Theophany: The Edgy Centered Life – The Scarred Witness

Today is the Feast of Epiphany – Theophany.

The meaning of the feast and the season is clear and simple – “manifestation.” Manifestation of the Incarnate Christ Jesus in and through my life.

Manifestation is about maturation. The unfolding or showing forth of the fullness of being in the fullness of time. Showing forth what already is by degrees.

I love growing things. I am not, however, a gardener. But, I still love growing things.

What has always attracted me about things that grow is the paradox. They are simultaneously, completely centered and completely on the edge.

Apple trees are centered in their apple-tree-ness. They are not insecure about their identity. Because that is the case, they are able to live on the edge of their identity where the “stretching forth,” the “extension of their being” takes place.

This is the place of simultaneous security and risk. The place of complete centeredness and edginess.

It is free to grow. It is “courageous.” It welcomes the weather and the weathering that are its allies not its enemy.

The mature tree is the one that has stood the weather that touches it on the edge of its being and makes a deep impact on it not killing it but strengthening it, albeit with scars and gnarling.

The way to fullness of identity is via this journey of maturation. A mature tree is not untwisted, without gnarls, or scar-less.

In the Christian lexicon, “scars” are what happens to “wounds” when they “heal.” They are not signs – manifestations of defeat but of victory.

That captivates me and it frightens me. I desire that place/condition of peace and contentment. Help thou my non-desire. The resurrected life bears the scars of redemption. I know it all too seldom and fleetingly. Perhaps the desire for ease lives too much within me still. Perhaps it is the remnants of a desire for “happiness” instead of “joy.” Ah, yes. The easy way. The way of formula that bypasses the “weather and wounding of life in relationship.” (Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner, that I might embrace the edge more often and truly grow instead of pretend to grow.)

“…the best way out is always through…” (“A Servant to Servants,” by Robert Frost)

The best way for God to answer my prayer, to exit the pretense of Christian life, is “through.” It will never be otherwise no matter how I word the prayer.

The “way through” requires trust, abandonment into the hands of the living God. The way is not known in advance. It is known “in the midst.” We accumulate victorious wounding in that context. Wounds that become “manifesting” scars.

Without the scars that Jesus/I bear, who will know He is risen?! Manifestation – Epiphany – Theophany is the showing forth of the beauty and victory of a salvation that is perfect as testified to by its scars.

Life-giving scars.

Am I alone in this?! Am I the only one who trembles at the threshold of centered-edginess?! The threshold of more abundant life?! Am I the only one who is working out his salvation with real fear and trembling and not some token (lip service) form of it?! Perhaps, my friend, this is, to some degree, true for you too?! We pilgrimage together, then. Companions on and in the Way. Members one of another in all of these things.

I am not “better” or “wiser” or “stronger” than Peter. I too, in my own ways, deny Christ by desiring the Way that is other than “the way through.” I must acknowledge that I am Peter if I am going to proclaim that I live the Christ Life by grace.

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” Meet me as I am meagerly able to meet and abide in you and have you not only abide but manifest Yourself through me. Have mercy on me too, just like you had mercy on Peter.

I must identify with Peter by nature if I am to identify with Christ Jesus by grace. I must be all that Peter is by nature to be all that Christ Jesus is by grace. And, the reverse is true. I must be all that Christ Jesus is by grace to have the courage to acknowledge and embrace that I am all that Peter is by nature. Both are two together, as one. Paradox that saves.

This is the transformative power of the Jesus Prayer?!

  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God – my identification with Christ Jesus by grace
  • Have mercy on me a sinner – my identification with Peter by nature

The way of repentance is the way of salvation. The way of salvation is the way of repentance.

If I say I have no sin we deceive myself. If I say I have no righteousness, I deceive myself. I will identify myself with Peter and the thief on the cross in prayer as a preparation AND I will eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ, identifying myself with Him.

Oh, blessed message!! Oh blessed Mystery!!

Our life is to be a living witness of the crucified and risen Christ Jesus. We are to bear the wounds of Christ Jesus as a flesh and blood testimony that the gospel is true.

The only Way that is True and offers Life – Jesus Himself. The life of absolute identification by grace. The life of living witness that is life-giving.

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“When thou passest through the waters… they shall not overflow thee.” (Isaiah 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God’s hand is stretched out.

Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not “dying grace.” Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life’s duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die.
–J. R. M.

“When thou passest through the waters”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
“When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH.”
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, “Thou passest THROUGH.”

–Annie Johnson Flint
Streams in the Desert, January 6th, by L.B. Cowman

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Sinner or Repentant Sinner — Sainthood

A saint is not a non-sinner. A saint is a repentant sinner.

It is crucial that we distinguish, in our thought life and behavior, the difference between a sinner and a repentant sinner. To make this distinction is essential to our purification from the passions, illumination by the Holy Spirit, and deification by the same Holy Spirit in the likeness of Christ Jesus by grace.

In the Divine Liturgy, the proclamation is made that God has made “repentance the way of salvation.” Our salvation, to put it boldly, is not based on our moral perfection as much as it is on the way in which we respond to sin. (That, of course is not a reason to go on sinning that grace may abound. “God forbid,” to quote St. Paul in his letter to the Romans.)

The question is not whether or not I am a sinner. The question is, am I a repentant sinner?! If I am not repentant, do I desire to be a repentant sinner?! Do I understand myself to be in and consciously embrace the environment of the mercy of God?! Do I desire to do so?!

All of this wonderfully questions what we mean by “progress” in the Christian life.

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It is necessary to distinguish a sinner from a penitent. If you have taken it upon yourself to rebuke a sinner, take care that you do not rebuke the penitent also. The Parable of the Prodigal Son demonstrates how dear a repentant sinner is to God. Therefore, let one who has become dear to God, be very dear to you. One time, a monk succumbed to sin, for which he was banished from his monastery. This monk went to St. Anthony, confessed his sin, repented, and remained with Anthony for a period of time. Then Anthony sent him back again to his monastery, but they did not receive him, and again drove him out. Again the penitent went to St. Anthony. Again, Anthony sent him back to the monastery, with a message to the fathers there: “A ship suffered shipwreck and lost its cargo, and only with great difficulty did that boat reach the harbor–and you want to sink even that which was saved from sinking!” Hearing this wise message, the fathers received the penitent brother into the monastery with joy. St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue, July 30.

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“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Grant me your grace to be a repentant sinner and not just a sinner in your sight.”

From Here Unceasingly

“’Let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice; seek the Lord and be strengthened, seek his face always.’ (Psalm 105.3-4) Entering into prayer today, I too am seeking the Lord, seeking his face, looking for the signs of his presence in my life, gently guiding me in truth and peace and love.” (“Pray as You Go”)

What stands in the way of this beautiful intention in your life? The revelation and owning (confessing) of that reason is the beginning of freedom. The space of knowing “it” to be means I have stepped out of “it” for a crucial instant. That “place” where I stand, as I know my own hindrances, is the same space from which I can choose over against “it” and live. It is my heart. It is Christ in me and deep within Him it is the true me in Him.

This is what it means for me to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Lord, I desire to know this place, live from this place unceasingly.