Tuesday, July 31, 2007

De paper ees not too good...

Now you know I am tired b/c I'm talking like the crocodiles in the cartoon. I love those crocodiles. Dey ees funny. On Sunday they were like "ees box o' fun - no you see?" Ha ha ha ha.

I've decided to let paper be not so good. I'm tired of writing it and I have two more to go that are much more important papers, at least grade-wise. I did enjoy the topic and I did learn something, so that seems like mission should be accomplished. The prof is really particular about style stuff, but I've given up trying to please him on that. If I'm successful at this, I'll have an editor someday anyway. Quit picking on my footnotes, man.

Speaking of I have 2 extra pages w/the footnotes. But they're not indulgent. Word just formats things funny. I should turn off the auto-paragraph thing. It's so annoying when like half your page is blank b/c it's jumped down to the next page. Then it looks like you have more pages than you're supposed to and prickly prof gets pissy.

Anyway about 3:00 my brain started going out on me, so I figured I should probably give up this assignment, call it, it's dead on the desk. Of course I then worked another half hour. But I'm pretty much a goner.

gaaaahh my priest talked to the bishop today. don't know what will come of that or if he'll remember to say anything about me. Do I even want him to. I don't know. I tried to whine my way out of the PhD stuff yesterday but my mentor-prof would have none of it. Apparently I'm way too passionate about ideas to pretend not to fit in with the academic crowd, despite my protestations.

Usually J is home by this time and I take out my punchiness on him. But he's started teaching and is in Riverside until 4. Poo. That means he's not home until 5 or 5:30 or 6. Oh, I see my friend walking into her apartment. Maybe I will go bug her for a while.

Anyway, send me love and good thoughts so I can get through these papers. It's so anti-climatic when it's all you have left. Bleh.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Surreal Life

It's always weird to learn you're out there in the blogosphere. One of my former profs now church associate was telling us today how our sem prez gave him a printout of a little diatribe against him. He took it in stride, of course - he's hardly frazzled by something, first of all, almost 10 years old (don't know why it's just arriving at attention now), plus it's just funny that this person took such umbrage to what was actually a pretty good point. If you want to read about it, visit this site, then scroll down under "Unbelief at Fuller Theological Seminary" to the paragraph about John Goldingay. The whole page is kind of good for a giggle anyway.

One of our friends said a great thing to me the other night. He said I needed to be the religious person in a secular institution rather than the secular person in a religious institution - for a while, at least. I think that's a great answer to why I want to find myself not at Fuller for a PhD and I plan to start using it. It's so weird for me to read this sort of website (the one above) when I think Fuller is so conservative. I have to remind myself it's over the edge liberal to most. Well I guess those people probably don't believe they will see me in heaven anyway. Hmmm....they may not.

(if nothing else, I will avoid them)

(if that's allowed)

So I just wanted to post that funny page I found about Fuller. And report that I'm so tired I completely forgot to go to a friend's going-away today. That means I am wasted. I have 3 papers to write and then I can relax for the rest of the summer. Or at least, focus on the PhD prep full time. If I'm even still doing that. I don't know. Right now I'm too tired to think about it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Philosophy & PhD

I should really be posting my notes from this class – it’s quite fascinating stuff. It’s totally unlike anything I’ve done yet in seminary. And that’s fine – it’s good. It’s really really hard – we’re reading Gadamer’s truth and method, and stuff by the prof Merold Westphal, and these are by far the most difficult reading I’ve done here. It’s exhausting – you read (and it takes about an hour for 10 pages, so the average night’s homework takes 6-8 hours, this after 4 hours of class) and you are so tired at the end that you can barely do anything. Even last night I tried to start on Harry Potter but could barely enjoy it because my eyes (and voice) were so tired (recall that we read them aloud at our house so we read them together).

