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Transformational Knowing of Self and God

  • Focusing on God while failing to know ourselves deeply may produce an external form of piety, but it will always leave a gap between appearance and reality
  • Knowledge that Fills
  • “It would be more accurate to say that he believed God is forgiving but did not know this as an experiential truth”
  • “Listening to the things he told me about his life was like reading a throwaway paperback novel or watching a B-grade movie. The role he was playing lacked depth and reality. It was two-dimensional”
  • Knowledge that Transforms
  • People who are afraid to look deeply at themselves will of course be equally afraid to look deeply at God. For such persons, ideas about God provide a substitute for direct experience of God
  • Peter’s Transformational Knowing
  • Peter’s inner knowing at several points on his journey
  • First being called by Jesus to follow Him
  • His encounter with Jesus walking on water
  • Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet
  • Peter’s denial of Christ
  • Peter’s encounter with the risen Christ, out in water fishing
  • Being asked 3 times by Jesus if he loved Him

Knowing God

  • The Christian God is known only in devotion, not objective detachment. This is why Paul’s prayer is that we may know the love of Christ and so be filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). This is transformational knowing.
  • To know God demands that we be willing to be touched by Divine love.
  • The meditation I am recommending is not the same as Bible study. It is more an exercise of the imagination than of the intellect. It involves allowing the Spirit of God to help you imaginatively enter an event in the life of Christ as presented in the Gospels.
  • Another struggle for me was the feeling that meditation was a waste of time… That is what friends do together–they waste time with each other. Simply being together is enough without expecting to “get something” from the interaction. It should be no different with God
  • Meeting God in the events of life
  • This is the core of the spiritual journey–learning to discern the presence of God, to see what really is. But nothing is more dangerous than presuming that we already see when we do not
  • The goal is simply increased awareness of God in the events of life and the depths of my being. It is attending to the God who is present.
  • In general, “what questions (such as, What was I feeling? What disturbed me about that comment? What exactly made me anxious?) are better than “why” questions (Why did I feel threatened? Why did that bother me?)
  • And avoid making demands of yourself or God. Just accept whatever comes from each experience, each day.

First Steps Towards Knowing Yourself

  • Neither knowing God nor knowing self can progress very far unless it begins with a knowledge of how deeply we are loved by God.
  • Knowing Your Ignored Part-selves
  • If I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty
  • Self-Acceptance and Self-Knowing
  • To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted–even embraced.
  • Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance
  • Self-acceptance does not increase the power of things that ultimately need to be eliminated. Rather, it weakens them. It does so because it robs them of the power that they develop when they operate outside of awareness and outside the embrace of self-acceptance

Knowing Yourself as You Really Are

  • A little girl hides her hatred of her brother because she knows that she should love him. This lack of integrity is then reinforced by her parents, who commend her loving behavior
  • We learn to fake it, appearing as we think important others want us to be and ignoring the evidence to the contrary
  • Knowing Yourself as a Sinner
  • You are not simply a sinner; you are a deeply loved sinner. And there is all the difference in the world between the two.
  • Getting Behind Sins to Sin
  • Stuart had learned to cover his resentment over his unnoticed specialness with a mask of false humility. But beneath this lay a smoldering fire of bitterness. Pride suggested that he deserved special treatment. When he didn’t get this, he withdrew in hurt and anger. This, in turn, led to a sense of being cut off and deprived of intimacy. And this was behind his attraction to pornography
  • Discovering our core sin tendencies is helpful because it lets us deal with our problems at their root. But even more than this, it is helpful because discovery of our core sin tendencies will inevitably fill us with such despair and hopelessness that we will have no option but to turn to God
  • As is always the case when one finds one’s true type within the Enneagram, this was initially accompanied by a horrifying sense of humiliation. How could I dare name my basic sin as deceit? How willing I suddenly was to own any of the other eight basic sins! How profoundly exposed I suddenly felt!


