What’s it all mean? – Part 5

“Nothing personal, just business.”

For too many churches this has become their church mantra. “Nothing personal, just business.” God’s House was never meant to be a business, and was always meant to be very personal. Statistics show the church is losing this country. Other countries now send missionaries to America! We are being called the post-christian America. But I believe for every church who sticks with the original recipe Jesus gave us, those churches still have that one river flowing from the throne of God, and those who find that river know they have found the “family” of God!

I’m sorry, but when Jesus said he must be about his Father’s “business”, he was not talking about starting a McDonalds, or any other business. He was talking about birthing a spiritual family! A personal connection to God that radically changes us! I believe we are in another visitation of God in which people are waking up to the need for “Home Relationships”, not “Shopping Mall Encounters”. True fellowship in the love of God! They want real and they want personal, and so did Jesus!

The original recipe is found with the original Apostles and those they discipled. But how many churches do you know these days teaching their people about those “original” years of the church? When Jesus spoke of his Father’s business, a more proper translation is: “to be about his Father’s affairs” and/or “in his Father’s courts”. What Jesus taught his followers was anything but “business as usual”.

In my opinion, I’m not a business man but, it seems to me Jesus was antibusiness and very pro-relationship. When he had crowds in his hands, he walked away to be with a few. When people were eating his every word, he then said something very hard, driving most away. The church he started did not even seek large buildings for 300 years, until a heathen Roman Emperor strongly offered such things. He sent his 70 out with practically nothing! It’s a wonder they even survived, let alone succeed. Money was never his focus, and when he did speak of it he mostly spoke of its evils.

Some business men would say you got to take care of your people first, and then success will come. But most those business men are referring to the “customers”! The “paying” customers! Just let someone become too much of a drag on the company and see how quickly there is a parting of ways. For Jesus, the “bottom line” was not about red or black ink. It was about saving man, whatever the personal cost. And the poor was to be treated even as the rich man.

We are in a VISITATION. Some people have been waking up for some time now, but the massive elephant in the room, the Modern American Church, continues to be the most visible, while smaller, family oriented, people oriented bodies of Believers are quietly getting back to the original recipe of God, and making a personal intimate difference in the lives of others.

I remember when the Star War movies suddenly revived, and everywhere I went I was hearing the words: There has been an awakening, have you felt it? I remember thinking, is God using Hollywood to send out a message to all those who have ears to hear? How do we know when we are in a visitation of God? Jesus looked at Jerusalem and said if only you had known the day of your visitation, but they slept on.

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. As I was reading Ireneaus the other day, he pointed out that each of the times Jesus came back to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, he found them sleeping. He tried to wake them, but each time they fell back to sleep, even unto the time of his betrayal, when the hour was upon them, then he commanded them to get up, for it was time for the Son of Man to be betrayed.

That moment was the beginning of a  3 day period equal to their worst nightmare! Peter even denies Christ 3 times that night, in order to live and not die. They went into fear and hiding. The hour of temptation was upon them, and they had failed to pray. But Irenaeus compared each of the times Jesus tried to wake them, as VISITATIONS from the Lord. I found this very interesting.

If we study Matthew 26: 36-46, we find Jesus actually separated the disciples into two groups. Of course Judas was not among them. In verses 36-37 we see he instructs eight of them to sit here, but then takes Peter, James, and John a little further on, closer to where he would actually pray. These three were like an inner circle of the inner circle with Jesus.

He told them to pray and keep watch with him. This does not look like a request, but more of a command, and yet they failed. The spirit is willing but our flesh is weak, and we fail so many times. He returns to them “three times”. In a sense, these were visitations of the Lord asking them to wake up and pray that they enter not into temptation. But each time they fall back to sleep. But notice, it appears Jesus only woke the “3”! It appears he only spoke to the “3”! He woke them twice! Two visitations! And then on the third visitation, he first tells them to sleep on, but then his betrayal arrives, and he commands them “Up”, my betrayer is here. At this point they physically have to rise, and the 3 days of horror begins. The spiritual battle is on.

Now I got this from Irenaeus who lived around 1,900 years ago. Evidently these guys were pretty smart, Biblically speaking. I also learned, if you check it out, prior to Samson playing with Delilah, it always speaks of the Spirit of God coming on him prior to one of his mighty acts, but after he begins his time with Delilah, those words cease to be said. Hhmmm. Interesting. Good stuff to note. Written by a man who sat under a man who sat under John who sat under Jesus Himself. Hhmmm. Irenaeus may be far from “our time”, but he was much closer to “Jesus time”. In my book that makes him a person of interest, as they say.

However, we make the point today, are we at the final visitation, when our Lord tells them to “sleep on”, but then his betrayer comes, (that day shall not come until the antichrist is revealed and there is a great falling away), and Jesus commands them to get up, because his betrayer is here? That last command to wake up and get up preceded three days of horror for the disciples, and all who loved Jesus. In Revelation we read that Satan is going to be given power over the church for a period of time. Whether these are people who did not pray in order to miss the hour of temptation, or what, I do not know, but it will be at least three years of horror!

If we are in such a visitation, are we in a 2nd Reformation? And who are the ones who will hear? It appears Jesus spoke to the inner circle of his inner circle. They should have passed that word to the others, but instead, let the others down, let Jesus down, and fell…back to sleep. Are our leaders doing the same today? Are we doomed to repeat history? Or can we be different? Are we trapped in a predestination we cannot change? I have to believe if God is visiting us, and if Jesus is speaking, then we have the chance to make a difference. Five of the Ten Virgins were able to light their lamps and shine. Five of the Ten were also taken. They escaped the hour of temptation. What a wonderful thing that would be.

This weekend one of our Fellowship was about to start with a new company in which he will be going back out over the road as a truck driver, and we will not be seeing him as much. We wanted to send him out right. Jason and I had a simple meal together, in his apartment, with his little dog, Zach, and that meal flowed into the sharing of some Matzah bread I made with my own hands, and some juice. We had the Lord’s Supper. We took Communion together. It was very “personal”. It was nothing like business as usual. I prayed for him. I asked God to send angels with him. And the Presence of God showed up so strong that neither of us could even speak for a few minutes! I can’t remember the last time I have felt God’s Presence that strong, and I have felt His Presence more than a few times, but something was special, God was very pleased in this simple thing we had done.

SO…if we are in his last visitation. If this is the last time he is telling us to rise because the church is about to be betrayed, the church (his body), nailed to a cross! Are you ready? Are you awake? Have you gone back to what Jesus DID? There has been an awakening, have you felt it?

Stop short-forming God’s Word, God’s Way, and God’s Will! Stop making a business out of his House! Get back to personal, and family. Get back to real and true! Get back to what God hath said and Jesus DID do! Love the Lord God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love upward first, and outward also. It is a sacrifice. It is a cross. But that’s what true followers of Christ do. It’s just the way we roll.

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“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.