Month: February 2012

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Wednesday)

… “Is it permitted on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill?”  Mark 3:4

Tradition and law help to define human culture.  These practices and principles allow mankind to live in order by defining rules of behavior.  Breaking these for the purpose of selfish gain or pleasure violates the spirit of humanity in the whole community.  Such rebels should and must be corrected and, if need be, duly punished.

Croaker Pier (© John Gresham)

But, what happens when tradition and law are broken for better purposes?  Should fasting be universally mandated to all in the same way, or is it a practice of individual conscience as long as he or she is on a path to spiritual truth?  Must people be denied the things they need for the sake of maintaining a certain ideology?  Shall people be left broken because to heal them would break a certain law?  Jesus broke the tradition and law of his people.  But, he did these things not to feed his greed or lust, which he didn’t have in him.  No, he rebelled for the sake of spirit and humanity.  The pursuit of holiness is more than self-denial of necessary nourishment.  The needs of people should be met no matter what day it is.  It is never the wrong day to do good, heal, and save.

Some misguided blacks as well as racist whites thought that Dr. Martin Luther King should have been patient and waited for the day of integration and racial reconciliation to come.  But, from the Birmingham City Jail, he made us quite aware of the fact that no one should wait to bring about the goodness of God.   It was illegal for Maximilian Kobe to give aid to persecuted Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.  This man with a German name could have easily avoided death at Auschwitz.  But, he offered his life in the place of another.  These and many others didn’t break the law for their own personal benefit.  But, they did so in pursuit of spirit to give freedom and life to a suffering humanity.

Let us obey tradition and law that does maintain proper order for a functioning society.  But, when they prevent people from receiving the fullness of spirit and life, God calls us to rebel and do so in the holy love of Jesus.

Your Brother in Christ our Lord,

Cyrprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (First Tuesday)

… “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.  I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”  Mark 2:17

By his very name, Levi was supposed to be counted among the very righteous.  The Levites were the tribe where the priest were called and chosen from.  Even if he weren’t from that tribe, his parents were hopeful that their son would live to the highest standards of their faith and culture.

Alas, Levi was a tax collector.  In a cultural/political sense, he was a traitor to his people because he collected revenue enforced by the occupying Roman Empire.  By association, he was a wicked man because the temptation to exploit others for personal gain was always at hand.  Pious Jews had nothing to do with tax collectors.  These outcast could only attract others like them as friends.

Self Searching Among Many © John Gresham

One pious man walked past Levi’s office and invited him into his company.  The great favor was met with a meal at Levi’s home and among his kind.  To the Pharisees, doing something as communal and fraternal as sharing a meal with sinners and tax collectors was an insult to their sense of nationalism and righteous behavior.

The reply Jesus gave should serve as a pattern and warning for us.  He came for the sick and sinners.  We must never consider ourselves to be so perfectly well and righteous that we can look down on and reject the humanity of others.  When we get to a point of self-righteousness, we say in our hearts that we don’t need Jesus.  When we admit that we have not lived up to perfect moral standards, are constantly surrounded by temptations, live among those who are in the same boat we are in; when we admit we are sick, Jesus will come by our door and call us to follow him.  We then must invite him into our lives, share him with others like us, and go where he leads us.

Yours in Christ

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (First Monday)

“Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk’?” Mark 2:9

There is perhaps no greater need that we have than to receive the power of forgiveness.  Clothing, food, and shelter are important enough.  But, they meet the needs of the body.   A cold, naked, and hungry soul cannot be satisfied with human sustenance.  Even having full physical health means little without the recovery and restoration of the soul.  Earning the wages for basic needs takes labor.  To heal the body may take something as simple as a band-aid or a complex medical procedure.  To this paralyzed man Jesus freely gives what he is in most need of, forgiveness.  There is no evidence of any particular sin he is guilty of, great or small.  Yet, Jesus rewards those who diligently seek him as this man and his friends did.  The physical healing was the Lord’s response to the critics to show that he does have the ability to forgive sins.  The original blessing was forgiveness.

