“What does it all mean?” Part II

Punching the Bible
The Passover Meal was the beginning of  “Tent Life” for the Jews. Think about it.

My deep mood, my spiritual contemplation continues. Do we have any New Testament scriptures to verify the “Tent Life” message the Lord’s Supper seems to connect with? Yes. Many actually. But at this moment the Apostle Paul instructing Timothy to not be entangled in the affairs of “this life” comes to my mind.

Tent Life? Does that really connect to the Lord’s Supper? I mean, aren’t we stretching things a bit? What about me living like a king?

Our modern church has such a different emphasis than the early church fathers. It is amazing to me how many ways I see the emphasis has been shifted to a different syllable of our Lord’s teaching, causing it to be slightly off from the truth. Ever so slightly, but enough. Is the Passover connected to a Tent Life? YES, it is. But how much of that emphasis have you heard on Easter Sunday? And what does it mean for us? Do we even realize the Lord’s Supper is the Passover fulfilled?

In the next few paragraphs I’m going to try and describe the way the disciples experienced the 3 days of our Lord’s crucifixion, compared to how you and I of the modern church have most likely experienced it. Some might call the changes small, but I think God would call them HUGE.

For the disciples and the early church, it all starts with a meal. It also marked the beginning of a New Year for them. The 14th of Nissan. This meal would happen on what we call “Good Friday”. Jesus had his Passover Meal on Thursday night, as a Jewish clock ran from sunset to sunset, and he would be dying on a cross later that day. But it was an intimate “meal”, with his close spiritual “family”, which then easily flowed into what we call the Communion, the bread and wine of his body and blood. Jesus establishing his body and blood as the payment for a perfect covenant with God the Father, ended that meal. This is what the disciples experienced on Good Friday, a meal full of, and overflowing with MUCH meaning.

Not only were the disciples thinking about New Years resolutions (perhaps). By this I mean perhaps they have the same desire as many of us at New Years, to do better, how can I do better this year? But the Passover Meal was the beginning of 7 Days of Unleavened Bread. In other words, their New Year began with a whole week of thinking about getting the sin out of their life for this New Year. Now does any of this compare to what we have experienced every Easter at our church?

You see, a big contention arose a little past 100 AD., and the Bishop of Rome wanted to make some small changes. Evidently, what we call “Lent” developed during this time, which includes some kind of fasting. This Lent, and this fasting, began to interfere with what the Apostle John and other Apostles had taught Bishop Polycarp to continue as the Passover meal. A Christian form of the Passover Meal I should specify. This began many years of church and doctrine battle, but around 300 AD, with the help of a heathen Emperor named Constantine, the Rome Bishops evidently finally got their way.

So after all these years, what we have today, has become something more like this: “Maybe” you are doing Lent. “Maybe” your church might do a special Friday service of some sort, possibly emphasizing prayer, and you “might” go. Or you might just have your normal Friday night at home. Or maybe you’re preparing for an Easter Egg hunt and sun worship. But for many, Friday night is really not all that different. Maybe you’re out shopping for a new dress, because a lot of people really “dress up” for Easter Sunday. But it is for sure you’re not likely having a Passover Meal as Jesus DID, and so DID the disciples, and so DID the early church fathers.

As a matter of fact, we are most likely preparing to cram everything into one big day on Sunday. And when Sunday comes we will not be thinking about 7 Days of Unleavened Bread. We will not be thinking about getting sin out of our life and the beginning of a New Year, spiritually speaking. And we will somehow give proper remembrance to the Lord’s “DEATH”, even as we somehow manage to celebrate his RESURRECTION, all in the same Sunday morning, which may include a Sunrise service you may have drug yourself out of bed for if you are the really dedicated.

Now there are many shifts of emphasis here, of which I can only target a few in any one article. But one I find very interesting, and is a perfect example of how slight these shifts seem to be in our own mind, and yet may be HUGE in the mind of God! Paul says this in I Corinthians 11: 26>

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s DEATH till he come.”

