the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

Doing the right thing is never easy, but must be done. . .

“It is always darkest just before the day dawneth”
Thomas Fuller

“There are stars who’s light only reaches the earth long after they have fallen appart. There are people who’s remembrance gives light in this world, long after they have passed away. This light shines in our darkest nights on the road we must follow.”
The Talmud

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
Dante Alighieri

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(a tiger swallowtail visits the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ever since we were young, we were always told to “do the right thing”. . .
It seemed to be so much easier when we were younger. . .

As we aged, growing older and it doesn’t appear much wiser, the right thing seemed to become a bit blurry, out of focus and at times, difficult to discern.
We became pressed with increasing dilemmas.
The “right thing” could at times be hurtful to ourselves or worse, to others. . .
It became too much and overwhelming, it turned out to be more than we could bear.
It often seemed as if our very lives could fall into jeopardy over this whole doing the right thing business.
What were we to do?
What were our choices?
Doing the right thing became harder as doing not the right thing became easier.
“What’s a little fudging here and there” we’d rationalize.
We found ourselves justifying what they don’t know won’t hurt them, or rather, we meant us, as in ourselves.
A blind eye, became key.
Turning the proverbial blind eye to the those trivial details known as facts became common place.
Got the ol head stuck down in the sand, looking the other way and ignoring it all, hoping it would all just go away, leaving us and everyone else alone.

Complacency became our safe and happy place, our easy way out.

Yet the stakes, while we were busy not watching, have snuck in under the wire, growing bigger and higher.

To ignore it would be criminal.
To wish it all away, impossible.
To pretend it doesn’t exist, damning.

The children are dying and the world is bleeding and we can no longer afford not doing the right thing. . .

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“A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of an unidentified migrant child, lifting it from the sea shore, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, Turkey, early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. A number of migrants are known to have died and some are still reported missing, after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized.
(both images courtesy AP)

Full story:
http://news.yahoo.com/distraught-father-of-drowned-syrian-boy-recounts-ill-fated-journey-191139707.html

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in you
Deuteronomy 15:11

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:17

A world on the move and the Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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(a variety of lichen found in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

This morning while reading my daily devotional, I was struck by an
interesting question concerning the Sermon on the Mount raised by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1940

Because the individual is always the one placed in the responsibility, the old question–whether the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5-7) applies to the individual as individual but not to the individual who is responsible for others—is falsely stated. The Sermon on the Mount itself makes people responsible for others and knows no individual only as an individual. It is not satisfied, however, with preparing individuals for their duty in the community; it also lays claim to individuals in their responsible activity itself. It calls them to love that proves itself in acting responsibly toward the neighbor, to love whose origin is the love of God that encloses in itself the whole of reality. Just as there is no limiting the love of God for the world, so also the human love that springs from God’s love is not limited to certain areas and relationships of life. Either the Sermon on the Mount is to be regarded as the word of the world-reconciling love of God everywhere and at all times, or is does not seriously concern us at all. . .The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most compelling proof that God’s love is at all times equally close and equally distant. Jesus died because God loved the whole world. And in this same love—sealed by the cross of Jesus–we are called into the whole world.

As I finished my reading and prayer reflections, I was left with a bit of nagging clarity coupled by some continued questions. This whole concept of who exactly Jesus was addressing in the Sermon of the Mount as well as what I, the individual, was to take away from His instruction, remained in the forefront of my thoughts for most of the morning.

I began pondering the concept of responsibility verses merely being a receptor. . .of my being on the receiving end of Jesus’s words, what with His list explaining who was to be what and why– or–the thought that there is actually to be some sort of prior action on my part which was actually the gist that I was to take away from what He said–That it’s to actually be a “go forth and do” sort of command verses just a nice little reflection of how things are after the fact.

Reading over the day’s latest news stories I stumbled upon this picture of an ominous map attached to a story posted on the BBC regarding the current global migration crisis. I clicked to read the article and was met with a very sobering reality of this now constant global bleeding

_83286968_big_arrows_world_map_labels2
(image courtesy BBC)

This next chart notes where international migrants now live:

_83284011_2_top_10_host-_nations01

The article, which is just one in a growing litany of articles sounding the warning alarms of a world on the move— with the reasons being not by happy choice.
There is a global crisis that is demanding action to be taken by us all–Europe is almost stretched to its breaking point, and according to other graphs accompanying the article we see that the US is a top end destination for so many of these refugees.
The nagging question remains. . .how are we to apply the Sermon of the Mount to this latest world trouble. . .and what, as Christians, is to be our responsibility?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-32912867

Should anyone be concerned?

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“. . . meekness,love, purity, these are the things that should magnify us.”
― Joseph Smith Jr.

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(the mysterious silent beauty of orchids / Julie Cook / 2015)

Should I be concerned that ISIS executed another group of Ethiopian Christians over the weekend?
How many executions does this make? I think I’m losing count. . .

Yet sadly the only thing I’m hearing about such is. . . mostly silence.

Should I be concerned that Boko Haram, the violent Islamic group out of Nigeria, has vowed to follow suit, joining ISIS, creating a deadly alliance, and declaring total eradication of all Christians?
70 million Nigerian Christians most likely are not sleeping well tonight. . .
Oh, and by the way, they still have all “The Missing Girls”. . .

Again, sadly the only thing I’m hearing about such is predominately silence

Should I be concerned that last week, on one of those boats bringing “migrants” from the coast of Nigeria to southern Italy—illegally mind you, that 12 Christian migrants were thrown overboard by several Muslim migrants, all drowning in the choppy seas. . .simply for praying.
Yet with many of the migrant ships sinking on what seems to be a weekly basis, killing hundreds as it is. . .12 Christians is but a drop in the bucket. . .and anyway, this issue has all sorts of concern written all over it does it not. . .yet what does the UN, the EU, the US, Russia, China, or anyone else for that matter who matters, have to say. . .

Again, sadly, silence

Should I be concerned that I don’t hear much in the way of global outrage or concern for the worldwide Christian communities that seem to be living in harms way?
Oh wait, I think the Pope said something. . .
“complicit silence” I believe were his words. . .as in why are the leaders of the world remaining, or better yet, choosing to remain silent?

The Pope gets it.

Why are the global Christian communities, which are not in harms way, remaining silent?
Why aren’t we all standing on the roof tops saying that all of this must stop?

Did you catch 60 Minutes Sunday night?
What of the children being gassed in Syria??
Seeing those horrific images should be enough for any breathing human to utter. .
no more. . .
Are we not yet outraged enough to say a collective NO MORE??

I did, however, recently read somewhere that there is a push for some sort of solidarity in some Christian congregations throughout the US for parishioners to wear orange–a color symbolic of the infamous jumpsuits worn by the executed ISIS captives.

Yet I’ve not seen any news about such, nothing locally or nationally. I’ve heard of no ground swell over such. . .seen no orange out and about. . .

Why are we all so silent?

Why is the Jewish nation, silent?

Why are the atheists silent?

Why are the Buddhists silent?

Why are the Islamic faithful, who are not supporters of jihad and barbarism, remaining silent?

Should I be concerned?

Should any of us be concerned?