Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Most Unpopular Topic Ever

 

Acrylic on Gallery Canvas8” x 8”

” Burning Hearts” Acrylic on Gallery Canvas DS

The Spirituality of Sin

Luckily I will keep it short if not sweet! (Oops, not short either.)

Sin is a bad word now. It is worse than all of the other bad words of swearing, cussing, foul language or whatever the term of the hour. The word ‘sin’ is so bad it is unmentionable. You will never hear it pass anyone’s lips, of any age, young or old – perhaps not even in a sermon if you hear one.

The Book of Romans says: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” All – wow. Surely some of us are good. Sin in the Greek means ‘to miss the mark of perfection’. “Well”, we say, “no one is perfect.” Yet the Book of Romans continues: “The wages of sin is death.” Surely not really, we think.

What to do, what to do, we worry. Indeed, what is there that we can do, even if we wanted to? Sometimes life is like that. We get stuck. We become trapped. Like the web of addiction and denial, are our myriad failed ways to cope, to be free of pain. We need help from the outside – an intervention, of sorts – actually on a cosmic scale. Also like the person addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, porn or unhealthy relationships, we must say: “I need help.” and, “I need an interventionist.”

Through the love of society, community, family, we enter detox and treatment, then recovery of a life of freedom from addiction is possible. Through the sacrificial love of God sending his Son Jesus, we can be delivered from sin. We cannot do it ourselves but we can choose help. We look up and heaven sends deliverance.

The Spirit cleans, fills us and teaches us the things of Jesus. It is instant detox. Yet we must enter treatment – a public declaration that we need help and are surrendering to it. Some treatment facilities provide 30 days, some 90 days; some are entered for a year or more. Yet the wise person knows he/she must be in active recovery for a lifetime.

So it is with entering the Kingdom of God. This is the true Easter story. In baptism we symbolize dying with Christ and rising with him to become a new creature. Discipleship, mentorship, the contemplative life, the spiritual journey, the Way, are each labels for this lifetime process of learning to live a new life.

In a community of like people, the church, as members of AA do, support one another, socialize together and pass on the message to those still living in bondage to addiction or sin. We can live clean, free lives, trusting in the power of God. God’s love sustains us. What is it the AA big book says – We admitted we were powerless and became willing for a power greater than ourselves to restore us?

They say that addiction is a disease marked with relapse. As we learn to walk the new road we find ‘good Samaritans’ along the way to companion us. No one chooses to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. A life of pilgrimage is always walked in community even if there are periods of being hermits together like some of the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the 4th century. Even they would leave their cells and meet several times a year.

Sin; missing the mark – what is the mark we are missing anyway? The mark, I proffer, is the sign of the cross and a person living in peace with one’s Maker. This true peace is it the de facto opposite of sin? Life in the Beloved may be a life of continuing freedom to forgive, to love – even the seemingly unforgivable and unlovable. We are not puppets, we choose. We are persons made in the image of God.

Yet, as the newcomer to AA discovers, I relapse. I regress at times. I fail to pray, to forgive, to love, to be humble, to be a maker. Also true is that I now know how to be high on life – to sing and to dance, to have fun meaningful conversations, to smell flowers, to see a newborn child or view my completed painting. I find myself pondering the greatest high of all – Is it not to taste the very sinless, perfect, presence of God and to be the very person we are made to be, to love as we are loved? Once experienced can we be happy with lesser freedoms?

 

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. 

Book of Luke

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The Tree That I am

 

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 “Dundas Street West, Toronto” DS 2016

An urban prayer walk – do not know what the tree is but I recognize the shape as my own – tall, strong, beautifully complex yet stripped down. However, this is me in winter. Soon leaves will show their buds of green. My sap runs thick and healthful even in the cold. Like maple syrup it will run for others to drink in the spring. People will even hammer jagged spouts in me to get what is in me out. They catch my lifeblood in buckets. I hope it will do them some good.

Pink flowers, tiny, star-shaped and fragrant pop open one day. I am more delighted by this than any other observer who looks up. They live for a while then die. I remember this blooming last year. I thought it would be forever this hot pink pulchritude. Petals on the streets were my outpouring of love. The streets looked paved in pink for a short few weeks. Then it all went brown. The death of petals is most sad – such a cruel contrast of life and death.

Soon, however, I noticed the leaves growing so large and multi-toned stretching out to catch the blue sky sun. Glory is what comes to me. This glory is even after the blooming is over. Is this the loveliness of middle age?

Then the heat of such growth gives way to the slowing coolness of autumn. The leaves large, veiny become scarlet red, burgundy, orange, burnt umber and lime to evoke awe. They show their true colours then become crispy and die.

I will not fear this death, as I know from past experience that this is when my roots go down far and wide seeking the moisture that keeps me alive although I look dead. This dormancy is my daily experience for now. It feels cold, dead, sparse – lonely.

This waiting will soon pass, I know. Birds of red, blue and yellow will be back to rest, feed and sing in my branches. I will feed some and provide shade for others and impress them in their rest with my splendor. This sap, this Spirit, will raise and beautify me again.

Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

Book of Daniel