November 21st, 2019

By the Way: Be a signpost for others

By Rev. Oz Lorentzen on May 11, 2019.

Sayings like, “You don’t get snakes from ropes” remind us of the truism that “like begets like.” Anger will never lead to peace; hatred will never produce love. In discussing spiritual realities with a religious leader, Jesus says that what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Jesus also said that the flesh profits nothing but that the spirit gives life. “Flesh” corresponds to the human condition, human nature from the bio-physical perspective as a product of environment, training and culture. “Spirit” refers to the awakening, enlivening effect on the human soul of God’s re-creation of the human condition – that is, it refers to the kingdom of God, that which is best, greatest, noblest in humanity. Just as it is possible to mistakenly identify a piece of rope for a snake, especially in dim light, coming around the corner of the barn or shed, so too, it is possible to mistake human effort (the flesh) for the spiritual. But that mistaken identification does not make the rope a snake, and usually we catch our error and adjust our behaviour accordingly. In the spiritual area the same applies; we do not make human effort spiritual by our assessment and assignment.

However, unlike ropes and snakes, it is decidedly difficult to differentiate between what is really spiritual and what is not. The most obvious criterion of the spiritual (apart from Love) is its freedom, unpredictability and absence of human control – like the wind, Jesus says. So Nicodemus, the religious leader Jesus is speaking with, expresses our consternation by asking “How can these things be?”

How do we (those interested in the spiritual realm) benefit from these typically enigmatic counsels of the spiritual master? I see at least two basic applications. The first is to avoid seeking outcomes that are different in kind from the process, programs and motivation – do not seek to spread love through judgment and criticism; do not seek to promote peace with hate and aggression. Do not claim to meet the needs of others through platitudes and handouts. Do not seek to cure spiritual, mental and emotional needs without spiritual, mental and emotional investment. If there are spiritual needs/issues, they require spiritual intervention/response!

The second is to be honest with ourselves about where we are. We cannot lead anyone farther than we have gone. If our spirituality is a product of human effort (our flesh) we will not be able to lead others into the kingdom of God – that lovely, compelling and exquisite human reality which the Spirit invites us into. How much of our life is characterized by the freedom and openness of the wind? Or are we more or less in control? Does a fresh breeze blow through our lives or is the air pretty stale?

You don’t get a snake from a rope. We need to remember that Jesus reminds us of this basic truth because He desires us to enter into real Life. And He desires that we, entering into Life, should be signposts for others, pointing them to hope, to transformation, to Life, to His Kingdom.

Rev. Oz Lorentzen is from St. Barnabas Anglican Church.

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