So hopefully this gets me off the hook for not writing much lately. Wish you were here – I’ve been having great in-person conversations. I simply don’t have the energy to write them down. But we talked yesterday at lunch and then with J at dinner about the definition of art. And we are currently talking about authorial intent and how much that has to do with meaning of a text. All this stuff is pretty interesting, when I actually understand it. I was nervous about my lack of previous philosophy but it turns out I did great on my midterm, so I guess I’m getting it figured out.

I think I could handle this (see, if I wind up doing performance studies at NYU I can imagine studying this kind of thing, so this was my litmus test to see if I like the worldview of the postmodernists). It’s certainly stimulating (despite my constant yawning). You know what’s so funny about the NYU thing? Not only are the people there pretty cool and I seem to be finding a nice cross section of departments from which I could perhaps pull advisement, but also a couple of our great friends just announced they are moving there b/c the husband is going to teach at NYU in comm & media studies (so he’s writing me a rec, natch). Also I remembered that my acquaintance Jeff, who runs the Revealer (link on the left – the greatest roundup of religious news on the web, IMHO), is there also. So it’s more enticing than ever, and it’s awfully neat that we’d already have great friends there. But it’s also so weird – it’s just not a place that one usually thinks of going straight out of seminary.

I’d still really like to go to a place with a more religious grounding, but I guess since I’m so interested in comparing religions I’m scaring them off. GTU basically said they had nuthin’ for me. They were like, you’re not interested in Christianity so why are you coming here? And I didn’t feel like fighting them over email, but really what I’m trying to do is fix Christians’ ideas about food – particularly the ways it can inform our worship practices by connecting us to God – by looking at those religions that do it better than us, that are more holistically aware of the meaning of food (not just socially, but biologically, emotionally, and so forth). So in the end I hope to write back to my home audience with what I’ve learned, if they’ll still have me.

I seem to be mostly finding not much interest apart from places where somebody already studies the meaning and import of food. So maybe I’m framing my question wrong. Maybe I should say I want to fix the Eucharist. And this is how I propose to do it. But then again, when I kind of whispered to my friend who went through this PhD process last year that “I think GTU might be kind of snobby” she gave me the knowing grin and told me that several people from Fuller have had that response. Gee, that puts it in the fine company of Harvard, which outright told my Fuller peer not to bother applying since she was coming from an Evangelical seminary (even tho she has a degree from Yale already and wound up at Duke). Nice move, Harvard. Way to be open minded. What happened to postmodern acceptance of all views? :)

So yeah, this place in Canada, Wilfred Laurier, is still on the list, for ritual studies; as is Indiana, for anthropology. And now NYU for performance studies. So if you know anything about these schools or programs, please share in the comments or shoot me an email. And if you have other ideas for me, or names, I would love to hear. The search is far from over; these are just the first places that have shown genuine interest in me. And that’s really nice to have. Of course, there’s the matter of the GRE and the applying and the getting in and the money. So by no means is any of this close to wrapped up. I don’t even feel like it’s a real possibility, yet. Not really.

Meantime, it turns out my priest isn’t meeting the bishop until a week from today, so no news on that front. But it’s OK. J is meeting with the film person at Azusa Thursday to talk about finding him an ongoing job there. So we may not want to move away anyway. And I guess if we stay here, I can work towards ordination, devote more time to the church, and write my ass off. Maybe I can get my crazy ideas out there w/o even having the PhD (although the doctorate isn’t for cred so much as for having the opportunity to really study – with access to the resources I’ll need – this topic that I’m fascinated with). MAYBE even getting a book published would then get me into the PhD…ahhhh…there’s an idea.

It would be fun to be Robert Farrar Capon, whose work is divine, and who is a priest who wrote about food. He didn’t go study it, he just loved food and cooking and had a great knack for bringing it together with his faith. Check him out.

Anyway class is getting going again so I guess I’ll close.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter is out - oops

So my friend got his copy of Harry Potter in the mail today. OOOPS!!!

Shortly after his mail arrived, he got a frantic phone call from Scholastic begging him not to reveal anything about the book prior to the release date (which isn't until Saturday) in exchange for a $50 gift cert.

