Tag Archives: forgiveness

A Prayer From Libya: Dancing With the Angels

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St. Thalassios the Libyan

St. Thalassios was the abbot of an Orthodox monastery in Libya and a contemporary of the great 7th century figure St. Maximos the Confessor.  In volume II of the Philokalia, we find a stirring prayer included in his treatise On Love, Self-control and Life in accordance with the Intellect:

“Christ, Master of all, free us from all these destructive passions and the thoughts born of them. For Thy sake we came into being, so that we might delight in the paradise which Thou hast planted and in which Thou hast placed us.  We brought our present disgrace upon ourselves, preferring destruction to the delights of blessedness.

We have paid for this, for we have exchanged eternal life for death.  O Master, as once Thou hast looked on us, look on us now; as Thou becamest man, save all of us.  For Thou camest to save us who were lost.  Do not exclude us from the company of those who are being saved.  Raise up our souls and save our bodies, cleansing us from all impurity.  Break the fetters of the passions that constrain us, as once Thou has broken the ranks of impure demons.  Free us from their tyranny, so that we may worship Thee alone, the eternal light, having risen from the dead and dancing with the angels in the blessed, eternal, and indissoluble dance.  Amen.”

As a Wesleyan, I am quite drawn to the Orthodox language of “those who are being saved” (and of course, such language is Pauline also).  The emphasis on salvation as a path rather than an achievement is sadly overlooked in much of the Western church.

I also love the image of Jesus victoriously dancing after the resurrection, and bidding all to join in his “blessed, eternal, and indissoluble dance.”  I know many Christians for whom Jesus and dancing are opposites!

I was reminded of one of my favorite hymns, The Lord of the Dance, which I was blessed to hear in worship this past Sunday. No, not the Irish dancing guy.  But here are some Irish guys, not dancing, but singing it quite well:

It also seems appropriate to offer a prayer from Libya asking for deliverance from destructive passions, which have been on display so tragically in Libya and across the Middle East.  May Christ, the Lord of the Dance, free us from love of self and slavery to sin, and may he teach us instead to join in the blessed, eternal, life-giving dance.

“When There is No Peace”

Libya Alhurra TV posted images on Facebook of Pro-American supporters taking to the streets in Libya today to distance themselves from the rocket attack which killed Chris Stevens

I’ve been having a back and forth with my friend Morgan over his recent blog post reacting against the attack on the Libyan embassy.  Morgan is a deeply committed Christian and an articulate interlocutor.  This exchange raised a question with me: how do Christians respond to the kind of senseless violence that seems to be so prevalent in our world?

Certainly, any reaction that blames all Muslims as a whole is to be vehemently denied.  The above photo, from this story about an anti-extremist rally, is evidence enough that not all of Islam is violent (and it is sad indeed that we must keep reminding folks of this in a post-9/11 world).

It seems to me that a measured, loving, but honest response is warranted.  Many of my liberal and progressive Christian friends were so quick to remind us that not all Muslims are terrorists that they seemed to forget that a tragic few are.  They seemed more interested in offering an apologetic on behalf of moderate Muslims than in grieving the lost or crying out for justice.  This strikes me as a “PC” response but not necessarily a Christian one.

As Christians, we are called to pray and work for and witness to the peace of Christ, the prince of Peace.  How that plays out in the world of international politics, foreign policy, and non-state actors with RPGs is a complex question.  Whatever else we say, we must know that the call for peace must not come at the expense of justice, or vice versa.  The prophet Jeremiah thus excoriated the false prophets of his day:

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (6:14, NRSV)

We must not be too quick to cry “peace” in the absence of justice.  There is a time for peace and for war, a time for forgiveness, and a time for the sword of government to do its work.  The time for reconciliation will come.  For now, let us pray for the victims of this attack, for the people of Libya (especially those of the household of faith), and for the perpetrators: may they be brought to justice swiftly, and may the God of all people so draw them to Himself that they repent and are reconciled to God and neighbor.

For now, as the old song goes, let peace begin with me.

Sports, Steroids, and Grace

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Lots of sad news in the world of sports (and sports entertainment) lately.  One of my favorite fighters, Chael Sonnen, may be getting more than the proverbial slap on the wrist from the California State Athletic Commission.  It’s been a rapid ascent and and even more rapid decline for the former No. 1 Contender for Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva’s middleweight title.  After beating up Silva for all but 2 minutes of their five-round affair, Sonnen was submitted in the closing minutes.

Since then, things have just gotten worse.  The Cliff’s Notes version: he popped positive for banned substances after tests showed abnormal testosterone levels.  He claimed he had a doctor’s note, and that he had told other officials.  Some of these claims were disputed.  In the meantime, he was convicted in a real estate fraud case and lost his real estate license (which also forced him to stop his bid for Congress).

Initially, the CSAC was prepared to lift his suspension, but this week they took a mulligan at a special hearing and changed their minds.  Disagreements over the honesty of Sonnen’s statements – if anything, he is a talker – and other concerns caused them to vote 4-1 to suspend his license indefinitely.  The problem: not only does this shelve Sonnen in California until 2012, but because most athletic commissions honor such decisions across state lines, it is likely he could only get fights in states without such regulatory bodies.  Even with that, it is doubtful that the UFC, which is continually seeking to improve its image, would back a fighter against the wishes of a state commission.

In light of the wrist-slapping that goes on in virtually all other professional sports, Sonnen’s penalty seems unnecessarily harsh.  It seems like a personal vendetta more than a pragmatic penalty. “This will teach those fighters,” I hear them sneering in the boardroom, “to make public comments about officials and judges.”  Methinks Chael is being made and example of.

We give grace to our athletes all the time.  Yes, Sonnen broke the law, but he also owned up to it and faced the music.  He’s been punished.  Performance-enhancing drugs?  It’s an open secret that many, if not most, professional sports are rife with them.  Does it make it right? No.  But it should temper our righteous indignation when someone tests positive.  In Matthew 18 we find the following exchange:

 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Seventy-seven?  Surely we can find room for 2, or 3.  Jeff Sherwood over at Sherdog sums it up nicely:

We have to be honest with ourselves: PEDs exist in professional sports. Somewhere in the world, a curling sweeper is probably using steroids. It’s against the law, but so many athletes do it just to be able to compete in today’s sports. Pro athletes are pushed year after year to tackle harder, hit longer home runs, jump higher and knock more people out. Then, when they’re caught doing things that will help them perform to the standards set, everyone turns against them.

Most MMA fighters have a hard enough time buying food to feed their bodies properly with the money they make; being forced to sit out for a year is a huge blow. Four games to an NFL player is the equivalent of a parking ticket.

Look, I get it: these players have broken the rules. But commissioners, judges and referees in MMA — not to mention the millions working in or around the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL — are able to feed their families because of what these professional athletes do. Let’s give them a little bit of love.

Update:  Apparently the CSAC made a mistake, and Sonnen is eligible to apply in CA and everywhere June 29 for licensure.  Time will tell, of course.  Perhaps if he doesn’t talk too much about it between now and then, the commissions will cease to unduly punish him.  The timing seems suspect to me; there has been a good deal of disappointment over the handling of this case.  Oh well.  Hope he gets back in the cage this year, especially if it is against Michael Bisping.