Jesus Heals

AKATHIST HYMN

To Our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ

IKOS 1: Jesus Heals

“Creator of angels and lord of hosts: as You opened the ears of the deaf and the mouths of the dumb, empower also my mind and tongue to praise Your most holy name, as I sing to You:

Jesus, most wonderful, marvel of Angels.  Jesus, most powerful, Deliverance of forefathers.  jesus, most sweet, Exultation of patriarchs.  Jesus, most glorious, the Might of kings.  Jesus, most beloved, Fulfillment of prophets.  Jesus, most marvelous, Strength of martyrs.  Jesus, most peaceful, Joy of saints.  Jesus, most honorable, Chastity of virgins.  Jesus, everlasting, Salvation of sinners.

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!”

Sick at Soul

“There was a time:  I thought to rise

Upwards in a jet like a fountain

But, having attained the crest,

I am cast down from the height.

                            ***

Perdition is near, – God is far

And, in my soul, I dare not pray

To Him.  I have not the strength.

I keep silence with lowered eyes.

You, meek one, lamb of God,

You pray, if you can,

Say a prayer in chaste humility

For those who are sick at soul.”

— Fr. Pavel Florensky

That Awkward Moment When You Realize You’re Supposed to Introduce Yourself . . .

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

My name is Joshua and I’m a former protestant minister who, together with my wife and children, converted to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church . . . by now, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this.  For years I’ve written articles with my dear friend Joel Borofsky at The Christian Watershed.  I also, sporadically, write pieces on my personal blog Truth is a Man.  I’m both humbled and, somewhat, terrified to announce that I’ll be assisting Joel in the maintenance of Hipsterdox and Orthodox Ruminations.  Humbled, because it’s an honor to take control of another man’s creation (something he has poured his heart and soul into).  Terrified . . . because I’m taking control of another man’s creation (something he has poured his heart and soul into).  That being said, I’m also extremely excited about the opportunity to grow these online communities!

As Joel has already stated, we are in the process of planing the future of all three blogs and will have more news on this in March.  Until then we shall continue to post great content and will especially promote the Facebook groups.  I look forward to getting to know each other and to providing the same quality material you’ve come to expect.  God bless!

J. Matthan Brown

Cosmic Sky Dad

godI had a friend tell me this week that he just can’t wrap his mind around the idea of a “Cosmic Sky Dad” and what not. He said, “It’s hard for me to grasp a Big Cosmic Sky Dad..even if He is a loving Cosmic Sky Dad that one day created everything so that it would worship or be in union with Him or Her just seems really bizarre.”

I did explain to my good friend, who is a very dear friend with sincere intentions and honest questions, that that is a deeply Secular view of God and in all honesty a caricature of God and of the Christian understanding of God. Often we all approach the subject of theology proper (the doctrine of God) with clouded lens. Myself included. We have horribly informed presuppositions about God do we not? Scripture, Tradition, and the Church has never nor would they ever speak of God as being some sort of Cosmic Sky Dad.

I don’t know of any religious faith, outside of Secularism, nor my own especial, that would say this of God.

It’s like the story a friend told me of a 7 year old girl asking her atheist father about God, to which he responds, “Some people believe there’s an invisible person in the sky that knows everything and sometimes grants wishes if they ask him.” Of course this particular 7 year old was full of wisdom and skeptical because no one really believes that.

That is not at all what any serious Christian believes, nor any serious theist, would believe of God. That is more what Secularism believes in this country. Secularism would very easily believe in said Cosmic Sky Dad, but I digress.

My friend continued the dialogue this morning after reading my responses. He asked, “If I don’t use terms like Cosmic Sky Dad and such what would you call the centrality of God (The need to be worshiped? Jesus, etc.?)?” He went on, “Theology, to me seems to be answers to questions about a religion, a sort of fence or moat around a castle.”

I believe my friend posted a great question! One that made me think! How do we talk about God? What do we mean when we talk about Him? Who is He? What is He?