I hope this happened to more people than just him, because I don't want to get him in trouble. I just think it's really funny. Obviously he didn't tell me about the book, nor is he planning to sell it on ebay (although what an idea that would be) - he's too good of a guy. He'll abide by his gag order. But wow...he's a missionary - he could fund the next three years of his work...

But somebody is in BIG trouble over there, huh? Whoopsie. I wonder how many people got them - and how is he on the list and not me? Maybe we'll hear about this on the news. Or maybe Feminary is breaking the story! Woo-hoo!

UPDATE: the story has now hit the news (in the last couple hours). Here is a sample (they all say the same thing - please keep it hidden, suing the distributor, blah blah. Nobody is mentioning the monetary offer - oh, and there was a t-shirt thrown in to sweeten the deal, at least for my friend)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Well said

I know this is old, but I just found it (as I was digging around for info on the touring Buffy musical show - coming to a theatre near me! Yay!) and it is worth all of you reading. I can't believe I didn't hear a thing about this when it happened in May. It's kind of beyond words, so I'll let Joss take over: http://whedonesque.com/comments/13271

Sunday, July 15, 2007

so much lots is going on

First of all I am spending way too much money. Somebody stop me. It's the food, man, the food! I just keep eating. It's like I have to eat to live or something. Dang it.

Oh, J made the most incredible scallops for dinner, with rice and zucchini. That was homemade. I'm a lucky girl.

I could afford more food if I didn't keep feeding my friends (and especially giving them alcohol). But I like doing that. Curse my hospitable ways!

If you couldn't tell, J and I did a bottle of wine tonight so I'm just a little buzzed.

Anyway the point of the writing is to say hey I'm just about terrified for my philosophy class that starts tomorrow! 2 weeks of sheer confusion! What fun this will be!

J keeps saying that the fact I've read some of the book and actually understood it makes me smarter than most of the people. I don't care, I'm still gonna feel stupid. I've not taken philosophy since undergrad and I have literally no memory of it, except that I think the first day they announced our prof was having a heart attack so we were getting a new prof. That's all I remember. Oh, and the watchmaker proof of God. I'm sure there was more, it's just slipped my mind.

Speaking of undergrad, did you know that my favorite classes outside my major (in which I didn't do all that well anyway) were geology and anthropology? Weird, huh. Well, it's not all that weird, because as I tell people about what I want to study for a PhD I'm hearing a lot about anthropology as the field I'm talking about. Interesting. Things circle around.

I've been reading abour hermeneutical circles until I'm stupified. Weird-o. At least at home we talk about philosophy a lot. Surely I've picked up something from osmosis. I've got J reading the chapters right now so we can talk about it. He tricked me into this class because he wanted the books, so his punishment is to help me.

Anyway, here's a funny thing. I'm on a total roller coaster ride about the PhD. Lots of you are in programs and maybe you can identify; I had a great dinner with a friend who went through it and she affirmed all my crazy mixed-up feelings. Thank God. So every few days (or hours, depending) I think I'm completely nuts for trying to attempt this. Taking the GRE alone should be stopping me in my tracks. And I'm thinking I'm going to apply for all these places, and find recommenders?

And then I get emails from people who are basically telling me I'm completely unprepared and/or need to figure out what I want and/or I just don't fit their program. Some places that shall remain nameless have been really snobby. And I feel all shitty and decide I'm going to chuck it all and sit on my couch the rest of my life.

And then I will get an email from somebody who loves my idea and the whole thing starts over. I got great emails from people at NYU (performance studies) and IU (anthropology) and a tiny place in Canada called Wilfred Laurier (ritual studies). They are really exciting programs and the people are excited about me, which then makes me turn around and think maybe it won't be so bad. Every time I'm about to give up I get one of these messages - buck up, little girl, you're on to something here with this food thing.