  • Baptism does not confer on us a status that marks us off from everybody else
  • it is to accept that to be Christian is to be affected – you might even say contaminated – by the mess of humanity
  • baptism brings you into proximity not only with God the Father, not only with the suffering and muddle of the human world, but with all those other people who are invited to be there as well
  • the life of the baptized is a life of prophecy and priesthood and royalty


  • hearing God’s voice
  • you must not jump to conclusions while the story is being told
  • One of the great tragedies and errors of the way people have understood the Bible has been the assumption that what people did in the Old Testament must have been right ‘because it’s in the Bible’. It has justified violence, enslavement, abuse and suppression of women, murderous prejudice against gay people; it has justified all manner of things we now cannot but as Christians regard as evil. But they are not there in the Bible because God is telling us, ‘That’s good.’ They are there because God is telling us, ‘You need to know that that is how some people responded. You need to know that when I speak to human beings things can go very wrong as well as very wonderfully.’ God tells us, ‘You need to know that when I speak, it isn’t always simple to hear, because of what human beings are like.’ We need, in other words, to guard against the temptation to take just a bit of the whole story and treat it as somehow a model for our own behaviour.
  • As Christians read the Bible, the story converges on Jesus


  • In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company
  • Holy Communion makes no sense at all if you do not believe in the resurrection
  • So as we give thanks over bread and wine in the presence of the Lord we are – with him and in him – seeking to make that connection between the world and God, between human experience and the divine and eternal Giver. And that means that we begin to look differently at the world around us
  • To take seriously what is going on in the Holy Eucharist is to take seriously the whole material order of the world. It is to see everything in some sense sacramentally
  • If Jesus gives thanks over bread and wine on the eve of his death, if Jesus makes that connection between the furthest place away from God, which is suffering and death, and the giving and outpouring of his Father, and if in his person he fuses those things together, then wherever we are some connection between us and God is possible
  • All places, all people, all things have about them an unexpected sacramental depth. They open on to God the Giver
  • We take Holy Communion not because we are doing well, but because we are doing badly
  • When we gather as God’s guests at God’s table, the Church becomes what it is meant to be


  • Origen has more practical advice: you can pray anywhere, he says, don’t imagine it’s restricted to special places. But that does not mean that prayer is just a casual matter; physical stillness and physical solitude matter (pg 67)
  • being ready to pray is being at peace with other people
  • Gregory: prayer heals relations (pg 72)
  • it is a little bit like the experience that the Zen Buddhists speak of when they have sat with the paradox or the riddle for such a long time that they finally realize that they are never going to solve it; then enlightenment happens (pg 74)
  • Cassian: “O God, make speed to save me”
  • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”
  • Prayer is your promise and pledge to be there for the God who is there for you

Treasure in Clay Jars

2 Corinthians 4:5-15, NRSV
Matthew 5:13, NRSV


Whenever we deny that we’re wounded, we prepare the perfect breeding ground for bitterness, anger, cynicism, coldness, and rage. When we don’t recognize and accept our wounds and frustrations, we easily grow cold, grow hard, and toughen our skins, minds, and hearts. We turn away in bitterness from what’s soft and life giving to what’s hard so as to put a protective shell over our wounded pride. It seems the only way to preserve ourselves.
But there’s another option — grieving, mourning, tears. We can mourn our losses and cry the kind of tears that rip open our feelings of security and safety and bring us face to face with the painful truth that we are broken, not whole, disappointed, and unable to actualize our dreams. When we grieve, we soften, rather than harden, our hearts in the face of loss and humiliation.

— Ronald Rolheiser

  • Life of Intentionality
  • v5-6: Face of Christ is face of victim from violence
  • Standing along side with the victims, in solidarity
  • Living in life of generosity to others

  • Life of Honesty and Humility
  • Clay jars – never perfect in shape

  • Life of Trust in God’s Bigger Story
  • v13-15: because of resurrection, that death is not the final word

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The Gift of Life Together

2 Corinthians 2:1-17, NRSV


People take time. But in our haste, we size them up or cut them down to what we take to be a more manageable size, labeling people instead of trying to hear, understand or welcome them. And we love our labels as ourselves even as they don’t — and can’t — do justice to the complexity of our own lived lives or anyone else’s. It’s as if we’ll do anything to avoid the burden of having to think twice.”

— David Dark

  • We all have God-size hole in our hearts
  • We also have man-size hole in our hearts
  • Paul knows the challenge of life together, but also the gift of life together

  • The Challenge
  • The moment we think we have figured out someone, relationship with that person tends to go downhill
  • Relationship of any kind is work
  • Tears as attachment behavior

  • To Paul, pain is part of gift
  • Pain/sorrow, forgiveness, deeper form of pain
  • Old New Yorker article by Richard O. Boyer, on Duke Ellington and his band in working out a collective arrangement, with sound sometimes clashing in the process

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The God of All Consolation

2 Corinthians 1:1-11, NRSV


It is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that i will only happen to you if you are bad (which is what religious people often think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it. No, it will happen, and to you!
… Because the rational mind cannot process love or suffering, it tends to either avoid them, deny them, or blame somebody for them, when in fact they are the greatest spiritual teachers of all, if we but allow them.

— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

  • Consolation
  • Comfort
  • Strengthening
  • One person being with another
  • God is the source of all blessings

  • Don’t practice suffering alone
  • Case of being in Community:
  • C.S. Lewis laments about in losing a friend, he also loses a side of another friend because of the effect
  • In the same way, we see more of Jesus when we are in community, so others can be tool of consolation

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Strugglers Welcome

Luke 24:13-35, NRSV


Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred… where we spend much of our lives, you and I, the place that we go to in order to escape — a bar, a movie, wherever it is that we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.” But there are some things that even in Emmaus we cannot escape. We can escape our troubles, at least for a while. We can escape the job we did not get or the friend we hurt. We can even escape for a while the awful suspicion that life makes no sense and that the religion of Jesus is just a lot of wishful thinking. But the one thing we cannot escape is life itself… Emmaus is where we go when we think the world ends with crucifixion.

— Frederick Buechner,
The Magnificent Defeat

  • How we miss Jesus
  • v21 – “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”
  • We caught up in despair and sadness, and not recognize Jesus

  • How we find Jesus
  • To retell the greater story that is big enough to hold our expectations as well as our disappointments

  • How we follow Jesus
  • First by listening to that story, in the midst of pain and confusion
  • Then retell the stories
  • Be in community, share meal together

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Enemies Welcome

Acts 9:1-19, NRSV


The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.

— G.K. Chesterton

  • It is our experience, good or bad, of our lives that teaches us
  • Paul’s transformation from violence to breakdown to being welcomed by his enemies
  • v16 – By God’s command, Ananias went to Saul, extending the welcome of resurrection with compassion
  • God sends us to be Ananias to those who are blind, so that they may open their eyes and see, and be filled with the Holy Spirit

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Failures Welcome

John 20: 1-19, NRSV
Psalm 32:1-2, NRSV


We must always be ready to be surprised by God. They were, that spring morning, the third time they saw him after his resurrection… They were surprised by the huge catch… They were surprised by Jesus himself. And they were surprised, we may suppose, at themselves. Who were they? What were they doing? What was to happen next? When God ceases to surprise us, that may be the moment we have ceased to do business with him.

— Tom Wright
John For Everyone Part II

  • In facing failure, we need:
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Commission

  • Community
  • Let God’s love and grace come through others
  • We want community of very different people, to let God’s love and grace come from many different ways
  • Disciples were gathering in secret, to support one another, reflecting together, after crucifixion of Jesus

  • Compassion
  • v7 – although Peter was brought down by shame and guilt, Jesus welcomed him with compassion and called him to himself, showing God is full of grace and mercy

  • Commission
  • Jesus addressed Peter’s specific failure, giving him exactly three times to reclaim his denial into love
  • Jesus pushed Peter toward a new commission
  • God is inviting us to love by following him in action

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Doubters Welcome

John 20: 19-31, NRSV
Psalm 56:1-4; 8-11, NRSV


I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, “I’m a Christian.” I think, “Already?” It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying and blowing it.

— Maya Angelou

  • Disciples are more known for their failures
  • We are often pegged to certain identity, based on what happen to us
  • We often reduce our identity to our failures

  • Thomas’ Failure – Doubt
  • Jesus reacted to Thomas by paying attention to his specific pain and invited him to behold his own wounds with his hands
  • God meets us with peace and comfort in our pain

  • v29 – Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe
  • Jesus turned Thomas’s own pain and doubt to face outward to others and their pain and doubts in mission

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Weepers Welcome

John 20: 10-18, NRSV
Psalm 56:8, NRSV


Tears are a biological gift of God. They are a physical means for expressing emotional and spiritual experience. But it is hard to know what to do with them. If we indulge our tears, we cultivate self-pity. If we suppress our tears, we lose touch with our feelings. But if we pray our tears we enter into sadnesses that integrate our sorrows with our Lord’s sorrows and discover both the source of and the relief from our sadness.

— Eugene H. Peterson
Psalms: Prayers of the Heart

  • Pain
  • Mary in deep sorrow, deep pain
  • How you deal with loss sets course of direction of your life
  • With loss, we change at the fork: if we don’t transform the pain, we transmit the pain to others

  • Grace
  • To know that you are known by God and loved by God

  • Mission
  • When we have seen and experienced God’s grace, we become conduits of that grace to others

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