For many many years I never thought about this small statement of emphasis. Yes, I remembered the Lord’s death on Easter even as we were also rushing to his resurrection celebration. But as I study the early church fathers, the emphasis is totally on his death and the cross! For instance, on Sunday they would have also been still into the 7 Days of Unleavened Bread. Yes, they are happy the Lord has resurrected, without which we have no hope of real salvation! But remember, the early church fathers also did not preach once saved always saved. The Unleavened Bread they were eating was a constant reminder that if they continued in a life of sin, they would not receive that resurrection! It was not a “done deal”! He that endures to the end! That Unleavened Bread was a reminder of the “Tent Life” their forefathers were rescued out of Egypt (worldliness), and delivered into the wilderness to learn to die to self! A crossing and a cross! And carry what they learned in the wilderness, into the Promised Land! Have we forgotten?

Now consider this. What DID Jesus do on Sunday? Was he celebrating his resurrection? No! He was talking about SIN! Mary Magdalene discovers him in the garden and is ready to rush into a resurrection celebration and Jesus says: “Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father: but go to…”

What is he ascending to the Father to do? PUT HIS BLOOD ON THE MERCY SEAT OF THE HEAVENLY TABERNACLE!

Touch me not! For I have not yet ascended and poured the blood of my sacrifice, for the forgiveness of your SINS, on the Ark of the Covenant in heaven!

Later that same day he appears to the disciples and breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit! And then says this >

“Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

Totally different emphasis than we see today. Of course, the Lord would have also been thinking about the 7 Days of Unleavened Bread, and of course we ARE NOT. We’re thinking about some eggs, or perhaps the after church Big Mac. And we’re not even at all aware that this is how we are starting our spiritual New Year. And we no longer have “Lord Supper Meals”, also called the Lord’s Welcoming Table, as such all year long. But we have the short-form bite of bread or wafer, and a thimble of juice. And we also do not realize if the colored eggs are combined with our church, we are in sun-worship. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, after the studies I have made, having an emphasis on resurrection and not his death, may in itself be a form of sun worship. Both Winter Solstice (Christmas), and Easter were Roman heathen festivals worshiping the “Rising” and “Unconquerable sun god”. Also a Prosperity god. Hhmmm. And if you see no danger in this, then once again I recommend reading Ezekiel 8, where God leaves Jerusalem, and is with the Exiles. Wow.

There is a big time gap in the knowledge of church history for most Christians. We have the “Missing Years”, the “Void”, of how we got from the description of the early church in Acts, to the description of church by Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11, to a big leap around the time of Constantine and the Catholic church. Wow! What happened? Then we know of the “dark days” and the Protestants revolt against the Catholic which eventually got us to 2018. And this is how we have always done things. It must be alright. And yet we have no knowledge of what happened in those very important days of the early church fathers to whom the torch was passed directly from Apostles. And we have no curiosity? We have no passion to be concerned?

I can only say, whether I was a poor student, or ALL my Pastor’s were very poor teachers, if I had been given a test on those “Missing Years”, or even on a proper Lord’s Supper and Passover, I WOULD HAVE FLUNKED! BIG FAT “F”! And my understanding now, may only be at a D+ level. But I am now doing my best to make these things the template for what I call church. For me, church is about a TABLE, that the devil managed to shift us away from and back to stone temples. That TABLE goes VERY DEEP and affects many things. I’m still discovering new affects every day.

For example, there has been a new convert to Christ I’m trying to disciple; but so far it has been rather slow and difficult. Just yesterday I suddenly realized the best way to “show” this guy what it all really means, and get him on the right track quickly, IN HIS OWN HOME, is the LORD’S WELCOMING TABLE! Of which I plan to perform my first outreach in this particular way this coming up week. And I am SO excited! I can hardly wait.

So… “What’s it all mean?” As this series continues we will look deeper and deeper as to what did Jesus do? What did the early church do? And then each of us must decide if these details, these slight shifts of emphasis, are more important than we realize? In the meantime, keep praying, keep studying, stay involved with Christian fellowship, i.e. Church, and ask yourself, W.W.J.D.. And hopefully, what you understand as what Jesus WOULD do, will be in complete harmony with what Jesus DID do. Seek and ye shall find. Ask and it shall be given. Knock and it shall opened. Is that not what God hath said?

This has been brought to you by “Fellowship of the White Path” and Grandpa White Feather. More still to come.

Na8rinz

“Making Passover Bread?”