Some people really get it, you know? They love it, too, the people who get a sense of what I want to study, what I hope to tell the world. And every now and then I get this really sure sense deep down that God wants me to tell everybody something really important, something about their connection to him and to the creation that is such an amazing gift, and how She feeds us with it – and with Her, really. It’s a deep thought. There’s so much to think about.

But then I get scared or I wonder do I need the PhD or should I just start writing. Will anybody listen?

Here’s another really weird thing. You know I’ve basically given up on the whole ordination thing. I decided that my church is not really all that into it, and I should just wait and someday maybe it will happen. Since I trust the process I don’t want to push things. I feel like I’ve done what I could and it’s time to let go. I’ve prayed that I could let go.

Today in church somebody was talking about Canon 9, which I guess is the rule that lets people who haven’t been to seminary go straight to ordination because their calling is evident. I was kind of half listening, but I often tune out a bit during ordination conversations because they are frankly pretty disheartening. What is really really sweet is that J said he was sitting there feeling simply awful for me. Didn’t want me to hear it. He said, “You are so clearly called to be a priest. Everybody who knows you knows it! I know it more than anything. And I was so sad when they were talking about it right in front of you.” He wanted to yell at them to open their eyes and see me. See me.

Well, what he didn’t know is that after church, totally out of the blue, the priest grabbed me and after we discussed the service (why one hymn didn’t work – wrong tempo – and why he shouldn’t have made a comment he did – I had to call him on it) he asked me what was up with my ordination process. And I said well nothing, basically, because I’ve done what I can and I’m waiting on affirmation from you or the congregation, and I figured you guys weren’t that into it, so I figured this might not be the right church to do it with. And he asked if I meant the Episcopal church and I said no, I meant St. B’s. And he said that he had a meeting with the bishop this week about another matter and he wanted to tell him about me, but he wanted to check and make sure he wasn’t moving too fast for me.

Too fast, people.

I’m not getting excited, I’m not letting myself. I simply said that yes, it would be fine – that in fact it would be an answer to much prayer and I’d be thrilled if he’d like to say something. I told him that I’d been told it wouldn’t work well if he wasn’t that excited about me (and I know he’s not that into the hierarchy and the institution). He said that was true, but he is excited about ME, and he doesn’t mind walking through the process with someone he’s excited about.

Well, if that wasn’t about the most surprising conversation, like, ever. J said I finally passed his Zen test – I finally stopped asking for it, stopped wanting it, and lo and behold…

Who knows. I am glad, I will admit it. I am humbled that he wants to go directly to the bishop about me. I’m really glad that he was thankful for my ministry – for what I said to him about the service, and for what he’s seen me do there. It’s such an affirmation.

So we got home, and I told J, and he was really happy. And that’s when he told me all about how he knew that is what I should be, a priest. That actually I already am. Or so he says.

It’s funny – I had decided ordination was a dead end, so I would try the PhD thing. I can get ordained later. Now I wonder if I should wait on the PhD and follow what happens with ordination. I can always do it later. I don’t know. I do know that when I told J the story, and when I said out loud that I could stay here and work towards ordination and maybe work in a church or campus ministry or something, I felt this massive weight lift off me.

Now part of that is the stress and fear about living up to the GRE and the PhD applications and all that. But most of it, I think, is that this thing that’s weighed on me for over four years now might actually be moving forward. But getting ahead of myself is painful, so I won’t. But weird, huh?

Anyway, J is almost done w/my essay, so we’ll talk soon about hermeneutical circles and the relativity of everything and how there is no getting outside the book (you Derrida fans feeling me?). I’m actually really digging this stuff. I know as a good Christian I’m not supposed to go in for all this relative truth, but it’s awfully well explained and makes a lot of sense, considering what I’ve seen in, say, interfaith dialogue alone. The embeddedness of all of us, man. It’s really there.

So there’s a lot to chew on. Thank God I’m going into a 2-week intensive and won’t have time for chewing on anything but Heidigger, Gadamer and Derrida. Whew. Good times.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Article Recommendation

We read a great article for class today, by good old Hans Kung:

“Christianity and World Religions: the dialogue with Islam as one model,” Muslim World, Vol. 77, No. 2, 1987, 80–95.

