Church History & The MAZE V

20171117_161659 So what do we have now? How does Early Church / Pre-Catholic, (Say 33 – 270 A.D.), compare to what we have today? And then ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” Also ask, “Is there anything I should do?” Here we go…

1.) In earlier articles we showed how Jesus made a shift from the Jewish synagogues and took his Gospel message into “Homes”, the Homes of common people, where instead of preaching from a stone altar, he sat at a simple Table in your house. Instead of a focus on bigger stone temples, he focused on “Heart Temples”, God in our heart. He got in trouble every time he spoke in the Temples, but he flourished in the Homes.

2.) We see the House Church Bishops, starting with Polycarp of Smyrna, standing up to the Bishops of Rome at least until 250 A.D.. There was no “Holy See” in Rome! But as a pagan Emperor named Constantine rose to power, so did the Bishops of Rome. There was great pagan influence in the Church business during this time. And as the Rome Bishop gained more power, the Christian way of Passover Feast was changed into a short-form full of ceremony and pomp. It was no longer the “Welcoming Table“, but a stone altar. And the Holy See gladly accepted the large buildings Rome now offered. The shift Jesus had intentionally established was UNDONE. In effect, it was a shift back to synagogue. And for the most part, this is where we still are today.

3.) Here is one effect of the large fancy buildings: DEBT/MONEY/BIG BUDGETS/PRESSURE/SLAVERIES/BILLS/TAXES/LOSS OF FREEDOM/LOSS OF INDEPENDANCE. Most of our modern churches have a threat constantly hanging over their heads. Got to have a certain amount of money, or we lose everything! We got to PLEASE PEOPLE, or we lose everything. Free-will offerings, a basket by the door is no longer the way, and since we no longer bring everything into a common stock, then we must pull Old Testament “LAW” of tithing and force it into the NEW TESTAMENT covenant. If you’re not giving at least 10%, you’re robbing God! You cannot teach the tithe from the New Testament, a church which started by bringing all things common and a tithe message would have been ridiculous anyway. Ever thought about it?

4.) For a long time, ministers were servants, not superstars. They lived off free-will offerings, and they served their people. They shepherded their flocks and led them into green pastures, and I’m not talking about money. The Cross was very real in their life, not only because they might end up nailed to one, but also the Lord’s Supper still had an emphasis on the CROSS more than the resurrection! For as often as ye partake of this cup you do show the Lord’s ‘death’ until he returns. (But here again, a shift was made by the Bishops of Rome. Bishop Polycarp and the Asia Minor churches fought that change faithfully, declaring they were taught of the APOSTLES how to have a proper Lord’s Supper. But the Bishops of Rome even over-ruled the APOSTLES.) That’s ignorance gone to seed, if you ask me.

5.) In our large churches we have Pastors who do not really know us, and people following Pastors they do not really know either. We have superstar talent and expensive stage lights. We have large congregations, but we are not “family” with each other. And like the Post Constantine church, we have people attending church just because of the “benefits” it affords, not to take up their own personal cross of real sacrifice. Agape Love looks strangely like a cross. Have you ever noticed?  Christianity has camouflaged materialism into simply the right to be successful. I’ll never forget when my last Pastor opened a service teaching about how Jesus did not have a place to lay his head, and immediately followed it by promoting the Harley Davis motorcycle ride they were having the following weekend! (In the meantime, more people starve and suffer lack every day.) They saw no oxymoron in all this.

6.) The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 11:17-33, writes to a church having inner struggles, but he describes a way of doing things I’m not familiar with in our modern churches. He gives a few of the details of a proper Lord’s Supper. He admonishes them for not really focusing on the Lord’s Supper, and having divisions among themselves, eating their own food and not sharing with the needs of others. He says they disgrace God’s church and shame the poor. He describes a meal! He describes sharing and checking on those in need. He goes on to speak of the communion of the Bread and the Juice, and speaks of how it announces the Lord’s DEATH until he comes again. What church today celebrates the Lord’s Supper the same way Paul speaks of here, and the same way Polycarp fought the Bishops of Rome concerning in his day? Evidently, this was a very important subject in the early church!

7.) These are a few of the things we have found, and wrote of so far. Now…what does it all mean?

