The New Monasticism: The 12 Marks: Mark #5

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 21, 2009

“Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church”

To say that we are the body of Christ is to say that we are the ones that are inside of him. It is also to say that we are the visible expression of Christ Jesus on the earth. We, the body of Christ, are the conscious expression of Christ in this world.

The word “church” originally meant “called-out ones”. So, to be in the body of Christ means to be called out of the way of life of the world-systems of the kosmokrator and into the body of the Lord Jesus himself. To be his called-out ones, we are called out of …


… and into …


By saying that we are submitting ourselves to the body of Christ, we come into complete agreement with God’s plan for the world. A body submits itself to the direction of its head. Likewise, the body of Christ submits itself to the leading of its head, who is the Christ.

And God’s plan for the world is not for millions of individual but separate and disjointed relationships with him. Rather, his yearning is for a fully unified assembly of followers throughout the whole world. Yet this is something much more than a temporary meeting of people from time to time. Rather, it is a living and organic body of followers. It is a state of being where we are in him and he is in us. This is truly what it means to be bodily present.

Ultimately, this mark implies a radical coming-together of the body of Christ in love. This is where perfect love casts out all fear.

Ex Anastasis

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on March 28, 2009

Ex anastasis. It’s a phrase used only one time in the Greek New Testament. The word anastasis means “resurrection” and ex means “out”. The two words together mean, literally, “out-resurrection”. It could also be phrased in English as “out from resurrection” or “out of resurrection”. In the middle of the apostle Paul’s first-century letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions this “out-resurrection” as being a goal that he is striving for but also a goal which he had not yet attained. (Please see:

Anastasis, which means resurrection, has always been a key theme for followers of Christ throughout the world. The word anastasis literally means “to stand again”. (Statis means “to stand” and ana means “again”). Easter, which occurs on April 12 this year in Western Christianity and on April 19 in Eastern Christianity, is the most important traditional Christian holiday. It celebrates the resurrection (anastasis) of Jesus from the dead. The theme of resurrection has been a key and common theme of followers of Christ since the time of Jesus. The word anastasis itself appears 42 times in the Greek New Testament.

Yet this use of a variant of anastasis, placing it with the prefix ex, was deliberate by the apostle Paul. There was something important about this “standing again”. There was something that needed to come out from it: out from each of us towards the world around us.

I would propose that this ex anstasis is seeing things God’s way, from his eternal point of view. It is here that the ascension and resurrection meet. Since Jesus, after his resurrection, ascended to heaven, and since the apostle Paul also mentions in another letter how the followers of Jesus on earth are somehow seated with him in heaven (;&version=49;), it is from that eternal place that each of us has the possibility of seeing things how God sees them: with true love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and goodness. To see the possibilities of life where others see only death. To have compassion on those who have been forgotten. To stand again for justice for those in desperate need of it.


The phrase ex anastasis (or ek anastasis) is mentioned by Dr. Sam Soleyn in the following teaching series on his web site (

Love and Our Destiny (Program 25)
Seven Spirits of God, Lordship
Seven Spirits of God, Wisdom, Part 1
Seven Spirits of God, Wisdom, Part 2 

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The Wandering Kings of Slumdog Millionaire

Posted in: Popular Culture,Spirituality by bill-o on February 14, 2009

The movie “Slumdog Millionaire” is a 2008 film that tells the story of three children from the slums of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Slumdog Millionaire follows the lives of two brothers and their friend from their childhood in Mumbai to the lead character’s winning of the Millionaire television show in India as a young man. The film is a wonderful story in its own right, but there also a few “symbols and shadows” in the story line that you might not be aware of.

Consider the names of the children. The last name of the two brothers is Malik, which means king. The protagonist’s name is Jamal, which means handsome. The older brother’s name is Salim, which means peaceful, and Latika means creeper or vine (or elegant). Salim spends his short life searching for peace but really never finds it. Jamal’s name points to his being looked upon favorably by the viewers in India upon his winning the grand prize. After the brother’s are displaced from their family after anti-muslim riot and then are forced to flee a bad orphanage, they, in effect, become “wandering kings”. Jamal’s quest from then on is to return to Latika (the vine).

The concentration of the game show on the number 100 is also significant: There was one question about the one-dollar U.S. bill and one about centuries in cricket. The number 10 often symbolizes the end of one order and the beginning of another (thus we have ten fingers and use a base-10 number system, where to get from 9 to 10 we must add a digit). The number 100, 10 times 10, symbolizes a major change in the order of things.

Jamal’s life-story takes an important turn when he meets a blind girl who is begging on the streets. Being a blind, begging girl is perhaps as low of a social status as one can have in India. Yet it is this girl who points the way back to Latika, Jamal’s long-lost friend. The girl also knows that Benjamin Franklin is the face on the $100 bill, something that she really has no need of knowing. The girl points out that Benjamin Franklin’s portrait has unusual characteristics: he has long hair like a girl. This scene is in contrast to another part of the movie where the police officer jokes with Jamal that everyone in India knows whose picture is on the Rupee note: Gandhi. That’s common knowledge.

