Wednesday, January 20, 2016

learning the lingo: sanctification

"Sanctification" (also "sanctify") is one of those churchy words that you probably will never hear uttered more than 50 feet away from a steeple. It's supposed to be an especially important idea for Methodists, but what does it mean? If you're not fluent in churchese, you might not be clear on this. What's a preacher talking about when she talks about sanctification?

I happened on a nice definition earlier that I wanted to pass along. According to United Methodist bishop Scott Jones, in his book The Evangelistic Love of God and Neighbor, sanctification "is becoming the kind of person who fulfills the Great Commandments." Remember the Great Commandments? Jesus was asked what the single greatest commandment was in all the law, and he said, quoting the Old Testament:

'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

So sanctification, according to Jones, is becoming the kind of person who fulfills these two commandments, becoming the kind of person who loves God and loves your neighborsand loves yourself, since he says to 'love your neighbor as yourself'. The goal of sanctification, Bishop Jones says, is a life shaped by love: "One loves God, oneself, and others." (I personally believe you have to include the animals under 'others' or 'neighbors' here too.)

There are a lot of other ways you can talk about sanctification - usually people emphasize becoming holy, and "sanctify" does come from santcus, the Latin word for 'holy' - but to me, this is so simple and clear that it's hard to beat. Sanctification means becoming the kind of person who fulfills the Great Commandments, who loves God, himself, and others, whose life is shaped by love.

Now the bigger question, besides 'what does it mean?', is 'am I experiencing sanctification?' Am I growing into that person Jesus called me to be? Am I seeking opportunities to grow and to exercise my love for God, my love for others, and my love for myself?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Sunday the news broke that musician, actor, and artist David Bowie passed away at age 69, after an 18 month battle with cancer. He had released a new album just last week, which now we know was a sort of parting gift from the music legend.

My wife, Emily, is a devoted Bowie fan and has been since before I met her. (She ordered his new album a few weeks back, and it should come in this week, though the listening experience will be very different now.) I had never really listened to his music until we were married. I'm still no connoisseur, but now I do get excited anytime I hear "Heroes" and "Modern Love," and I appreciate a good parody. I would say that, to me, his greatest work is the film The Prestige... if it weren't for "Under Pressure."

Bowie and Freddy Mercury wrote and recorded "Under Pressure" together in 1981. I know it's probably cliché, but this is my favorite Bowie song, and here is a chilling isolated vocal track of the song (apologies to the rest of Queen!) that I wanted to share in honor of, well, both of these men. What music.

"Love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves. This is our last dance..."

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

"Let your light shine..."

It's January 6th, which means today is Epiphany! Epiphany is the day when many Christians remember the coming of the Wise Men to see Jesus and bring their famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
It's also a day when we think about God's light: the light of that star that led the magi to find the child, the "dawning radiance" of God's glory that has risen upon the world in Jesus (Isa 60:1-3 CEB). In our Epiphany celebration on Sunday, I preached on that Isaiah passage, connecting it with Matthew 5:14-16: while Jesus is the light of the world that dawned at Christmas, the followers of Jesus are also called "the light of the world," whose goods works should shine that light on others.

In that spirit, I want to offer some verses from Charles Wesley (1707-1788) as an Epiphany mediation for us:

Freely to all ourselves we give,
Constrained by Jesu's love to live
    The servants of mankind.
Now, Jesu, now thy love impart,
To govern each devoted heart,
    And fit us for thy will!
Deep founded in the truth of grace,
Build up thy rising church, and place
    The city on the hill.
O let our faith and love abound!
O let our lives to all around
    With purest lustre shine!
That all around our works may see,
And give the glory, Lord, to thee,
    The heavenly light divine!

Charles Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Bicentennial Edition, Vol. 7, 704.