Are congregations to large to be able to do a Lord’s Supper in the way it was done then? Is it impossible to maintain a family environment past a certain number of people? Did the early church intentionally seek smaller groups that would multiply outward, rather than larger and larger numbers coming inwardly to a large building, but a smaller area of coverage? Was money less of an issue when there is no large overhead, and the church is debt free? Should we shift back to a “Table”? The Lord’s Table? Should we shift back to an emphasis on the cross more than the empty tomb, of which we do not actually possess without embracing that cross? Have we become the Laodicean church who is rich and has need of nothing? Which just happens to be the last church in those list of churches. Is the hand-writing on the wall? But if we are to shift to smaller groups, where do you find so many trustworthy Bishops? This then requires another shift we got away from…

8.) DISCIPLESHIP! As Pastors and flock are much more personable, we promote from within! God will raise up leaders we already know and trust, proven leaders ready to bishop, oversee a flock faithfully. It seems to be the Early Church way. What can I say? I don’t know if this is even possible anymore? I know Home Churches are a rising thing here in America, and pretty much a necessity in hostile lands. Is this God’s hand moving us back to our good beginning? My wife and I have concluded this much, for those who miss that first church empty tomb, known as the rapture; I’m pretty sure the foolish virgins will discover the 666 forces us back into the early mode of church. What do you think?

Today has been sort of a regroup and think opportunity. We have covered much territory in our journey for a true vision. Steady progress has been made. I need to give some more early church father quotes and tie up a few more loose ends before we decide where this journey leads next. My wife and I are planning to do an early church Lord’s Supper here at our house this coming 14th of Nisan, which is only 20 days away now. We have never done this before, and I’m still working out my details.

The story I wrote in the previous two articles is somewhat of a pattern and goal. One early church father warned that we must not do the Passover in the same way as the Jews. We have a different agenda and message. We must make sure that what we do declares Jesus as the Messiah they still look for! There is a definite difference in a Christian Passover compared to a Jewish Passover, and that must be made plain. I’m looking very forward to this challenge and blessing.

When I first left the modern church to seek the early fathers, I had no idea a major portion of the evidence and answer would revolve around the Lord’s Supper and Passover. I had no idea I would discover such a thing, and also find myself approaching the very time on the calendar that would allow opportunity to have such a service if I was willing to accept the mission. God timed this. I have to ask myself if that adds any meaning to the search I have made, or has it been pure coincidence? If it is pure coincidence, it’s a mighty big one! 

Therefore I have felt I must accept this challenge. It’s not about how perfect I accomplish some set of rules. Its about the sincerity in my heart. One of the differences in our Covenant, it allows for our honest human short comings. Yes, I want to make it as special, humble, and family as possible. But when God sees the blood OF CHRIST, he passes over my imperfections. If I do what I do because I love Him, and love people, then I’m standing on pretty safe ground. Thank you Jesus.

20170430_132246

“Fellowship of the White Path” / Grandpa White Feather.

“Christian Mystic & Church History” P-3

20170706_143707 Tipi…a structure of coming together…beams standing in strength because they lean on each other. It’s time to begin our journey into the details, the heart and soul of our Christian Mystic and Church History. So says Grandpa White Feather.

Much of my study of church history has come from a book written by a Norbertine priest by the name of Alfred McBride, O. Praem. At the time of the writing of the book he taught theology at Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. Book Title: “The Story of the Church” – Peak Moments from Pentecost to the year 2000. (There has also been much internet research.)

Our journey has been perfectly timed. As I left the modern church in search of our forefathers, one of my first revelations was the shift Jesus made in his ministry away from “Temple”, to a strong emphasis on the “Table”. We wrote a line that has become near and dear to my heart: Jesus focused on the Tables in people’s homes so he could create Temples in their hearts. (This is also what I want to be the heart and soul of Tumble Pigeon Retreat.)

So with this revelation of “Temple to Table” in mind, as set forth by Christ, let me give you a quote from McBride concerning church history: “In the beginning liturgies were celebrated at home. House Eucharists were the norm for over three centuries, until the move to basilicas in the fourth century.” (Page 174 of book.)