It's a provocative and well-reasoned support for the idea that Muhammad was a legitimate prophet of God, in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets. A very interesting and worthy thought - and something that can certainly build bridges.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Food for thought

http://impeachcheney.org/ - maybe sign the petition if this catches your interest. I did - it's up around 85,000 signatures now.

3 religions in 2 weeks!

Wow, you guys, it’s been so long since I wrote. I’ve been in class every day then spending the rest of my time reading for class the next day. These 2-week classes are really intense.

I’m taking world religions right now, which is totally fun. The class is such a mishmash of people from all perspectives – we have Mr. Apologetics Guy, who likes to ask several times during class (in a derisive tone), “But why would anyone actually believe that?” or "What kind of logic supports that idea?" on up to the psych students who are like, “Do we really have to worry about saving these people – I mean, if they’re really happy and devout, can’t we leave them alone?”

Yesterday we almost got into a debate about it, but the prof cut it off. So this morning we were treated to a devotional about how Jesus is the only way and we’re all in trouble for being ashamed of him and/or trying to please “men” (his word) instead of God. Mr. AG also said, loud enough for everyone around him to hear, “I don’t know why a person would come here if they’re not that crazy about Jesus!”

Actually, I don’t know why he isn’t at another seminary – like say, Talbot, where he’d fit in much better. So sorry to be respectful of others, and refuse to believe they must be stupid, and not think I am automatically smarter and know better, and not believe others have something to teach me. I've said it before, I'll say it again: until another point of view makes sense to you - until you can see why an intelligent person would believe it - then you haven't understood it.

But this is the danger of interfaith dialogue. You get to know people, and you can know longer believe they are just dumb. I find it changes the questions you ask and your basic worldview about others. But I’ve written on all this before.

Now class is starting again so I have to wrap up. I am completely fascinated by our study of Hinduism – but since the book didn’t come into the bookstore, almost nobody read it. That makes me so sad, because it was such a great book, and I learned so much. I think only 3 or 4 of us read it. Buddhism got the short shrift too, because the book we read was so dry that it made it completely boring. It was the kind of book that makes you want to tear out your eyes, because you’re bored literally to tears. That, or you fall asleep every few sentences. Bummer, b/c that’s such a fascinating religion. And now we’re on to Islam, and the book we’re reading is so terribly biased against the religion. It’s so annoying. It's mostly been about how Israel won their territory because they had a greater “will to survive” than the surrounding nations (who then uniformly turned to terrorism as the answer); and on how our governments need to fight the pervasive terror of Islam, and so on. There was one chapter on moderate Islam, and about 50 pages on terrorists and “Islamists,” plus the biographical chapters on Muhammad were all about his violence. Ugh. At least most of the class saw through it - we all complained about the text today, so he recommended a few others (John Esposito and Karen Armstrong's).

I pulled out my copy of Reading the Muslim Mind by Hassan Hathout, which I totally wish I’d thought to ask to read instead. At least it’s written from Hathout’s Muslim perspective, and it is way more fair. Plus, you see the thought of a brilliant contemporary mind. Now I agree it’s important to know history – at the same time, we all know how far we’ve come in Christianity. Seems only fair to be able to see the same for the religions we study.

One more quickie: I have to recommend an old BBC program called “The Long Search.” It is about several world religions, over several episodes. I’ve watched a couple of the Buddhist ones, the Hinduism episode, and now the Islam one too. Really great work. Highly recommended. Got it from our library – yours might have it as well.

OK, got to get to class now!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Some fun reading material

A great discussion on communion without baptism going on:

And something from my food studies listserv (specially for the fourth!):

Coming Soon...

Process cheese slices in red, white and blue. Process feta cheese slices wrapped in plastic for your Greek sandwich. Process cheese flavored like bubble-gum or root beer so your finicky young eater wants more!