I’ve never been much of a cook. I mostly just don’t like taking the time for it. Especially when you add “clean-up” in. My specialty has always been breakfast foods. My second specialty is taking cheap can soup and adding celery, mushrooms, onions, cucumber, and rice to make it not so cheap soup. But in this journey of Early Church discovery, I have learned of the “Christian Passover Meal”, also known as the “Welcoming Table”, and my wife and I plan to conduct our first Christian Passover Meal this 30th of March.

None of the Churches I have spent my life going to, holds such a meal. So I guess I got to do it myself. Why our churches are not concerned that Bishop Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, defended this practice as a matter of importance, I do not know. Why we are taught so little about the practices of the early church fathers, I do not know and I find it highly suspect! I have learned so much in these studies! Why I am having to do this myself, I do not know.

Therefore, I have chosen to join Bishop Polycarp, and the Church of Smyrna in this practice. Even though I’m sure my knowledge is limited, I believe God is pleased that I’m making such an effort with the knowledge I have been able to glean. And just like God planted the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” close together in the Garden of Eden; I am doing my best to keep the “Tree of Life” very close too, as I learn this new knowledge.

It turned out to be quite an adventure. Yes, this is a picture of my wife with flour on her nose. I don’t know how she got it there, but it was a good laugh. I thought this was going to be easy to make. It’s basically just flour and water with some olive oil and salt added at the end. But not being much of a cook myself, I did not realize you only have so many minutes to mix and knead the dough, and get it spread out! It ended up being like a race on one of those cooking shows! And I lost! I did not make the time! But I must have been close enough because it still cooked up, thank the Lord!

Part of the Christian Passover Meal is all about family; both personal family, and church. So we decided we would try our first effort at my mom and dad’s, in order to add some variety to their day. They got a kick out my wife and I racing around the kitchen trying to make the time limit, but miserably failing. We had my mom working the timer clock. But all is well that ends well they say, and the Matzah bread came out excellent! Especially the ones we kept the olive oil just a light coating, (like the instructions said). But I like olive oil and tried a heavier coating on a few. The bread lost some of its crispiness and was not as good.

So we continue on our Early Church Journey and with our seven days of unleavened bread we will not starve in the wilderness, although I must admit it’s not real filling. I think my cheap soup will be excellent with it! Yes! Country boy will survive!

However, it still bugs me that I see so little concern from our modern Pastors as to how far we have drifted from the church Jesus started. Have we progressed, found a more excellent way than those directly taught by the Master himself? (I seriously doubt it.) Not when I look around at how much our modern church has in common with the ways of our modern world. I’m not even a Pastor, and it greatly concerns me, so much so I decided to explore on my own if need be. I hope you’re with me on this journey. I hope you’re learning things too. We are ships at sea, powered by the Wind, seeking Treasure Islands, and when we find them, we dig up the treasure and enjoy. May God’s Wind always be in your sails. Amen.

samuel-zeller-34761-unsplash“Fellowship of the White Path” / Grandpa White Feather.

“Christian Mystic & Church History” P-5

20171021_171413 And so the plot thickens and the mystery continues. As I have been self-educating on this subject of Church History, a couple of questions have caught my curiosity, and this also pertains to Christian Mystics. As I have said, as I studied the Mystics I saw a need for knowledge of the history. It all ties together.

Question #1.) Why have none of my Protestant churches educated me on early church history, especially those first 200 years when transition from the Apostles, who actually walked with Christ, was changing to those who had only walked with the Apostles, and then to those who had not even had that privilege. In my humble opinion, this would be an extremely important time period of the evolution of the church. After all, if these early church fathers changed things from what Christ had started, then why? And would Christ have been in agreement with such a change? And how does the church of that first 200 years compare to what I experience today? (Hhmmm.)

And if this is as important as I think it is, then why haven’t I been taught of it? Are they trying to hide something? I’m not saying our preachers never mention the early church and give an impression of teaching the subject, but in my experience, very little details have ever been given. Is it a subject only for Bible College? I think not. It’s too important! It’s foundational! It reveals if we have been faithful to the early church fathers, OR NOT.