New Morning

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  As people who are spiritually paralyzed, we must diligently seek forgiveness.  Certainly, if we are in need of employment, finances, good health, and the like; we should make our petitions to the one who is able to give what we stand in need of.  But, these things are outward, secondary blessings.  Without the inward original blessing, all other things will come to nothing.  With the original blessings, there is the real possibility for others to follow if we have a diligent faith.  Seek forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

Yours in the Lord,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

The Importance Of Self Examination

God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns.  Make sue that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road to eternity.  Psalm 139:23,24 (New Jerusalem Bible)

Western Christians are already into the first week.  Orthodox brothers and sisters will begin Wednesday.  The Lenten season is our time of fasting, reflection, and self-examination.  Too often, modern society acts as if such soul-searching isn’t that important or only needs to be done when we hit a time of crisis.  When the spouse or parent has abused to a point of causing injury or the addict has hit “rock bottom.”  We know from an old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  I offer to you this morning that if we make self-examination a part of who we are, much of our self-inflicted sorrows can be better managed if not avoided all together.

Rays on the Voyage

David calls upon the Lord to search his heart and thoughts.  He understands that the Holy One made his very inward parts in the most inward places so that nothing about him is unknown to him.  There is no place the king of Israel can go, from the heights of heaven and the mountains to the depths of hell and the sea, that God is not there.   Recognition of the Almighty and All-knowing puts our lives in proper perspective.  Even if we can fool and hide from our fellows, we cannot do such things with him.  Thus we are called to be careful of our thoughts and actions.

David is also expressive of his hate of the wicked.  He prays for divine wrath against them and counts himself on the side of God.  But, he concludes the Psalm asking that he would be searched by the Holy One to insure that he is walking on the Holy Path.  It would be shameful to pray an end to evil doers and he would find himself among them.  By this seeking of self-examination, it is said of David that he was a man after God’s own heart and did what was right before God and followed all of his commandments, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.  No, the king was not perfect.  But, his imperfection was greatly limited.

If you are of a faith that does not observe Lent (as we Baptist do not have it in our doctrine), I recommend you consider the practice.  Designate time during the day to focus on the Lord searching your heart and thoughts.  Practice self-discipline to deny yourself access to something that you normally indulge in.  After Lent is over, make self-examination a part of who you are so that the Lord can guide you to his kingdom.

Your Brother In Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

 

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (First Saturday)

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. – Mark 1:35

Jesus became very popular in Capernaum and throughout Galilee.  He was the teacher of greater authority than that of the scribes and priest.  Demons proclaimed his holiness as he drove them out of their victims.  He healed all sorts of illnesses from fevers to skin diseases.  Despite his commands that the healed should keep the blessing to themselves, they couldn’t help but to tell others of the Lord’s power.

 

Continue On The Path (© John Gresham)

Yet Jesus did not get caught up in the praises of people.  He spent a lonely time in a lonely place to communicate with the father in heaven.  He healed out of compassion ordering that his evident power not be used to promote him.  And even when he left one place to the next seeking freedom of movement and found none, he resided in the empty places, yet still pursued by crowds.  True holy power is not necessarily defined by the number of people who gather around it.  True holy power is defined by how it seeks to be close to its source, how it responds to the needs it sees, and how it responds to the crowds that follow it.  Jesus didn’t get to big to go to his own prayer closet.  Nor did he have to pimp the people he showed mercy on to hype his name.  Nor did he revel in all of the attention given to him.

Let us not be swayed by the modern ministers who misuse their calling.  Let we  who are called to proclaim the Gospel not get caught up in ourselves.  Devote time alone to pray.  Give out of love with no desire for self glory.  Live humbly enough to have peace in mind.  If we are faithful in these things, people will come to us.  Perhaps in mass, or no more than a handful.  But, true holy power will draw those who seek healing and the word of God.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

P.S.  A special thanks to Dr. Gina Stewart who preached a fantastic sermon on this text “Crowd Control” at the Hampton University Minister’s Conference in 2009.

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (First Friday)

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”   –  Mark 1:15

What is the Gospel that Jesus is referring to in this portion of his ministry?  Surely he is not going about Galilee proclaiming he has died and risen from the tomb.  He hasn’t even told this to the first four disciples yet as he has just called them to be fishers of men.  So, was Jesus foretelling what would happen to him to masses of people even before he would tell his closest followers who wouldn’t understand him?