[Actually this last claim I got from following a couple of links out of the article on to innovatewithdairy.com. Here is a sample from that page – In a taste test at a Chicago-area elementary school, kids ages 10-12 had the opportunity to be one of the first to try blueberry and sour apple-flavored cheese. These school children voted blueberry their favorite and described the flavored cheese as “fantastic,” giving it a thumbs-up rating as a snack option they would enjoy. They suggested their own list of flavors that might make flavored cheese a hit with the younger set, including chocolate, peanut butter, watermelon and cotton candy.]

The link below will tell you more.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Sermon for the Fourth of July

I wish I could take credit for this one, but that goes to my husband, stinker that he is, who preached this winner his first time at bat this Sunday (or "at pulpit" as it were). I was quite impressed (and a little jealous - the man has had zero training. Plus he didn't take all my advice, but that's another story). I think he actually literally pounded the pulpit a couple times. Those Southern Baptist roots are hard to shake. Enjoy - this is my post for the 4th this year!

“True Freedom”
A sermon for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (July 1, 2007)
Lectionary Readings: Year C, Proper 8

Just last week we baptized baby Ryan and we read where the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that there is only one baptism and that for those who are baptized into Christ there is no longer any Jew or Greek.

Today, brothers and sisters, it is my duty to remind you that in Christ there is no longer any Englishman or American. There is no longer any Pasadenan or Costa Rican, no African or European. In Christ we are all One. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all. In Christ we are a new creation, we are born again into the kingdom of God.

Yes, the kingdom of God. You have heard it said that America is a Christian nation. But in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says that if we are to follow him we will have no place to lay our heads. We will have no home in this world, because Christ has no home in this world. Jesus’s disciple Peter learned this lesson well, and he later wrote that we are aliens and strangers in this land.

At his trial, Jesus told Pontius Pilate that God’s kingdom is not of this world. So where is it? Earlier Jesus had said the kingdom of heaven is within you. And not just within you as an individual. An alternate translation of that verse is “among you”. The kingdom of heaven is among you – among us – as a community gathered to follow Jesus as his Church.

The Greek word we translate as “church” is ekklesia. It literally means “called out”. We are called out of America to become a new people set aside for God’s own purposes. The Apostle Peter said we “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” He’s not talking about America. He’s talking about the Church.

In a few minutes we will proclaim our faith in the King of Kings. Using the words of the Nicene Creed we will say “We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ.” Brothers and sisters, there is only one Lord. And if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. If Jesus is Lord, then George W. Bush is not. If Jesus is Lord, then neither Barack Obama nor Hilary Clinton can hope to win any election that truly matters next year. They’ve already lost. The powers of this world were defeated at the Cross of Christ. Our God reigns! Amen?

Therefore we come before this Table today to announce the victory of God, to make our true Declaration of Independence: independence from the world and dependence on God, independence from American individualism and dependence on one another as God’s body on earth.

When we gather to eat the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ. We become the dwelling place of Christ on earth. As we said in our Collect for the Day, we become God’s “temple”. God is with us and we are his kingdom. Every time God’s will is done on earth, that is God’s kingdom come. When God dwells with us through Christ Our Emmanuel, we are God’s kingdom. Today. Now. Christ is already King. Glory be to God!

There is still work to be done, of course. God’s will is not done perfectly. It’s not even done perfectly within our own community. There are still divisions: divisions between us and God and divisions between ourselves and others. But when Christ comes again, and when his Kingdom is revealed in all its glory, it will not be something new but something more of the same. The new has already begun. The kingdom came at Pentecost.

Today is the Fifth Sunday after Independence Day!

When we were baptized in the Spirit at Pentecost and the Church was born, we became a new people. Called out from every nation, tribe, language, and people, we left our old identities behind and became God’s People.