Question #2.) The main church history book I was using, was written by a Catholic Priest, but it was supposed to cover from Pentecost to the year 2000. Well, it sort of did, and it sort of did not. As I searched other sources I began to notice 3 names not mentioned in my book. Upon further examination, I discover these 3 Bishops were of “major” importance during those first 200 years! Why would such important Bishops fail to be mentioned by this Catholic Priest? Was not the church one church at that time? Would they not be a part of the history leading to the Roman Catholic Church? How do you miss speaking of : Bishop Clement of Rome, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, and Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna? Three major players! Again, is someone trying to hide something? A personal agenda? A personal bias?

Well, I don’t know yet, but I have bought more books and am studying like crazy. One book is aprox 1,350 pages long! Thank God for Amazon! But we need to look at our first Mystic! Believe me, more will be said on these other guys when I have a little better handle on this. Little by little it is coming. I’m like a spiritual hound dog on a hot trail! I’m a Retriever trying to “bring back” (fetch) something hidden in time, but not lost!

Our first Mystic I have chosen is a man known as, “Origen”. He lived aprox A.D. 185-254, and he is an amazing story. But I want to give you a juicy part first, so you will want to know him. In Origen, I see the heart of a Christian Mystic. We ask our self, “Just what makes a Christian Mystic?” I’m looking for the “simple” answer to that, and I think, without knowing it, Origen may have expressed it when he was explaining the 3 different levels of meaning to scripture.

Origen was the first Christian translator of the Old Testament Book: “Song of Song” (Solomon). He used it to explain these three different levels of meaning to any given scripture. He explained, on the first level the Song of Songs is simply a wedding poem showing the intimate love between a rustic bride and a royal bridegroom. On the second level it represents Christ’s love for his church. On the third, mystical, level it expresses the deep yearning of the soul to be made one with the divine Word. (WOW!)

My simple understanding of a C.M. is someone who is totally in love with Christ, the church, and his Word! Origen’s example of level 3 is such an expression of such a person. The Mystic is a Mary, not a Martha. But most Mystics also believed their private contemplations in solitude should also lead to godly actions in public. Most Mystics were not hermits hiding in a cave somewhere. They may have had their cave moments, and trips into the desert, but those deep places with God were meant to also bear fruit in the physical world of hurting mankind.

Mystics have a deep love for all things Spirit, and as such they often lived ascetic lives which simply means “self-denial for spiritual reasons”. Fasting would be an example of such. Putting a brother before yourself. Keeping things simple, to be non-materialistic. (Of course, there are different levels of such things.) One might think of our Lord’s words when he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 NLT)

Asceticism is sometimes referred to as spiritual training, or to be a spiritual athlete. Christian Mystics pursued such paths, but again, the training was supposed to also bear fruit that would bring glory to God, hence, not just a hermit sitting in a cave. I believe the goal was to be more like Christ.

How far down this road a person must go to be considered a Christian Mystic would be hard to define. I’m sure in most of our lives it is a growing process. Most of us do not leave everything behind, become a monk and run for that mark, but if we are a C.M. in our heart, we can still get there, even with all the responsibilities of family and work. We can still fall so in love with our Lord, that everything we do, even washing the dishes becomes an act of worship to God. There is so much to say here, but I must control myself, so here are some quick facts on Origen, and if you want to know more, it can be found.

He was born to Christian parents in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was beheaded during the persecution under Roman Emperor Lucius Severus (193-211), when Origen was about twelve. The beginnings of Christian Mysticism began second century, in North Africa, of which Alexandria was a city of, and part of the thriving culture of Rome. An important Catechetical  school was developed there, and Origen became a student of Clement of Alexandria. It should be noted this teacher was also influenced by Greek philosophy; Platonist in orientation. What effect that had on scripture, I’m not sure, but Origen eventually became the head of the school.

Origen became a great teacher, wrote a lot of stuff, and was sometimes described as a “Master Mystic”. He learned Hebrew and became a translator of Hebrew scripture, such as Song of Songs. He also traveled about preaching and teaching. He had a great influence on church doctrine in his day. About 250 A.D., he was imprisoned and tortured. He survived and was released in 251, but was so weakened physically that he died shortly thereafter, in 254. There is much more to his story and material he wrote to be read if you so desire to research.

I don’t know how many Christian Mystics we will look at, or which ones, but Origen has been our first, and don’t forget his teaching concerning that third level: The deep yearning of the soul to be made one with the divine Word. May we all aspire to such things.

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Until the next time…

 

 

“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.

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A structure of coming together.

Beams that are stronger because they lean on each other.