A Church Relationship with Christ

H/T: chadbird.com (here)

Christianity is Not About a Personal Relationship With Jesus

We talk about having personal things. We employ a personal trainer to help us shed pounds and get that coveted beachbody. We open a personal bank account to manage our finances. And, please, keep your hands off our personal property and your eyes out of our personal diary.

Christians, especially Evangelicals, import this language into their faith as well. We talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus. Or working on our personal relationship with him. Or desiring that relationship to grow, to deepen, to become more intimate.

Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.

Our life with Christ is communal, not personal or private or individual. When the Scriptures speak of believers, they are part of a community, a fellowship of other believers.

Christianity is about a church relationship with Jesus.

I know this runs contrary to what many modern believers think. And even desire. In an age when we are more isolated than ever, when our worlds often shrink to the size of a phone screen, talk of community sounds like a radical departure from the norm. It is. But the norm of the Christian faith is not isolated believers, little islands of spirituality, but a continent of Christians banded together by the Spirit.

We are baptized into one body, the body of Jesus. Our so-called personal relationship with Jesus is indeed with his person—his body of which all other believers are a part. Fingers don’t have a relationship with Jesus apart from the hand, the hand from the arm, the arm from the shoulder, and so on.

Even when we pray, we pray communally. Indeed, the only prayer Jesus taught us to pray begins, “Our Father,” not “My Father.” No one ever prays alone. We pray in Jesus, through the Spirit, to the Father, in a vast concert with all other believers. Me-and-Jesus prayers are impossible. There are only us-and-Jesus prayers—“us” being that innumerable throng of saints from the foundation of the world until now, whose unheard voices join ours in an ongoing prayer to our Father.

When we read the Bible, we read communally. Think about it. The Bible you read—the book itself—is a communal product. Translated, printed, bound, and sold not by us personally but by others.We read, often unconsciously, with the voices of preachers, teachers, and parents from over the years guiding our knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs. And, ideally, we read the Scriptures with others. In groups, in classes, with an eye to the wisdom of the past and the voices of brothers and sisters studying it with us.

Above all, however, Jesus calls us into a living, active, worshiping community that regularly gathers around his gifts. We are washed into his body on the stream of baptism. We eat the communal meal of his body and blood. We sing together, pray together, confess together, grieve and heal and eventually die together. He gives us pastors. He gives us brothers and sisters in the faith. He gives us children to teach, elders to emulate, and even less-than-likable people to love as those for whom Christ died.

Christianity is not a solo endeavor. Not a private relationship between Jesus and me. As the Lord formed Israel in the Old Testament as his people, forged together into a body by his covenant, so he has formed the church in the New Testament as his people, washed together into a body by baptism.

Thank God it is this way. Heaven forbid that I should have a personal relationship with Jesus. For I know what would happen: I would end up, in my mind, reshaping my personal Jesus into a strikingly familiar image: the image of me.

As it is, Jesus is reshaping us into his image, in the church, surrounded by others, all of whom together, communally, are the one body of Christ.

My new book, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, will be available October, 2017. You can read more about it and pre-order your copy at Amazon. Thank you!

Orthodox Fashion

H/T: Here

The first Orthodox women’s clothing store opened recently in Moscow. It is a part of a small “chain” of stores which also exist in Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. The store was named after a story of Pushkin’s and the customers are not only Orthodox, but also women who enjoy a leisurely and comfortable style of dress.

“In Orthodoxy there are no strict canons but there are written rules which are held by all those who go to church. Church dress should be humble, without too much noticeable design. Knees and elbows should be covered, and women should wear headcoverings,” says Jelena Cokolova, one of the founders of the chain of stores „Барышня-Крестьянка“ (named after Puskin’s story “The Lady Peasant”).