How would you answer that question. This is my response, but I have of course edited it out to be a little more detailed for the purpose of the blog, but it is the best I could do:

Theology is the study of God. That is what the Greek root words mean. Theology, in general, but Christianity especially, just doesn’t answer a question about a religion. A religion is a set of beliefs about metaphysics, anthropology, teleology, eschatology, so on and forth. I get the feeling you may be seeing it as most Americans are, not saying you are, just a suspicion, that you are having a Secular view of it that states “religion deals with the big man in the sky per the study of theology” but this is flawed especially in regards to the deeply incarnational theology of Christianity in general, but Orthodoxy especially.

If I don’t use terms like Cosmic Sky Dad and such what would you call the centrality of God? (The need to be worshiped? Jesus, etc.?)?”

For anyone asking along with my friend this is where some deep engagement with Orthodoxy in the form of study and participation would deeply do one well. According to what I have come across in my short time of being Orthodox, the Church Fathers speak of God as person[Disclaimer: not to be confused with theistic personalism]. Not person how we are person, but person in His existence. Of course He is the Supreme Being. He is what He is. On our icons of Christ you will see Hebrew letters or sometimes Greek, one on the left, top of his head, and on the right. that mean, “I am” essentially. David Hart writes:

To speak of ‘God’ properly … is to speak of the one infinite ground of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things. God so understood is neither some particular thing posed over against the created universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a being, at least not in the way that a tree, a clock, or a god is; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are. He is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom all things live and move and have their being. He may be said to be ‘beyond being,’ if by ‘being’ one means the totality of finite things, but also may be called ‘being itself,’ in that he is the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity underlying all things.”

He is!

That is God in Christianity. He is Reality itself. That which is Real. the Numinous, the Mystery.

Just this morning I discovered some blogs by a priest friend that he had just written. They are reviewing David Hart’s (Orthodox philosopher) book “The Experience of God“. In it Hart says, “God is not only the ultimate reality that the intellect and the will seek, but is also the primordial reality with which all of us are always engaged in every moment of existence and consciousness, apart from which we have no experience of anything whatsoever” (p. 10). Whatfollows is an excerpt from Fr. Al’s writing, but he is quoting Hart’s book here as well:

God is ‘the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things’ (p. 30). He is not an inhabitant of the material world or any spiritual dimension. He is not posed over against the universe, nor is he the universe itself. He may be described as beyond being, if by ‘being’ we understand the totality of all created beings. He may be described as being, if by ‘being’ we wish to signify God as ‘the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity and simplicity that underlies and sustains the diversity of finite and composite things. Infinite being, infinite consciousness, infinite bliss, from whom we are, by whom we know and are known, and in whom we find our only true consummation’ (p. 30).

The true and living God must therefore be clearly distinguished from the various gods with whom humanity has always dealt throughout history. The gods, if any exist, do not transcend nature; they belong to nature. ‘They exist in space and time,’ explains Hart, ‘each of them is a distinct being rather than “being itself,” and it is they who are dependent upon the universe for their existence rather than the reverse. Of such gods there may be an endless diversity, while of God there can be only one. Or, better, God is not merely one, in a way that a finite object might be merely singular or unique, but is oneness as such, the one act of being and unity by which any finite things exists and by which all things exist together. He is one in the sense that being itself is one, the infinite is one, the source of everything is one’ (p. 31).”

So I hope that is at least a beginners look at personhood, the Person of God, theology proper. It really isn’t even a beginner’s look, but a humble attempt to sincerely answer my friend’s questions. I’m not a theologian, pastor, nor a priest. I highly recommend one take my blog at face value and look further at better, brighter sources. Christianity created the concept of personhood. God is person! Again, this is where 3 things need to occur if you’re reading this and you have the same questions and concerns my friend does:

  1. Engagement with Orthodox theology per study and reading with a teacher if possible,
  2. Engagment with Orthodox worship per participation,
  3. Engagement with an Orthodox priest for I am not qualified to answer many of these questions and can only do so limited by my own ignorance. I’d wish better for you than my wimpy little answers and regurgitation of others smartness.

