Wholly Holy

Here are Mtr. Kathryn’s notes on the conference on holiness she attended this past week at the Spiritual Life Center. For more complete comments, you can listen to her sermon here:  130216_001

Lord Carey: the Anglican view on the problem of defining holiness

holiness is not a worldly concept, unlike kindness or justice or morality or even forgiveness – the world thinks either of God’s transcendent holiness or man’s holier-than-thou-ness – they know we cannot be the one, and they have no desire to be the other – Christians fall into the trap of thinking of holiness in terms of negatives – absence of sin, separation from worldly things

But true holiness is a positive thing; it is our basic identity that springs from our relationship to God – it is our distinctive as his people: what makes us, us

In the Old Testament, God called Israel to be a holy nation. The laws about life and worship made Israel distinct from the surrounding nations, and deepened their walk with God – “the rhythm of ritual”. But the people of Israel found out the hard way, that when the Law was only external it became a tyrant.

Holiness is never something we do – it is always something God calls us into, out of his abundant lovingkindness. He is the initiator, our part is to respond in love and gratitude.

By itself, the Law is a tyrant, it is inflexible – if we break the Law in any way we break the whole Law. 98% obedience is failure. But God is not inflexible – the purpose of making us holy is to bring healing into our lives, to make us whole – this is what we call “sanctification”

Fr. Hatfield: the Orthodox view on “Theosis”

All that God is by nature he wants to share with his children. Athanasius wrote: “God became man that we might become divine.” This is the essential meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.

John chapter 1 – “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

2 Peter 1 – “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…”

To be holy is to be divine; to be divine is to be truly human.

Bp. Scharfenberger: the Roman Catholic view on being sinners

When someone asked Pope Francis to describe himself as a person, he did it in one word – a sinner. It is in honestly sharing our struggles as sinners dependent on God that we can truly be a help to people in the world.

Growing up, Bp. S. felt that holy meant being good, following all the rules. If you were good, God would be happy with you. But after years of studying different schools of spirituality, he realized that none of the things he had learned would make him holy. Because true spirituality, real holiness, was grounded in humility and openness to God; becoming holy wasn’t anything he could do by himself.

The key to holiness was not “being good”. After Peter had denied Jesus, and then stood before him face to face, Jesus only asked him – three times – “Do you love me?”

Holiness is recognizing our sinfulness and letting God transform us. Our daily connection to God is through prayer – not our words to God, but letting God lift us up to him. Prayer is our daily detox.

Dr. Cullum: the Wesleyan view on being made in the image of God

The human predicament is this: that we were created in the image of God, but because of sin the perfect image of God in us has been corrupted.

Our understanding is depraved

Our will is corrupted

We have forfeited our freedom and given ourselves as slaves to sin

We have lost our happiness

Human beings don’t just need to be forgiven; we need to be cured. The “one thing needful” for us is to be restored into the image of God. That is the proper nature of religion – to heal souls.

Becoming holy is being made whole again.

Lord Carey again: on the Messianic Secret

Throughout the gospels, Jesus didn’t reveal himself directly, but through his life and his works. Theologians call that the “Messianic Secret”.

Now we, his people, are the Messianic secret. Our lives are meant to make a difference in the world.

Holiness is not for our own benefit, so we get heavenly brownie points.

The purpose of our holiness is to reveal who God is to the world that he loves so much – to show the people we meet, as Bp. Scharfenberger said, that Jesus would have died for you if you had been the only person in the world.

Bp. Dan often calls the Spiritual Life Center a “thin place”, a place where we are able to see God more clearly. When we grow in holiness we are becoming more and more “thin places” ourselves, the presence of the Spirit increasing in us so that people encounter Christ in us. That is the meaning of sanctification, becoming holy. It doesn’t happen by following rules or trying to be good people by our own efforts. It happens when we walk with God; it happens when we admit our sinfulness in all humility; it happens when we hear his words and begin to put them into practice in our lives.

John 15 – the vine and the branches – all our life and all the fruit of our life comes from our being rooted in Christ. Our striving toward holiness is to dig our roots more deeply into Christ; our sanctification is what happens when his life flows into ours. Holiness isn’t our work at all; it’s the work of God, as he heals our brokenness and restores us to the glory of what we were originally meant to be. John wrote: We don’t know what we will become, but we know this: that we will be like him. And when we are like him, we will be fully ourselves.

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