Praise for Good News

I revert back to the previous 14 verses of this chapter.  The word of prophecy has been fulfilled.  The voice that cried out in the wilderness, John the Baptist,  has fulfilled his purpose.   Jesus was baptized by this man of great faith and simple life.  Baptism was for repentance and forgiveness of sin though he had no sin.  Jesus was confirmed as the coming Lord by the Father and the Holy Spirit.   The Lord had withstood testing and tempting by Satan and came through the desert without sin.  John’s imprisonment now opens the door for the ministry that he said would be greater than his.  Therefore, the Good News is that one can receive spiritual renewal and victory over evil by believing that Jesus is the prophesied Lord from Heaven because he has become one with us and triumphed over Satan.  Repent and believe.

John’s baptism flew in the face of the Pharisees call for strict, legal obedience as it didn’t follow the Mosaic ritual.  It was an antithesis to the earthy rule of Herod and Rome as he spoke of something greater.  Jesus declared not the restoration of David’s Israel nor the majesty of Cesar.  “The Kingdom of God is close at hand.”   Entrance into this divine realm only two things are required.  Repent and believe.

May you see beyond burdensome legalism and supremacist arrogance.  Good News is simple and available to all.  Repent and believe.

Yours In Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (first Thursday)

And at once the Spirit drove him into the desert.  Mark 1:12

Jesus had just been confirmed as the Son of God by the Heavenly Father Himself.  The Holy Spirit came down upon him as he came up out of the water.  Indeed, the very heavens wer torn apart as he arose from being baptized by John.  We think we have “arrived” when we earn a college degree, get a promotion at work, or marry that special person.  What greater arrival could this man from Nazareth receive than to have the heavens and total holiness speak and act  on his behalf!

The moment of arrival is followed by many days of testing in a desolate land.  We all seek the pinnacles of praise and honor.  But, we often ignore and avoid the deserts of examination.  These are not pleasant places.  Along the Jordan, the place of the moment of arrival, there is the support of others and sustaining resources.  The desert has no river, lush plant life, and few people live there.  John sang his praises before he came to the river.  Satan waited to bring him down in the hot sands.  The same Spirit that fell on Jesus in the great confirmation now brought him to a place of a much longer confrontation.

It is immature for the Christian to believe that the faith is a hedge against difficulty.  As if having the Holy Spirit is a guarantor of ease and pleasure.  If Jesus can be compelled to go to a place of desolate examination, who are we not to expect the same?   No, the Spirit will take us from our moments of arrival and send us to our many days of testing.  We are not exempt from such trials.

But, be encouraged.  In the words of the old Negro Spiritual, “Trouble don’t last always.”  No matter what deserts the Spirit leads us to or what demon awaits to tempt us, it is only for a designated time.  Be encouraged.  Although the lions, venomous serpents, and other creatures were in the desert with Jesus, they didn’t attack him.  The Spirit that leads us to the test gives us protection through the test.  There was no disciple even made at this time, much less one present that could abandon him (as they did later).  God provided his holy messengers who could only do as directed, to keep him during the time in the desert.  Be encouraged.  The Father never leaves his children alone.

Dawn on the Valley

Expect your desert testing.  Expect it to be longer than your Jordan arrival.  Expect to be protected from destruction and assisted by a greater source.  Expect to come through the test to serve a greater task.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctirne of Christ (Ash Wednesday)

I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit – Mark 1:8

John the Baptist was a holy man full of truth and grace.  He proclaimed baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sin, wore simple clothes, ate simple food, and taught there was someone greater than himself.  There were some Jewish Zealots who sought armed struggle against the Roman oppressors.  Others conspired with the occupiers for personal gain.  Most simply resigned themselves to their lot.  John leads the way above these three states of mind.

Lynnhaven Dawn

Repentance and forgiveness of sin is a far greater calling than militancy.  The latter relies on violent human to defeat a human enemy.  The former relies on God’s mercy to defeat the spiritual enemy.  The later seeks earthly territory.  The former desires a place in the heavenly kingdom.  One struggles for dominance and the other invites vulnerability.  Even in victory, the militant is only temporary.  The soul that repents and is forgiven becomes immortal.  There is no doubt as to which is greater.