It appears the shift back to Temples began around 340 A.D., with the help of a Roman Emperor named Constantine. Constantine made things a lot better for the Christian when he brought about religious tolerance. This meant Christians no longer had to live in such fear for their lives. This was a very good thing. But for some reason this worldly Emperor took a liking to Christianity, (I think his mom was Christian), he claimed to be Christian in spite of many actions seeming otherwise, and began giving great favor to the Christian church. Even to the point that heathens wanted to become Christians just so they could get the political benefits!

Well, you can imagine trying to navigate the murky waters of such temptations and conditions. So…for at least 200 years our early church fathers were very content with home type churches and the closeness developed in those settings. They saw no need to pursue large buildings with high overhead, entangling the priesthood with a need for money, which might be connected to a worldly government. But slowly, that is what happened, until the home Tables were once again forgotten, and the Lord’s very simple Last Supper had been turned into much ceremony and pomp. It’s very hard to compare the two.

Like fire slowly being turned up on a pot of water, the frogs suddenly looked around one day at all the bubbling, and couldn’t understand why they were unable to jump out? How did we get here, some of them were asking, while others seemed to delight in it.

According to McBride, there were those who questioned and warned against leaving the home setting to enter the largeness of Temples, but they lost the argument as Constantine continued influencing the church leaders at that time.

Very slowly the wheels of time worked its way. Western Rome began to have a power vacuum. Constantine had not done a very good job of taking care of Western Rome. The church felt they had a duty to step in and fill the vacuum and take care of the people, but this led to them gaining more and more power. (Please understand, I’m giving you the short-form synopsis here.)

So the church is convinced they are doing the right thing in assuming all this power in order to care for all concerned. But around 770 AD., a man by name of Charlemagne (Charles the Great) came along, he was king of the Franks and became the first recognized emperor in western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The church had been filling this void all this time, and growing more and more dark!

Charlemagne offered to take the political power back into the secular, allowing the church to fully focus on the spiritual again, but when all was said and done, the church decided it was not meant to release this power. The church now chose to keep control of the secular without any apparent logical reason. And it’s not long after this the church really begins to go dark, to the point of committing actions no one would dream a Christian could justify doing in the name of Jesus! We’re talking the Inquisitions, burning people at a stake, Knights of the Templar, Crusades, holy wars, confiscation of properties, torture, and etc.

It got so bad, there was a huge split in the church around 1054 AD., some 500 years before Marten Luther even came along! The East split from the West! This became the Orthodox church, and they rejected the Pope and his Papal system. But still the church pressed on into more and more darkness which 500 years later does result in the Protestant uprising. Even then they would still be slow to learn.

It is important we have some idea of the downward spiral of Temple over Table. In the process of all this there were those bright spots where a special person rose up and reached upward to the simple Table of Christ. Someone like a Francis of Assisi. It is so hard to understand how such contradictory visions of all the grandeur of the Pope was able to be accepted by monks and friars? Many of them even wrote letters to the Pope speaking of badly needed changes, and even though nothing changed, they stayed connected for the sake of a unity of the church body, understanding our Lord also taught against division. This whole time period can be very hard to wrap your brain around, but Marten Luther was actually the second explosion, the Orthodox were the first.

I have come to the conclusion that if being Catholic was all about the monks, friars, Jesuits, and so on, I’d probably be a Catholic! I love their simple Gospel and example of Christ, and many Mystics come from their ranks. Thomas Merton is an example of one whom we will be looking at his lectures concerning Christian Mystics. But we would all do very well to consider how it was that after at least 200 years of following the example of Christ, the church at that time began to go down a primrose path leading to much darkness, even unto evils and extravagance; luxury, pomp, and power that no message of Christ could ever support! Too bad for Marguerite Porete who just happened to be a victim of those dark days. Those who burned her at the stake lived on in their luxury and power while they sacrificed another helpless lamb. Wolves were at home in the hen house! I send you forth as sheep amongst wolves!

Hopefully, this is enough historical perspective to enable us to now examine closely the Christian Mystic, starting with the Gospel of John, and learning more of it even unto our current day.

