to the faith of Christ. But if all are not called to be Holy does that mean that those who are not called to holiness are instead destined (or called?) to condemnation? And to follow this thought through, if there are those who are destined to condemnation, are we not a dealing with a God who is not all loving? Well, if it were a fact that there are those that are called to live a life of condemnation, living out eternity in whatever hell looks like, that certainly doesn’t seem loving, merciful or gracious and I don’t know that I would not want to worship that god.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I don’t believe this to be the case. First, I don’t believe that any of us are called to be condemned. I do believe God is an all loving, merciful and graceful God. Yes, I realize there are those who will choose and have chosen not to believe in the presence of my God or any god, but is not because they were “called” not to believe, rather they have used their free will to make this decision. It is, after all our choice. Second, I have throughout the years come to believe that we get more than one opportunity to make the choice one way or another.

I probably just lost some of you there, but here’s my thought process.

We all know that people around us mature at different rates. Some seem to be born wiser than they have a right to be while others never seem to mature out of their teen years. How can a truly loving God offer us one trip through life to come to the understanding of who He is and make the choice to want to be Holy when we are all so very different and may not be in a place emotionally or even physically to make this decision before we die? What about those who die particularly young or who are not mentally capable of understanding the complexities of holiness? I mean, heck, I’m not entirely sure I understand it and I believe I am at least relatively intelligent (doh! There goes that comparison thing again!). It is for these reasons as well as many others that I believe what we know of life -this world, and the universe as a whole – is mere minutia compared to what there is to know.

The God I know is big – bigger than my feeble human mind can ever completely understand. He created this earth, these heavens and this universe as well as more and He doesn’t operate in the linear, time constrained world that we do. For Him, this time – beginning to end – has already occurred. It’s not that our destiny or fate or whatever you choose to believe in is already chosen by Him, but rather He has already seen what our choices are. Good or bad, He knows what we have done and will do. How does that work if He hasn’t predestined what we will do? That’s a much bigger question for a different time, but suffice it so say it is the difference between our linear life and His non-linear one that makes this possible.

Finally, what we will do in this life affects what we will do in the next. This is a big journey we are on and it takes more than a few decades to accomplish it.

Now for you strict Bible people you must really be shaking your heads in disgust and astonishment by now. How could I possibly suggest something so Buddhist, New-Agey or just plain crazy and call myself a Christian? Because the Bible – which was written by human men living an earthly existence – doesn’t mention reincarnation doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The Bible only mentions a few woman, too, but we know better. Why is this different? Maybe the heaven described by John in Revelation is merely the ultimate end of our journey. Or maybe, because the men called to write the Bible were all human, they were not aware of other lives they had or could live. There is no way to know.

Just so you know, I do believe that the Bible is true and written by God through men, but I also believe that there is far too much to the story of God to be contained within one book. It gives us our guide, it heals our wounds and it speaks Truth but it is not all there is. There is faith and prayer and fellowship with God and His people. All of these things teach us who God is and what being Holy means

I’m getting long-winded here so let me just give you the bottom line on this topic.

I believe it is true that we are called to be holy, but this is not only a Christian calling. We are ALL called to be holy and we will all have the opportunity to obtain this holiness. Will we all reach this end? I have no idea. What do you think? Is it possible we won’t get there? Sure, but I fully intend to get there. Do you? What do you think of this whole holiness thing? I would love to hear your thoughts and insights.

Until next time….

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The Power of Fear

Fear

Are you one of those people who loves scary movies or books? I am. Don’t’ ask me why, but I love reading a book that keeps my heart racing and my mind on alert. Now, I’m not a fan of the slasher films like Saw but Freddie Kruger? I’m IN!

While this may not be your thing, I know you’re not surprised by this. We have an entire culture that relishes zombies, haunted houses and horror books and movies. Fear is an animalistic emotion. It makes us feel alive and for many of us, we love the adrenaline rush that comes with it. I mean, seriously, why go out for a 5 mile run when you can get your heart rate up watching your favorite horror flick, right?!

Now fear definitely has its place. It’s what alerts to danger – or the perception of danger. Hopefully, this emotion motivates us to action when we’re, say, chased by a bear or standing at the edge of a cliff and maybe since those aren’t typical, every-day experiences, maybe we need the occasional scary movie just to keep that emotion “tuned up”, so to speak, so it will function when we need it.

While I am not a seminary graduate or a religious scholar, I have done enough research and study to know that fear is a subject talked about in the Qur’an, the sacred texts of Buddhist and the Bible. From the Christian perspective, the term “Fear Not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible – once for every day of the year.