Simple living is greater than feasting founded on corruption.  The simple relies on the God who provides to bless the work of his hands.  In times of feast or famine, they are sustained for they have God as their resource.  Of those who require bribes, theft, and usury; what hope do they have when trouble comes their way?  To constantly sell their souls to the highest bidder, or any bidder, for the best meal they can find.  As the bidders are mere mortals, their feast is tainted and doomed.  Even the morsels of the righteous are more blessed than their banquets.

Awards, honors, and trophies of all sorts may be well deserved.  But, they mean little to the Greater One who is coming.  The true purpose in life is not to gain human glory.  We are called to live in expectation of the one who brings heavenly glory.  To indulge in one’s own light is a betrayal to the True Light that gives life to people.  John understood his purpose as a voice that proceeds the Coming Sound of the Greater Trumpet.

Let us understand our purpose.  Live to bring about healing of ourselves and others, reliant on God and our efforts, constantly seeking his mercy, and expecting him to come into our lives in fullness.

Bro. Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

Justified By Humility

“The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.'”  Luke 18:13

Too often, we define a right relationship with God as being based on morality and following ritual.  We don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or have sex outside of marriage.  We attend church, mass, fast during lent, or read the Bible.  There is no doubt that morality and ritual are helpful in society and a spiritual lifestyle.  Without condemning these, Jesus teaches that they are not the things that give us justification with the Father.

There is a higher view than ours

Please note, the tax collector practices the ritual of going to the temple just like the Pharisee.  But, being a tax collector puts him in a perpetual state of sin according to the devout Jews of the time.  He makes no mention of any specific sin that many of his colleagues were engaged in such as cheating people out of money or sexually exploiting women who were unable to pay.  For all we know, he may have fasted and tithed as much as the Pharisee.  Yet, because of who he is in society, the tax collector regards himself as a sinner greatly in need of God’s mercy.  It is the humble acknowledgement and expressiveness of his prayer that God looks favorably upon and blesses.

No matter who we are (or who we think we are), humans are constantly in a state of sin.  Even those of us who are moral and practice ritual are surrounded by temptations and fall to them more often than we would like to admit.  We hate even though we don’t murder, lust even though we don’t rape and have removed pens and post-it pads from our workplaces rather than rob banks.  The preacher of Ecclesiastes was right to say “There is not a man on earth that does what is right and does not sin.”

To make a relationship right with God, one must do as this tax collector.  Have faith enough to come into God’s presence, express true remorse, and plead to the Father for mercy.  Such a humble prayer is a spiritual reset for us and leads to repentance.  A lack of humility makes repentance an empty promise where the soul worsens due to arrogance.  But, an expression of faith like this tax collector justifies us as righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

May the Grace of God though Jesus Christ shine on you,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

Are You Compelled?

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.    Mark 15:21

There are two compulsions that a person can experience.  In this scripture, we readily see the outward form.  No good Roman soldier should be forced to carry a cross for a condemned man.  And it would have been insulting to select a member of the local population to do the task.  But, this passer-by from another place would be a palatable choice for the humiliating task.  Thus, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear the cross.

Dawn on a Mountain Lake (J.Gresham/Virginia DCR)

Yet, the text also suggest the inward form of compulsion.  Faith was often handed down from the father to the wife and to children.  In his letter to the Roman church, Paul sends greetings to Rufus who is a leader among the Christians and his mother whom he has a close bond of friendship.  They and Alexander were colleagues of Mark.  Simon had first hand knowledge of the crucifixion and must have believed in the resurrection.  He shared this faith with his family (and perhaps with his countrymen Simeon and Lucius mentioned in Acts 13:1) and his witness bore fruit.  His outward compulsion was cruel and unfair.  But, the inward compulsion Simon had to share Christ gave hope to others and helped to grow the body of the faithful.

Many of us were compelled to go to church, say our prayers, read scriptures, and sing hymns by our parents.  And it is good that children should be brought up in the faith.  But, the lesson of Simon of Cyrene is this:  When we are compelled inwardly by the Gospel, we can overcome our bitter experiences to  effectively share the Good News with others.  I pray that you will be compelled today and everyday by the grace, love, and power of Jesus Christ.

Your Brother in the Lord,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon