Idio-stasis

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A pundit recently said something that seemed utterly idiotic to me. I was not alone. Yet, even as an avalanche of push back mounted, he stuck to his guns. He was either totally clueless about the idiocy of his statement or unswervingly committed to never admitting a mistake. I wondered to a friend whether the continued effort was cumulative or simply expressed some kind of static state, which I called “idio-stasis.” She insisted that I had coined a phrase. So, I’m claiming it.

Idio-stasis is not an insult. It is, ultimately, a word that describes human sin and brokenness. Idio-stasis is unrepentant and widespread. Let me explain. Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit. They get busted – hand in the fruit jar, if you will. They blame each other. Then they blame the snake. They stick to their refusal to accept responsibility for the fall. Idio-stasis.

Closer to home, I lost 30 pounds this last year. Over the holidays, I gained back 6. Why? Cookies. I eat the cookies. I gain the weight. Then I step on the scale and am shocked and dismayed when the number goes up. Idio-stasis.

In our politics right now, we have lots of folks who are so full of pride and arrogance; who have drunk deeply from the Kool-aid of partisanship that they can’t back down, discuss or compromise. The result is chaos. Then they act surprised. Idio-stasis.

A much more eloquent statement about what I am getting at was made bu Martin Luther King Jr. (on this, his birthday), “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Ultimately, the spiritual struggle here is that we become disconnected from any self-awareness of our faults; we ignore the things that keep us from being who God calls us to be; we keep on doing idiotic things because to change would be to admit a mistake; to change would be to let go of our pride; to change would require confession – and that is something we – even as Christians – don’t want to undertake.  But, if we cannot confess our mistakes, faults, evil deeds and sin, we can never be forgiven and transformed by the work of the Spirit.

The most dangerous people are those who are least self-aware. They don’t know they are broken and need transformation (sincere ignorance). Just as dangerous to self and others are those too full of pride to say, “I was wrong. Forgive me.” (conscientious stupidity).  I would classify both things as “idio-stasis” – being stuck in our own idiocy and choosing to stay there.

In Ignatian spirituality, part of one’s daily practice is called “examen.” It is a practice that includes seeking the ways that your day was marked by brokenness, impatience, pride, arrogance or whatever got in the way of your relationship with God and neighbor. Once you name it, you can own it and seek transformation in Christ by the power of the Spirit. It is a way of dealing with the “idio-stasis” in all of us. Ultimately, “idio-stasis” is our rejection of humility for an arrogance that rejects change. To live in the reign of God, however, is a constant embrace of change and transformation at the hands of a gracious God.

Peace to you!

Copyright © 2019, Timothy V. Olson

I Love You. You Are Mine.

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God’s word to the people of Judah who are facing the collapse of everything they hold dear and the chaos and suffering of life is: I love you, you are mine. (Isaiah 43)

This pronouncement is made over us as we are baptized, giving us an identity and purpose that transcends all the other attempts to make us fear and doubt ourselves in this world. When the government is shutdown, the economy uncertain and even the church seems to be fading, God still proclaims this essential truth.

Grace Has Appeared…

On this Festival of the Nativity of Our Lord, we remember that “grace has appeared bringing salvation to all.” (Titus 2:11). That “we are” instead of “are not” introduces the question of God as the ground of being for all things. Once we ask that question, the next is whether being is just one random thing after another or whether being is somehow benevolent. In Christ, “grace has appeared” to tell us that the ground of our being and existence is bent toward benevolence. love, and life. Blessed Incarnation to all.

Work in Progress

Advent calls us to prepare not just our homes for Christmas, but our lives for the fulfillment of the Reign of God when Christ comes in glory. Trouble is, we often feel rather helpless and passive in the face of that event. Is waiting just standing around until God makes all things new? For Paul, the Christian life is a work in progress: “the one who began a good work in you will not fail to see it through to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We are already the beloved of God, and not yet the people God calls us to be. 

A sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent – Philippians 1:3-11

Jesus, Fig Trees, and the End of the World

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The season Advent, however, seems to throw a wet blanket on all the jingling bells and decked halls. Scripture readings (Luke 21) turn to images of the end of the world and collapse of heaven and earth. Not very festive, it seems. That makes the preacher a bit of a buzz kill until we see that Jesus proclaimed a word of great hope in the midst of the destruction and death of this world. The fig tree puts forth leaves declaring summer is at hand and a harvest is on the way. Jesus is that fig tree, and our salvation is at hand.

Advent 1 – Holy Trinity Lutheran Church – December 2, 2018

Don’t Worry. Be Grateful.

Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” That is harder than it sounds. We worry about food, clothing, housing and a host of other things that seem to matter more than anything else. Thanksgiving seems to provide a one-day break to give thanks for what has gone right in life and suspend worrying about what could happen for at least an afternoon. What if gratitude is more than that? What if gratitude is a means of worry-free living?  Listen to the sermon here!

Me? A Saint?

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons… (Philippians 1:1 NRSV)

Paul addresses his letter to the “all the saints” in Philippi. As the letter unfolds, it is clear that not everyone is well-behaved or “saintly” in this congregation. In fact, he seems to suggest some people should know their place and be humble when he mentions the “bishops and deacons” after everyone else. It also becomes clear that he is not speaking just to some of the “good folks” at Philippi and ignoring the bad ones. Paul’s address is for everyone, equally.

So, what have they done to deserve such an accolade? After all, “saint” is reserved for special people, right? “Saint” must refer to those who exhibit godliness and righteousness in a special was and give the rest of us an example.  According to my Greek lexicon, the word Paul uses, which is regularly translated as “saint,” means, on the one hand  “to be holy, morally upright, pure.” That’s a high bar I’m not sure I ever clear. But the word also means, “to be set apart to or by God, consecrated.”  It is the word used to identify the covenant people of Israel – all of them.

Paul was talking to all of the Philippians. Paul is talking to you. Martin Luther taught that we humans are, in Latin, “simul justus et peccator.” That means we are saint and sinner, simultaneously, often not knowing which. We have been set apart for God, consecrated to be a holy presence in the world. And we screw up just as much as anyone else. Through God’s mercy and grace, we always get invited to get up, turn back to the way of Christ, and be saints.