Divine Love for one another binds us in Unity together in God.”
‘Love in the Spirit’ binds us in unity
Two questions flow from our title. What can help us in our quest for the ‘Love in the Spirit’ which binds us in unity, and what acts to hinder or block it?
At this retreat we are bringing our fractured selves, suffering as we do from what St Paul called our bifurcation of spirit, between our new and our old selves; the spirit and the flesh. We might even call this struggle our particular version of a metaphysical multiple personality disorder, since very often we have more than just two versions of ourselves struggling for the upper hand to define who we are and how we live; in Christ or out of Christ.
As individuals then, we are fragmented. And so it is no surprise that the Church which comprises of fragmented people should also be fragmented. Aware of these serious fractures in our own souls and in the Church, we bring our personal and corporate brokenness before God asking for healing.
HEALING FOR THE BROKEN CHURCH
The brokenness of the Church is a scandal we have long tried to heal. But the remedy was seen as lying in the hands of professional Ecumenical theologians. Their record of success has been very limited.
This healing can almost never be achieved in the same terms that it was fractured. History can never be undone. Committees and synods have no great antidote to miscommunication, thwarted ambition and misunderstanding. Nor do they contain enough discernment to call out the work of the evil one where he sets out to pitch one person against another, one group against another, with the fostering of sectarian interest.
Yet God does not abandon us to brokenness. He sends us His Holy Spirit and through the charism of prophesy He speaks to broken and hardened hearts calling us to repent and warming us with the forgiveness we need for our own souls to be able to be generous with each other. That is why we are here. Through the Messages, the Holy Trinity is drawing each of us into an ever-deeper intimacy of the Divine Love we have come to celebrate. But this Love is not just a warming of the heart or a soothing of the soul. God’s love is fire. Fire to warm, and fire also to purge. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10.31) There is a privilege in being called into this renewal movement but it does not come without pain.
PERPETUATING THE CONFLICTS OF OUR ANCESTORS
Is it just our own brokenness that causes the fractures in the Church? If only it were so simple. In fact we continue the schismatic campaigns of our national and spiritual ancestors. In the Messages, the Lord rebukes us for our complacency in perpetuating the sin of our ancestors.
In November 13 2001, speaking first to the wider church, the Lord invites us to bring an end to the complacency with which we live in our fractured antipathies and remember that our divisions bear the stench of sin. We are to share his dismay:-
Some of us are tempted to defend ourselves by protesting our own broad mindedness, our warm and generous hearts, our inclusivist tendencies. But the Lord reminds us that we come bearing the institutional and confessional baggage of our ancestors.
Many of the identities we enfold ourselves in perpetuate the conflicts of our ancestors. We listen to the rebuke of St Paul as he warns us of our willingness to get sucked into partisanship and tribalism,
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” (1 Cor 3.)
We have moved on from Paul and Apollos; but only to Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola.
For too many people the Church is seen ‘in the flesh’; an organisation with different competitive compartments. We are here to have our eyes opened by the Spirit – so that what we see in one another is not the pattern of a war-torn history, but the presence of Jesus. When we perceive Jesus in each other, we cannot fail to fall spiritually in love with each other, and at that point the healing and the unity of the Church begins.
HOW DO WE LIVE IN THE SPIRIT?
Repentance is the key to this journey from flesh to Spirit.
(TLIG, Nov 13, 2001)
There is no steady state theory of metaphysics. We either hold evil at bay with our purity and humility of heart, or we drive back into schismatic anger and accusation as we channel demonic energies against one another. Our defence against evil lies in our hunger for humility and our willingness to be pliable in the hands of the potter who made us and seeks always to remake us further into His image.
We encounter this Divine Love which binds us together in unity when we change direction and imitate St Paul, both treating the other as better than ourselves, but also in recognition of the charisms that God has generously given different parts of the Church. None of us can be the complete Church, the whole Body of Christ without the presence and charisms of the other.
And this divine unity is known in its most profound way when we gather round the altar together.
(TLIG, Dec 10, 2001)
The sign of our humility, the act of reparation is the gathering around one altar to share one cup.
THE TRINITY AS A MODEL OF UNITY
It is no accident that the Holy Trinity is Three persons embedded in a single unity. And the Church should reflect the Holy Trinity, but is fractured by sin.