I’d really like to help anyone with these questions the best I can though, so I hope this does. I’d recommend also checking out Father Stephen’s blog on this matter of speaking about God.

I hope to further this notion of theology proper in another blog as sort of a review of Michael Gorman’s “Inhabiting the Cruciform God,” which I just finished reading. In the book, Dr. Gorman makes the case that Philippians 2:6-11 is St. Paul’s master story and a revolutionary theology proper. In these verses we can see a grand story and an even grander theology proper. I will not elaborate on that any further, but merely leave you with these Scriptures as an answer to my friend’s question and something for you to ponder until another day. If you have questions about who God is and what He is please read these and contemplate upon them. This is Dr. Gorman’s translation of Phil. 2:6-11:

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

May God bless us all in our journey to find Him and know Him. May we be guided always by the Light of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to the His truth and love.

Blessings.

Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs

A great piece on something important:

Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs

Lead singer Jon Foreman was asked if Switchfoot is a “Christian” band. His response is worth pondering.

Switchfoot is going secular. Sort of.

Switchfoot is going secular. Sort of.

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.

Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.

I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.

We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”

Foreman mentions the Christian “box” that many people want to stay in, and put others in. I agree with Foreman that this box is particularly limiting when it comes to art. So go out and create something – something beautiful, something wonderful – and do it to the glory of God.

__________

Originally posted by Dave Browning, @bigdaverino, as the dMail ”Band.”

 

GOOD THOUGHTS FROM GUNGOR ON THIS ISSUE! 

N.T. Wright on the Gospel and Advice to Young Christians

wrightN.T. Wright says some extremely beautiful and prolific insights in this short video. I really wanted to share it because I think he challenges us on so many levels whether it be how to present the Gospel, presenting the Gospel in a 5 minute window if asked, where repentance comes into play, and what the Gospel of Paul has to do with the Gospel of Christ (hint: they are the same). However, at the end he has some sage advice, especially for those like me who love theology, that is deeply practical, but full of wisdom.

When asked what advice he has for young theologians he recalls an email to a young man wanting to pursue graduate studies in Pauline theology (which was fitting to me like a glove to a hand). He remarked that he gave the young man the same advice he gives every body who desires to be a theologian/teacher/professor.

  1. “You just have to soak yourself in the Scriptures much more than you ever imagined doing; preferably in the original languages.”
  2. “You have to soak yourself in prayer.”
  3. “You have to listen hard to the cries of pain that are coming from the people next door who are your neighbors or from people on the other side of the world.”
  4. And he didn’t say it exactly, but he said we have to basically immerse ourselves in community and in the Sacraments, which Christ gave us for life and for a way of life.

I love when he says, “Jesus Himself and the New Testament itself teaches that the way we get to know who we are and where we’re called to be is through Scripture, through prayer, through the Sacraments (Divine Mysteries)…, and also [through] the cry of the poor [where we meet Christ].”

He goes on to say, “God wants to do new things, but he people through whom He will do those new things are people who are Bible people, are people who are prayer people, are sacrament people, and are people who are listening to the poor people. And somehow Jesus will come afresh to them and please God through them in ways that at the moment we can’t imagine, predict, or control.”

N.T. Wright is a brilliant man whom I respect and admire. He is a holy man filled with the light and love of Jesus. I hope his wisdom here is as beneficial to you as it was to me.

N.T. WRIGHT ON THE GOSPEL AND ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE (VIDEO IS HYPERLINKED)! 

Church History Doesn’t Begin at the Reformation: Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology [A Review]

ImageScott Emery over at Storied Community as graciously allowed for his recent book review to be posted here! Make sure to go check out his page too!

Church History Doesn’t Begin at the Reformation: Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology [A Review]

I grew up in a rather conservative, Protestant, Evangelical (notice the capital “E”) church world. We took our cues predominantly from within the Fundamentalist movement of the late 19th/early 20th century, as we were its heirs. History wasn’t really a factor because it was mainly known as Tradition – again, take note of the capital “T” as it is typically indicative of all things Catholic within the aforementioned world. And when I say Catholic, I mean blasphemous. As in anti-Christ. As in world power pictured in the book of Revelation. There was no room for capital “T” within the capital “E.”

