I am excited about this fall. Having completed a pretty busy summer, it will be nice to return to familiar routines and practices such as enjoying Kirk Nights, hearing the choir on Sunday mornings, and writing for the church’s blog. This fall will be unlike any before!
A significant focus for me (and I hope for us) during this upcoming season will be exploring who we are as children of God. In sermons, casual conversations, and in studies, I’m sure you have heard me say once or twice that we must recover our original name—a line borrowed from my favorite monk, Thomas Merton. Like I mentioned in last week’s sermon, long before we chose our vocation or anything about this life, God chose us. What does this mean? What it means now is not the same as what it meant ten, fifteen, or forty years ago. Or does it? Perhaps there is something persistent despite changing years. For this reason, I am having our church study and reflect on the Enneagram. The best explanation about the Enneagram comes from Father Richard Rohr, who writes:
The Enneagram is a dynamic system. It was developed primarily in an oral tradition, in the context of relationships between students and teachers. A “dynamic system” is one that recognizes that humans are far too complex and nuanced to fit easily into simple categories; it supports the evolving, maturing human journey.
The Enneagram is not a strict law or code. Its categories are not meant to bind or restrict you to a certain way of being and living. People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but it actually works to free people from their self-created boxes.
I truly believe until we understand who we are as individuals, we can’t know who we are as a community of faith. If you have paid attention to the sermon series over the summer, you probably picked up on how being our most authentic self (both as individuals and as a community) has always been a struggle for God’s people. Did you know that the author of James argues that God never sends evil!? In contrast to those who can’t commit wholeheartedly to God and to the changing reality, God is faithful both to God’s own gracious, self-giving character and to God’s beloved.
James would also say that God has gifted us with what we need to be the people of heaven on earth. James might add (and so do I for that matter), the inner battle is rooted in our own self-centered desires. James describes such attractions as an almost irresistible lure that baits us like dumb animals. I find this explanation to be helpful: Once we bit, the natural history of desire plays out: with our cooperation, selfish desire conceives and births sin; and once mature, sin spawns death.
However, God stands outside our natural progression of desire, sin, and death—as the one who is not tempted to be self-centered nor tempts anyone! Instead, God models other-centeredness; indeed, James teaches that all giving originates in God, who is always and forever the great giver. From the beginning of creation to the liberation of Israel, and to the Christ-moment, God shares freely and without discrimination. It’s as if to say: God is responsible for a competing progression: according to God’s loving purpose, God births believers through the word of truth; once birthed, these first fruits of new creation offer promise to all. As the first fruits of God, we as the Body of Christ, are the tangible evidence of the in-breaking of God’s gracious and gentle rule. Which is why James essentially says, to know the word of God (or what God wants) and not to do it is silly!
Just as God cannot be boxed in, neither can we as God’s people. For this very reason, it is important for us to return to center, to the Wisdom of God implanted in us from the beginning, so we do not forget who and whose we are. There’s no better time to let go of our false selves and all the baggage that comes with that person, than the season of Fall!