In a quick review: At least the first 200 years of church history was faithful to a “Table Ministry”, a Welcoming Table it was called. During those times there were points of great Christian persecution, which also lent to small home type ministry. But even with the persecution over, there were many reasons to consider maintaining that same format, if only for the reason that Christ himself gave such example.

However, a Roman Emperor finally comes along who is favorable to Christianity. He begins offering large buildings and positions of political power to the clergy. Soon it even becomes popular to be a Christian! The church takes the bait and heads down that path. Those opposed are out voted.

The water gets a little hotter, as Constantine leaves Western Rome poorly prepared for current rising challenges. The church more and more steps in, believing it is the right thing to do, but 300 years later, when they are given the chance to let the power return to the secular government, they refuse to do so. (Charlemagne)

Soon comes the first major split in the church. The East and West divide, and the East becomes the Orthodox church, separated from the Pope of Rome. Very dark deeds descend upon the church. People burned at stakes, accused of being a heretic because they don’t see things exactly the same way as the church in power. Some are even tortured. Holy wars are declared and soldiers do horrible things to infidels all in the name of God. The Pope declares their sins are automatically forgiven if they die in battle. Over the next 500 years many atrocities are committed, (the sale of Indulgences for instance), until Marten Luther becomes the voice of the next huge split. Some years after that second split, after the church wanted to kill Marten Luther, and the church was bleeding people profusely to the Protestants, some reforms finally began to be made.

It is true that early America, especially the Puritans, did not want anything Catholic in this country. The bad taste left in everyone’s mouth has lasted for many many years. We seem to finally be past all that now, as much change has slowly taken place.

One more quote from McBride: “Who knows but that the counsel Fathers at Trent (1563) did look wistfully at the Protestants, but could not bring themselves to imitate them because that was tantamount to admitting their revolt was legitimate. What could one say then about their heretical teachings?” (Page 174)

Surely it is a heavy thing to look upon such darkness and know that you caused two major splits in the body of Christ. We shake our head and ask how? I look back on what we did to the native Indians, and I shake my head and ask how does a Christian nation rationalize their actions at the time it is happening? And what might we be doing today? But Christian Mystics have been among those who seem to have more clear vision even in the times of such gross darkness. May we learn to hear God’s voice when it is spoken, and rather than burning the messenger at a stake, or nailing Him to a cross; we listen and change. Amen.

100_3280

A structure of coming together.

Beams that are stronger because they lean on each other.

“Why Christian Mystic?” Part VI

20171117_161659 It’s Sunday morning as I begin this article. This is a time when many people set aside a portion of their life to “go to church”, and “focus on God”. But I sit at home this morning pondering what I did last night. I went to a Catholic Mass.

I’ve only been to two in my life. The first time was many years ago, and as I went this time, it was for the purpose of seeking more, if it could be found. Did they have it? Was it there? My memory of so many years ago did not provide me the answer. I would look again.

This particular Parish was a more modern design, but it still had stained glass windows, a fountain of flowing water in the sanctuary, a Priest wearing special robe, pipe organ, sacred songs sung in a sacred way, people knelt facing the cross before they entered a pew, or read the readings, people made the sign of the Trinity across their chest, the Priest gave his sermon, the Lord’s Supper was shared with great humility and respect, and then we left.

Many many things were done to set a certain spiritual atmosphere, a Table Setting pleasing to God. But did I feel a strong presence of God in all that ceremony? Unfortunately, at this particular Parish, I did not. But I must say, the Priest had an excellent message, and I intend to search other churches.

My close friend who is devout Catholic took me to this church and sat amazed at what the Priest shared in his message, because it was mostly about what my friend knew I was trying to do, while this Priest was pointing out they were “not” doing it. He said, “We don’t go out. The doors are always open. You can come in any time. But we don’t go out. And we’re failing to reach this community. We have many empty seats. Is this how we want it? We’re not doing a good job of showing the love of God and the urgency of our Gospel message outside these four walls.”

Wow…it really was a great message. My friend looked at me like what did you do to this Priest before we came here? But why did I not feel a strong presence of God like I was hungry to feel? What is the spiritual blockage? Why is Christianity drying up in America? How have we become this Post-Christian nation, as we are now labeled? A lack of passion? Worldly distraction in our people? More and more sin? A failure to make God our habitation?

