6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.
6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.
6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
10:32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
10:36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Paul’s great insight into living the path of Christ was that we are not excluded from the pattern of dying in order that we might be raised to a new life. In fact, it’s the core practice. As Matthew puts it, “a disciple is not above his master” (Matthew 10:24). It’s an archetypal pattern, this dying to live, common to all spiritual paths and lineages, but it’s so core to Christianity that it’s inescapable.
And while it’s inescapable, it’s rarely taken seriously. This probably has to do with 1700 years or so of cultural accommodation. After Constantine, the official church became a pillar of Empire. The goal of the Christian life then became, not dying to all the cultural definitions of the good life, but rather exemplifying them. It must have put quite a strain on the Popes, bishops, priests, having to read the frequency with which Paul and Jesus talk about dying in order to live, and yet teaching the people that citizenship in the Kin(g)dom of G_d was fulfilled by being good citizens in the Kingdom of Rome, or the prevailing Empire of the day.
It seems obvious to us today reading the New Testament that something Jesus was teaching put him at odds with the dominant system. Yet, I have to say, this practice of dying to what the prevailing culture defines as the good life, and this dying to the persona in order that the essential self might take the throne, ain’t easy in my experience.
The difficulty only becomes clear only when we get quite specific about one’s particular fears. To get personal for a moment, when I left mother church 18 months ago, I realized how attached I was to financial security. I know, it’s not like anybody is getting rich being a pastor of a congregation. But suddenly I could no longer afford to pay into my pension. I started sharpening the old pencil, calculating the hit I was taking…let’s see a penalty of 4% per year for the next six years, decreasing my pension by 25%. I’m spending whatever equity I had built up in a home over the past 25 years, and experiencing the anxiety of a diminishing net worth—I mean listen to the language! It’s the language of a culture that finds ultimate meaning in what you are “worth”, in what you have “built up”.
The truth is that 18 months ago if you had asked me if I had an issue with financial security, I would have denied it. Look at the career I chose! Obviously I’m not motivated by money. But take away the steady income and watch carefully as creeping desperation tests whether you actually trust Jesus’ teaching that the Father (sic) is watching over the well-being of two sparrows (Matthew 10:29).
In the text this week from the first testament, Jeremiah complains that he felt “enticed” by G_d, but now that his enemies were gathering, this life of being in G_d was not so much fun. I too, feel a divine enticement, but the enemy known as financial security is snapping at my heels. The pernicious temptation, (if I refuse to die to this motivational driver), is to make this financial security a god that secretly drives every interaction and every decision. When your “business” is spiritual in nature, the problem is magnified because what you are putting out looks, smells, and feels counter-cultural—I mean it’s “spiritual” right? But, as we all know, lots of “spiritual” teaching is little more than a product, a commodity, that is in service to an end other than soul.
Our essential nature, our Source nature, is generous, it gives because giving is joyful; its actions flow from a sense of ever-present abundance; it is a celebration of the cycle of abundance as a principle of Nature, and not a calculation of what might be returned to us; it rests in a deep trust that when we act from Source, as Source’s manifestation and channel, all that is needed will be provided for; but to abide in this kind of trust requires that we experience ourselves, not as separate from and in some kind of way, opposed to and opposed by Source, but rather it’s most intimate expression—and this is the mystic’s intuition. It also requires a dying to the felt separation and whatever it is within us that feels and believes in opposition.
This dying that we’re called to undergo consists of dying to the personality that was born and forged around every good reason we were ever given to not trust from birth to childhood into adulthood—all the failures of love, all the disappointments, all the broken promises. We’re crazy to choose to trust in a world like this, peopled only with those who themselves were twisted by the trauma of generations. And yet, we are “enticed” by love, to realize Love, and this requires walking away from the city of fear that is our life, and climb the pyre of dried timber, prepared for us, and lit, by Love itself.
To know “a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5), one in which death and fear have no dominion, feels really, really hard to the separate self. If we can find a way out of it, we’ll find it. This life I guess is only for those who can’t find another way. If we could, we would. It’s only when all those other ways lead to the same dead end—contraction and exhaustion—that we choose to lay the burden of illusion of separation down. May it be so.
The fire has roared near you
The most intimate parts of your body got scorched,
So of course you have run from your marriages into a different House
that will shelter you from embracing every aspect of Him.
God has roared near us.
The lashes on our heart’s eye got burnt.
Of course we have run away from His sweet flaming breath
That proposed an annihilation too real,
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