CCC Blog

Freedom!

One of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther’s more famous written pieces was “On the Freedom of a Christian,” from 1520.  In it, he asserted that through faith, we are “servants to none.”  Nothing else can be added to our faith as a requirement for God’s satisfaction.  We are, after all, justified by faith alone.  We are free, therefore, from all constraints other than faith.  And yet, once justified by that faith we are “servants to all.”  We are free to give and serve – not because in doing so we merit any favor from God.  Rather, we are free from any compulsion to be “good.”  We seek the “good” simply for the mere joy, pleasure and fulfillment it brings.

 

In my morning devotions, I read a reflection this week that offered a similar take on Freedom.  From the Jesuit tradition, it uses different phraseology than Luther, but strikes a similar chord.  That Freedom is associated with faith and turns us outward and not inward.  

 

If life’s purpose lies in getting what you want, as our culture insists, then freedom becomes a very big deal.  Freedom, we think, is what allows us to exercise our “inalienable right” to the pursuit of happiness.  With this view of freedom, it’s easy to feel threatened by constraint.  Our instinct is to resist it with all our might, for it impedes our ability to live the life we think we want.  Yet to maximize this kind of freedom requires that we minimize or even eliminate serious relationships.  For the more we rely on others or others rely on us, the less “free” we are to go wherever we wish to go, pursue whatever we wish to pursue, and do whatever we wish to do. 

 

Love, by definition, constrains us.  And in a society devoted to personal self-fulfillment, the cost of love often seems too high.  Surprisingly, freedom is a very big deal in the Gospels too.  However, here it means something quite different.  When Jesus says, “The truth will set you free,” (John 8:36) he does not mean free to pursue personal happiness.  When St. Paul says, “For Freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1), he does not mean we now have permission to satisfy our every impulse and whim.  Quite the contrary.  In the bible, the “free” person is the one no longer plagued by the burdensome quest for money, pleasure, possessions, social status and political power.  Rather, that one is “free” to pursue relationship; to pursue love.  With Christ.  And with one another. 

 

May we all seek this freedom!

Posted by Michael Karunas with

God In All Things

As you know, I recently spent some days up north in Michigan at the cottage that has been in my family since 1973. Since a child, I have spent some portion of every summer there, on Crystal Lake along the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. One of the things I love about being there is the simple fact that I get a lot of reading done! I always have a stack of books I’m trying to work through (both chosen and recommended) and for whatever reason, I read “very well” there. This year was no different. One of the four books I read was The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr. Rohr is a Franciscan priest who was also trained as a psychologist. Many in our congregation know the works of Rohr, not the least of whom is Don Martin. He “introduced” me to Rohr in 2012 and since then we have shared a similar respect for his writing. 

 

I find Richard Rohr to write very accessibly when it comes to theology and   spirituality. One of the things he does in “The Universal Christ” is to make the distinction between pantheism and panentheism. Pantheism is the believe that everything is a god – the rocks are gods; the trees are gods; the sun is a god, etc... Pantheism has always been looked down upon in Christian history. For, as we know, there is but one God and, as the 10 commandments tell us, we shall have no other god before God, but Panentheism is the belief that God – the one, true God – is revealed in all things. That in creation, God infused the Spirit into all matter, so that the divine presence is in rocks, trees, sun, etc...

 

It is always easy for me to recognize the presence of God in all things when I’m up at my “sacred place” on Crystal Lake. The sunsets, coming storms, forests, and water all speak to God’s majesty. There is even a family of bald eagles that has taken to nesting near our cottage. I certainly hope each of you has a special place like mine where you feel the presence of God in a close and personal way. As the Sufi poet Rumi put it, “We should all have a place on earth where we kneel to kiss the ground.”  

 

 

But the more important challenge is to believe that the presence of God is close in every situation and location, wherever we find ourselves. This means that God is revealed even in those places and situations that are uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. And that God is, furthermore, in everyone - which means even in those people different than we are and, if we are honest with ourselves, those with whom it is difficult to find connection or even be around.

 

The ability to see God in everything and everyone is something that seems especially important today and that those who give themselves to that effort are ones the world needs now more than ever. May we all strive to do just that.    

Blessings… Michael

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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