Church History 1 and 2 were classes I took while in Bible college and they, as far as I can recall, took a similar trajectory to the church world I grew up in. Basically, Jesus was born, died, resurrected and then the Holy Spirit started the church through particular acts of power. But don’t worry that stuff doesn’t happen any more. Wink, wink.

Fast forward from Jesus to the Reformation when Luther and Calvin took the world by storm. We left the heavy hand of the Catholic Church and now we are what we are today.

Not only was the gap between Jesus and the Reformation overlooked, it was so egregiously forgotten that there was not even a mention of the church fathers and mothers – the forebears of Eastern Orthodox Church and its theology. (And…shhh…the Church as a whole.) Thankfully, while in seminary, I was introduced to what has come to be known as the Patristic age.

And my world was changed.

This is why I am thankful for this little book by an amazing theologian, Andrew Louth:Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. I had read some of Louth’s work while in seminary and was caught up in the lucidity and potency of his writing. This work continues in the same vein.

Within the pages of this book, he takes on the gamut of topics usually rendered by history as the spectrum of theology. Beginning with God (theology proper) and culminating with “the last things and eternal life” (eschatology), Louth gives us the Eastern Orthodox vantage point tying them all together.

Yet throughout the book, he is also cautious to remind us that these are the understandings of Eastern Orthodoxy mediated through his own experience. He doesn’t pretend to speak for all of Eastern Orthodoxy – for there is no inherent monolith – which makes room for the readers’ questions and personal inquiry. History is well represented, but it represented through a medium of humility allowing us to wrestle with the material being presented. “What we should hear from the chorus of the Fathers is a rich harmony, not a thin unison.” It is to this harmony that we are asked to participate.

What I loved about this book is its insistence on understanding through experience and prayer. These aren’t bifurcated realities; rather, they are one and the same: we live our lives as a prayer. Louth states,

An introduction to Eastern Orthodox theology, as I understand it, may well involve learning various facts and dates, terminology and concepts, but at its heart it is an understanding to a way of life. (p. 3)

And elsewhere,

The only knowledge that counts, the only theology that is truly Orthodox, is participation in God’s movement in love towards us in creation and Incarnation by our response of love. (p. 122)

And again,

First, the mysteries of theology are mediated by a prayer, not by a creed or treatise: we only understand by participating ourselves in prayer. Second, all that follows is seen in terms of engagement with God, flowing from prayer: accepting God’s gifts and using them, even more, imitating in our movement towards God, his movement towards us, so that the Word’s kenosis, self-emptying, calls forth our self-emptying…” (p. 123)

Thus, Louth encourages us, as has the history of the Church because of Jesus himself, to find our bearings in prayer. In an effort to aid in this, Louth has peppered the book with liturgical prayers. Many of these are breath-taking in their theological depth and candor. For those of us bereft of Tradition and liturgy, these prayers bring us into the heart of what both joy and sorrow look like; what petition and repentance can sound like; how both immanence and transcendence are found in Jesus. I found myself praying these prayers, not simply reading them off of a page.

For those of us who have grown up in Protestant saturated worlds, there will be plenty of material to truly wonder about. For instance, Eastern Orthodoxy’s place for Mary the mother of Jesus, their thoughts and uses of icons, and the thread of universalism found within their eschatology [NOTE: Orthodoxy actually condemns universalism and it was done so at a Church council]. How have these things been viewed throughout history? What did the early church say that has been carried through by the Orthodox?

All in all, I would certainly recommend this book. The clarity, thoroughness, and emphasis on prayerful participation make it well worth getting. In addition, I would particularly encourage those seeking a more historical approach to their Christianity, along with those who have perhaps grown tired of the pallid or historical short-sightedness common within much of the Protestant body to pick up a copy. The historical gold found within these pages is a much needed introduction – and, hopefully, encouragement to continue – to the vast wisdom and love given to us by those from the early centuries of the Church.