Hhmmm, how do you make God your habitation, like Psalms 91:9 speaks of? How do we dwell in the secret place, like verse one speaks of? The Christian Mystic knows.

Are we too busy with worldly habits to maintain any kind of Holy Habits? To habitate with our Lord? Ohhh, this may be getting a little spooky? A little deep? A little supernatural? But this is what the CM knows, and perhaps this is what we are missing today? We have left our first love, and we don’t know how to get back there?

The CM knows only the power of God, not our own, will get us there. God at work in us. But we have to seek it. We have to want it. You have not because you ask not, and when you do ask, you ask amissssss, (hear the snake? hear the monster?), to consume it upon our own lust! Self love! Self gratification! Worldly desires and pleasures of the flesh! Pride, ego, and materialism! Are we guilty? Of course we are. But do we really seek God to change us? Do we seek a proper “Table Setting” between us and God, a life of holy habits?

We consider our spiritual equation of Romans 12:1 + Philippians 2:13 + Acts 17:28 = Christian Mystic. This is our reasonable service? True worship unto God? We need help!!! We need mystic habits that draw on God / Jesus like a branch draws on a vine. If we care enough to truly seek God according to the “Table” he offers, we will find Him, and he will supernaturally work in us until we are transformed. We are so spiritually bankrupt through the sin nature (Beatitude #1), that everything we need must be sought through the grace of God. We have no glory in this. The Christian Mystic knows this. Once again, it seems to come back to a picture of Mary and Martha. I’m sure you understand which one of them would have been classified as mystic.

Too much sin in the people of God is a real problem and blockage today. But again, seeking God is the beginning of effecting a supernatural change, that transforms us from our stinking thinking, (the self-loving monster), to the supernatural “MIND OF CHRIST”. We cannot speak enough about establishing basic holy habits, that become our habitat, leading to this supernaturally transformed life.

Does this also require any will power on your part? Initially yes. And I believe it starts with the “initiallity” of every day. If we ignore God’s manna in whatever form it comes, be it prayer, word, praise, etc; then we “set the Table” for the monster to show up. We are not even concerned enough to seek God first.

God always points out the monster at the table. Jesus pointed Judas out that day. The Lord’s Supper was not comfortable for Judas for very long, it was becoming more and more uncomfortable, and he was anxious to get out of there! Jesus went on to deal with all the monsters as he embraced the cross and poured out his blood for us. If we understand the Lord’s Table, we have access to the power to deal with all our monsters. But do we have the holy habit of drawing on that Vine? For that we must sit at our Lord’s Table daily, and all day, L7D. I’m not talking a literal physical Lord’s Supper here, but in our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The Lord’s Table was not ceremony, stained glass windows, and holy robes that night. But it was very personal. It was self-sacrificing, not self-loving. It was a Table in a large room like being with family. It was relationship, not religion. But at the same time it was full of very deep teaching and meaning that goes right over our heads most of the time. This is one reason as to “Why Christian Mystics”. To wake us out of our slumber, challenge us to really care, to let God “fill us completely”, take over, become one, a life of love that is supernatural in nature, not just merely human, but a city whose builder and maker is God!

The Mass I experienced last night fell short for me. I have learned in my own studies that the word “liturgy” literally means: “work of the people”. And… church actually starts the moment you begin to ready yourself to go join your brothers and sisters at the Lord’s Table. The liturgy is a journey that proceeds from the kingdom of this world into a brief encounter with the kingdom of God, and then back out again to bear witness to it. The liturgy began the moment you started separating yourself from this world so you could join the rest of the body of Christ at His Table. As we should know, in the liturgy, every act is a metaphor or symbol. At the end of it, we can’t help but be moved to cry out with all the angels, “Thanks be to God!” And give our lives to the God who gave his life for us. (Much of this information came from the book: “Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale” by Ian Morgan Cron.)

I want to do a Lord’s Supper here at “Church of the White Path” soon; and I want it to be very personal and special. So far I feel my exploration of Christian Mystics has had very positive affects on me, and so will continue exploring this path further. Again, I hope you’re enjoying too. I hope you feel spiritually challenged…and inspired to higher heights and deeper places in our Lord than we have known.

20171227_125924