Clearly this is a subject that affects us all and regardless of your faith, the writers of these religious texts – and most likely others – felt was important enough to address.

So what does this have to do with faith?

Well, as I noted in my last post, there were two points I wanted to cover on the baptismal covenant passage preached on at my home church this past week. The passage, as you’ll recall, reads, “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” (The Book of Common Prayer, http://www.bcponline.org/).

In this statement. God asks those who believe in Him to persevere, but also acknowledges that we will fail. We will sin just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.

Ok, great. We will fail…but what does this have to do with fear?

I’m so glad you asked!

What tends to happen when we fail in big or small things is we allow fear to overtake our lives. I’m sure you’ve felt it. Let’s say you have been told you did something at work that you didn’t consider to be that big of a deal or you thought you had rectified the problem but you have suddenly lost your job as a result. As soon as the words “you’re being let go” come out of the persons’ mouth, you no longer hear anything else. You’re terrified. What will your family say? How are you going to get another job and make sure all of your bills are paid? Will you lose your apartment? Your car? Your life savings?

Even if you have never lost your job, I know you can relate to the feelings to something that has happened to you. As a matter of fact, I tend to believe that more often than not, the threats that pursue us aren’t physical but rather threats to our heart. We take the chance to fall in love with someone, risk a friendship with someone, or even try out for a sport or some other activity and then, WHAM! We are blindsided by failure when the relationship or activity doesn’t work out. This failure isn’t necessarily caused by a sin but our response to that perceived failure is a sin.

WHAT!? How can that possibly be?

Well, here’s the thing – and the point that rang true to me during the sermon on Sunday.

We are called to be in community with others as well as with God. However, our response to failure or pain is to build distance between ourselves and whomever or whatever hurt us, playing right into the hands of the Devil.

Yes, there is a personification of evil – the Devil. His sole purpose is to steal the joy from our lives and make us focus on the negativity that surrounds. As a result, we turn our eyes from God and focus not on the things of Him, but on ourselves and the things that we feel we are lacking. The more we focus on ourselves, the more we move away from our source of life. And what’s worse, the more we hide from God, the worse we feel about ourselves and our situation and close even more doors. As people try to reach out and help, we are certain they couldn’t possibly understand where we are or what we feel because our sin – our failure – is different. We are different; special. We’re afraid that if we aren’t special, nobody will want us because we’re just like everyone else.

I can relate this to my own life very strongly.

Wounded by past relationships, I have spent years building walls around my heart to make sure I would never be wounded in that way again. I thought I was protecting myself, but instead, I was starving myself of the one thing I needed the most – healthy, loving relationships. What made it worse, I began to see myself as un-loveable because I had tried and failed at finding love so many times. Surely there must be something wrong with me! Well, there was, but it wasn’t my appearance, it wasn’t my compassion toward others or my ability to love. I wasn’t broken, I had merely created a barrier to protect myself and that very protection was keeping love out; making it impossible for love to get to me to heal my brokenness. Not only was this keeping people away from me, it was keeping God from being able to guide me and show me what He had in store for me.

I had become Eve in the garden – seeking something I shouldn’t have when the very best thing for me was right in front of me.

Now hear me clearly. I am not saying each and every one of us isn’t special and isn’t unique. Quite the opposite. Each of us are unique and special – God made us that way. But that doesn’t mean that our problems or struggles are unique. It’s like the old saying about books and film – there are no new stories, just different ways to tell them. God already knows all of these stories and how to fix them.

Faith and community.

Our job is to realize that through opening our hearts to God and faith we open our hearts to community and live as we were intended thus feeling more contented and fulfilled.

Will this solve all of our problems? No. There will still be strife. There will still be murder, pestilence and starvation. But if we choose faith instead of fear, we can surround ourselves with people who love us and whom we love. The fear of these frightening things of our world will no longer be overwhelming and we can work together to make this life all that it could be.

Starting the Journey

All journeys large and small start with a single step. Each step is significant but each step missed or step backward may be even more so. I think this is even truer in regards to faith

Whatever side of the fence you fall on, faith is a significant issue for each and every one of us. I know – you’re saying to yourself that I have clearly forgotten about atheists, but the truth is that even the choice not to believe in God is a choice of faith. Choosing to say there is no higher power of any kind means that you have faith that the life you are leading has no purpose outside of just spending a few decades wandering this planet and accomplishing whatever can be done in that time frame. I personally choose to believe there is purpose to life and that being a person of faith – Christian or otherwise – allows us to discover our purposes. I also have come to believe that faith is a far broader concept than has been presented in many church organizations throughout the years. It is this broadened idea of faith – specifically Christianity – that caused me to want to open this dialogue. Continue reading Starting the Journey