In the Trinity, we find this inverted hierarchy of love. A hierarchy in which the Father is our goal and our destination, but the journey into His presence is made possible only by Christ bearing our sins on the cross. The drawing of the soul into the presence of the Father is enabled only by the power of the Holy Spirit who is the ground under our feet as well as the fire in our heart, and Friend on our arm, as we approach the throne of the Father. Each of the aspects of the Trinity is mirrored in the life of the Church. The tragedy for us is that our witness is compromised by our brokenness and so we display a fractured Trinity.
It has been observed by the redoubtable theologian of unity, Leslie Newbiggin, that from the beginning of the 20th Century there are three divisions in the world wide Church. We are divided along the lines of the persons of the Trinity. A Church of the Father, a Church of the Son, and a Church of the Spirit.
It seems as if the Catholics and Orthodox reflect something of the Father, the Protestants of the Son and the Pentecostals of the Spirit.
The Father is represented by the Catholic and Orthodox where the Church resonates with the majesty and the awesomeness of grandeur. We encounter the magnificence and power of His presence before Whom we melt in holy fear. We bow before the glory of the transcendent Father in liturgy, architecture and spirituality. Christ is represented as Pantokrator, the Christ of the final judgement; the cosmic king.
The Protestant face of the Church often mirrors the power and clarity of the Word of God, the Logos. The encounter with the carpenter who pierced the sleeping world with the power of the Word. The suffering servant moving to humiliation and crucifixion, scattering demons and Pharisees on His path. The Good Shepherd who melts the human heart through parables and speaks with unlimited power through the Bible.
The Pentecostal part of the Church emerges with its focus on the power and the gifts and the fruit and the dynamism of the Holy Spirit.
We have three faces of the Godhead, but instead of reflecting the profound spiritual and existential unity of the Godhead, we experience and present a profound division in which we have difficulty recognizing and respecting one another. We have difficulty in recognizing the faces of God and the charisms He has distributed through His Church. These mask our longing and duty to pursue reconciliation and healing.
And what in particular hinders our experience of reconciliation and unity beyond our maculate pride, misunderstandings and lack of integration within and without?
There is a spiritual and metaphysical struggle to be won.
THE SPIRIT OF RATIONALISM
Finding our safety and our bliss in the company of our creator is not simply a matter of willing it. There are barriers that stand in our way. The Messages show us very clearly that one of the chief spiritual obstacles that derails us and the Church is the opposition that we encounter from satan and one of its most effective expressions is the spirit of rationalism. Rationalism appeals especially to the clever and competent. It gives us the illusion that we are mentally in control, and we love being in control. But it is an intellectual form of materialism. It obscures the reality of the spiritual world and the geography of the Kingdom of Heaven as it truly is. It bends the truths of the Kingdom into a different shape.
The Messages are fierce in their warning of our enemy’s strategy and denunciation of it.
(TLIG, July 22, 1994)
Instead of holding up the mirror of Scripture and tradition to measure how far we have surrendered to the surrounding culture, too many in the Church have instead rationalized the lusts of society and began to conform to the shape and priorities of our decadent culture.
How many clergy, in their pursuit of intellectual and cultural approbation, have fallen prey to seeking acceptance in terms of secular intellectual pride and approbation rather than remaining faithful to God. How many have swallowed the rationalised theology that has dominated seminaries and universities for the last 100 years, stripping away the miraculous and the metaphysical and demoting the faith to spirituality and social work?
We are warned in the Messages:
(TLIG, Sept 27 1988)
We know that Satan, with his double attributes as ‘divider’ and ‘accuser’, has devastated the Church from without and from within.
But our Lord is clear in His analysis of what we face on His behalf:
(TLIG, Jan 31 1992)
And the remedy for overcoming our enemy:-
(TLIG, November 16 1988)
(TLIG, July 7 1992)
What are we being called to? A profound unity in the Godhead. Evagrius Ponticus, (4th century writer, philosopher and Christian monk) described long ago the path we are called to of purgation, illumination and union. The first two are not hard to describe but union is more difficult. For this we turn to the Messages.
We are stirred into new life, new hunger and a renewed pilgrimage by Messages from our Father, who sent His Son to find and free us, and carry us home by the power of His Spirit. Let us give our attention and our hearts to the Messages of True Life in God which remind us of what we are called to in the experience of Divine Love which binds us together in unity in the Godhead.
(TLIG, Feb 3 2003)