So what does this mean? Does this mean that we can’t be involved in secular politics? If our true citizenship is in heaven (in other words, if our true citizenship is in this place, gathered around that Table), then does that mean we shouldn’t vote? Of course not. Does this mean that we cannot celebrate our heritage as African Americans (or Scotch-Irish Americans as the case may be)? Of course not. Our identity as Christians does not completely remove us from the world. We are in the world, we just are not of the world.

We do have a heritage on our mother’s side, whether our mother is Israel, Rome, or America. But our true inheritance comes from our Father in heaven. As our Psalm for today says, it is in God that we have a “goodly heritage”.

Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag of the United States of America. Our allegiance is to the Cross of Christ. Hopefully the two cultures will not conflict. In most circumstances we will be able to render unto America the things that are America’s while still rendering unto God the things that are God’s.

But sometimes the kingdom of Christ does conflict with the kingdom of the world. And in that case our choice is clear. No one can serve two masters. And when we count the cost we come to see that Christ is the pearl of great price whose beauty outshines all others. Nothing we desire can compare to him.

In our Epistle reading from Galatians today we find one place where the values of the Kingdom conflict with the values of the World. This week our American neighbors celebrate their high holy day. On the Fourth of July Americans celebrate what they call their “freedom”.

But the word “freedom” means something very different for us as People of God than it does for Americans. When Americans talk about freedom they mean the ability to do what they want to do. Independence Day is the celebration of freedom from the King of England, freedom to decide for ourselves what to do and not to have laws imposed on us by a foreign power. It is a celebration of freedom as Self-Determination.

But it is this idea of freedom – freedom as self-determination – that seduces us into forsaking God. We don’t like to be told what to do. We want to decide for ourselves what to do. We want to perform what Paul calls “the works of the flesh”, things like “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy”, gossip, worry, complaining, and so on. And when God tells us we can’t do these things, we feel resentful. We feel as if he is taking away our freedom.
But that’s because we don’t have a Christian understanding of freedom. We have an American understanding of freedom. We think freedom means doing whatever we want.

Therefore, in the name of Jesus Christ I challenge you to repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near! The Greek word we translate as “repent” is metanoia. It literally means to re-think or to change your mind. We must change our minds, no longer being conformed to the world’s way of thinking, but being transformed by God’s way of thinking.

We must learn to see that the works of self-determining flesh are slavery but we were called instead to a life of Spirit-empowered freedom. We must learn to see that when God tells us to do what he wants instead of what we want, he has our best interests in mind.

God wants us to be happy. It is simply confusion to think that the pursuit of happiness requires “liberty” and “independence”. If we want to be independent from God, we can’t possibly be happy. That’s because God wants us to be happy, so the only way we can choose our own will over God’s will is to choose unhappiness over happiness.

As C.S. Lewis put it “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” Lewis writes that hell is where the damned “enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitted to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”

True freedom is not self-determination and the ability to do what you want. True freedom is slavery to Christ. Paul lists the “fruit of the spirit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are wonderful things that we would all like to do. But it is not as easy as it sounds! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The only way we can actually do these things is to “crucify our flesh” – to put our own desires to death so that it is no longer ourselves that live but Christ who lives in us. We must become slaves to Christ. Then we will be free from selfishness, worry, anger, resentfulness. We will be free to be happy. That is true freedom.

It’s not the American way. But it is the way of the Cross. It’s not the kind of freedom that can be won by violence, revolution, and war. Self-determination can be won by violence. In fact, self-determination can only be won by violence because for me to do what I want I have to prevent others from doing what they want. But, brothers and sisters, that is not true freedom. True freedom can only be won by self-sacrifice, by forsaking the American way for the way of the Cross.

But if we do choose to follow Christ and to walk in the way of the Cross we, like Christ himself, will have nowhere to lay our heads. We will be called out of our identities as Americans and we will become strangers and aliens in the world. And yet – and yet! – we will also be dwelling in Christ and the power of his kingdom. And by God’s grace we will discover that the way of the Cross is none other than the way of life and peace.

In the name of the Almighty King: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.