Historical Look at Fasting

IMG_5180-0Taken from the 5th century church historian Socrates Scholasticus’ “Church History” Book V,  (here) on what fasting looked like at that time:

“…..The fasts before Easter will be found to be differently observed among different people. Those at Rome fast three successive weeks before Easter, excepting Saturdays and Sundays. Those in Illyrica and all over Greece and Alexandria observe a fast of six weeks, which they term ‘The forty days’ fast.’ Others commencing their fast from the seventh week before Easter, and fasting three five days only, and that at intervals, yet call that time ‘The forty days’ fast.’ It is indeed surprising to me that thus differing in the number of days, they should both give it one common appellation; but some assign one reason for it, and others another, according to their several fancies. One can see also a disagreement about the manner of abstinence from food, as well as about the number of days. Some wholly abstain from things that have life: others feed on fish only of all living creatures: many together with fish, eat fowl also, saying that according to Moses, Genesis 1:20 these were likewise made out of the waters. Some abstain from eggs, and all kinds of fruits: others partake of dry bread only; still others eat not even this: while others having fasted till the ninth hour, afterwards take any sort of food without distinction. And among various nations there are other usages, for which innumerable reasons are assigned. Since however no one can produce a written command as an authority, it is evident that the apostles left each one to his own free will in the matter, to the end that each might perform what is good not by constraint or necessity. Such is the difference in the churches on the subject of fasts….”

40 Ton Mosaic

H/T: Theology and Society here

An enormous Russian mosaic started arriving at the largest Orthodox Church in the Balkans today (May 3, 2017), in what Serbia’s leaders hailed as a sign of “eternal” friendship between the two Slavic Orthodox nations, according to the ABC News website.

The first part of the 40-ton mosaic — personally approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin — arrived in 66 sections at the Saint Sava temple in Belgrade, one of the largest Christian Orthodox churches in the world.

One section, featuring the head of Jesus, was put on display for people attending a service. When completed by the end of the year, the mosaic will cover some 13,230 square feet of the inside of the church.

At a ceremony inside the sprawling church today, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said the mosaic “will once again show our unity and togetherness with the Russian people and the Russian state.”

The Bible Fraud

Conspiracies, conspiracies….

H/T: Here

“….attempting to summarize what Tony [ Tony Bushby in his “The Bible Fraud”] has written….. in 325 AD, the first Christian council was called at Nicaea to bring the stories of twin brothers, Jesus ‘the Rabbi’ and Judas Khrestus into one deity that we now know as Jesus Christ. Tony says they were not born of virgin birth but to Nabatean Arab Mariamne Herod (now known as the Virgin Mary) and fathered by Tiberius ben Panthera, a Roman Centurion. The brothers were raised in the Essene community and became Khrists of their faith. Rabbi Jesus later was initiated in Egypt at the highest of levels similar to the 33rd degree of Freemasonry of which many Prime ministers and Presidents around the world today are members. He then later married three wives, one of whom we know as a Mary Magdalene, a Druidic Princess, stole the Torah from the temple and moved to Lud, now London…..”

The Fast and Our Time

greenfield*Below is an excerpt from an interview with Rastko Jovic, Docent at the Theological Faculty in Belgrade, from the April 1, 2017 issue of the Patriarchate magazine Pravoslavlje:

It would be customary for us, in the beginning, to hear of the appearance of the fast and its Biblical foundation?

-In the Old Testament they fasted  for various reasons, for the forgiveness of sins, or when they needed to communicate with the spirits of the dead, or it was a petition to God to remove a misfortune that fell on the people, or it was a preparation for dialogue with God. Therefore, in the Old Testament there were a multitude of reasons for fasting. However, the fast is not something special and unique to the Jewish people, other nations had it as well, for instance the Phoenicians, but also ancient Greeks. Early Christianity, therefore, moved between various different interpretations of the fast, but it also made radical changes. Unlike the Jews of the Old Testament, Christianity didn’t have a division between clean and unclean foods. This created a great change which allowed for a social interaction between Christians who converted from Judaism and those who who had pagan backgrounds. Also, this allowed the mission of the Church to be more successful and penetrating. And the fast which was taken from Judaism, now received a new meaning of which we have evidence early on. And so The Shepard of Hermas speaks of the fast the saving of money which later need to be given to the poor, while Aristides from the II century writes to Emperor Hadrian that the Christians fast two or three days a week in order to secure food for the needy. Already here we see great changes and the reshaping of the meaning of the fast, the fast becomes Christologically based.  Christ is the God-man, and as our Savior He, in His person, unites God and man, so that love for Christ is at the same time love God and man. And it is particularly out of this reason early Christianity strives to express this newness and through the newly conceiving of the fast. No longer do we fast in order to reduce the relationship between God and man, but now the fast gets a dimension of help and love for our neighbors, which was a living witness of the relationship with God. Of course, it is necessary to avoid idealizing and historical period, since the understanding of the fast was interpreted differently at different times in history in relation to the dominant theological views and energies within Christianity.