Money can serve as a symbolic representation for a way of doing things (a “currency”). In this movie, Indian money represents the typical or common order of things. The $100 U.S. bill, on the other hand, represents what is not common. It is a larger currency note than most poor Indians would ever see, and it is foreign. However, it is the unofficial currency of the world at large. It represents the atypical order of things that lies beyond the present, everyday reality of the characters in the film. When Jamal and Salim start (without sanction) working as tour guides for Western tourists at the Taj Mahal, the movie subtly, and almost unconsciously, shows their change from dealing with Indian money to dealing with American money. Jamal, as a tour guide, acts as a bridge between these two worlds. Notice in one scene how Jamal takes two Americans to see “the real India” (when their rented car is, shall we say, involuntarily relieved of much of its contents). (This particular scene is also a subtle nod to the Western audiences of this movie, most of whom are not familiar with the poverty and injustices that are sometimes are a part of life for the poorest of the poor in India.)

The film’s turning point comes when Jamal must prove his identity. At the end of the first day of the television show, the police assume that he is a fraud, arrest him, and subject him to harsh interrogation. Through various flashbacks in the movie and rough questioning by the officers, the crux of the matter for the police comes down to this question: Is Jamal Malik a fraud or does he really know the answers to the show’s questions? Through telling the story of his life to the police officers (in other words, by being completely transparent with them), Jamal demonstrates that the truth is inside of him. And by doing so, he gains the victory and is able to return to the game show to answer its final question.

In the film, Salim symbolizes law (religion without love), and Jamal represents love. The respective heart-attitudes of the two brothers is demonstrated to us when Salim sells, without permission, Jamal’s autograph of the famous Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan. To Jamal, this autograph was priceless, but to Salim it was just a piece of paper to be bartered for something else. Later, Jamal did not even care if he would win or lose the game show prize; he only wanted to be reunited with Latika. In the middle of the film, Salim imprisons Latika and treats her only as a commodity, whereas Jamal is genuinely interested in her welfare without any conditions placed upon their relationship. At the end of the movie, Salim finally releases Latika and entrusts her to the care of Jamal (he gives her his mobile phone, knowing that Jamal will be calling it later). This is a picture of the law finally dying and giving way to love. Salim dying a bathtub full of money is perhaps a more obvious symbol of the ultimate emptiness of riches.

Even though Jamal was a humble servant (serving tea as a chai-wallah at a call center), in the end his true identity as a handsome king (in this case, king of the game show Millionaire) is shown for everyone to see.

A Lamb and a Basket of Fruit

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on December 13, 2008

Near the beginning of the history of humanity, in the second generation of the human race, there were two brothers. Unlike their parents, neither brother had had the opportunity to know God personally by talking with him face-to-face. Yet both brothers had the desire to please God, and so each one prepared a gift for God. One brother worked hard in his field and brought a basket filled with a variety of fruits to present to God as a gift. His younger brother brought a lamb as a sacrifice to God.

For some reason, God liked the gift of the younger brother, but God didn’t accept the fruit basket from the older one.

Yet we might ask ourselves today: why would an all-powerful God care about one particular gift and yet disregard another? Could he not create anything that he wants at any time that he wants?

Well, it was not the actual gifts that counted, but, rather, the attitudes of the hearts of the brothers that mattered to God. The older one said to himself as he put his basket of fruits together: “Look at what I’ve done for God. I’ve worked hard for many months, from sunrise to sunset each day, to grow these pieces of fruit for God. Surely God will recognize all of the hard work that I’ve done for him and accept my gift with great pleasure. With this gift, God will also grant me a favored place in the sight of my family.” The younger one, on the other hand, said something like this to himself as prepared his lamb as a gift for God: “You know, there is really nothing that I could give to God that he couldn’t provide for himself if he really wanted to do that. I also see that my parents had once had a much closer relationship with God, even to the point of speaking with him face-to-face on a daily basis. That opportunity is now closed off to me and my brother because my parents stepped outside of the spiritual boundaries that God had carefully set up for them. I have no power in and of myself to repair that breach of trust and relationship with God. Yet, I truly desire to show God that I love him. I love him because I can see that, since God did not destroy my parents even though they had disobeyed him, God must still have a plan for my family. The one way that I know how to demonstrate love is to make a sacrifice. If I let go of something that is very meaningful to me while expecting nothing in return, that’s the best that I can think of to show my love. After all, God made everything anyway, including all of the animals that I watch over. By giving one of them to God, I honor him and show that I’m not interested in hoarding what he has given to me for myself. By shedding its blood, there is no way back: It’s life will be poured out and I can never recover my loss. Yet, I’ll show God that I love him the most, by giving up one of my finest lambs to him. Its very life will demonstrate the love that I have for him.”

The older brother approached God by an attitude of exchange and barter: I do something for God; now God should do something for me. The younger brother came to God with an attitude of love and sacrifice: I give up something special to him, one of my lambs in the prime of its life, simply because I love him.

This way of the lamb is the way of love.

There was a dramatic news story on CNN this morning (Sunday, October 26, 2008) about a remarkable random act of kindness in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Evidently, CNN picked up this news story from TXCN channel 8 in Texas. I can’t find the video of the news clip on the web. (If it’s posted later, I’ll add a link here.) However, a brief written description of the local news story is provided at:

Evidently, a woman whose home was about to be foreclosed upon decided to go and attend a large, Dallas-area house foreclosure auction where her house was being auctioned off. The woman had already moved all of her possessions out of her house and was going to the auction to try to find some sense of emotional “closure” for her life. Caught up in the pain and anguish of the moment when her house was the one put up for sale, she began crying uncontrollably.

At that moment, the woman next to her asked her why she was crying. She told this complete stranger she was crying because her house was the one now being auctioned off.

Then, moved with compassion, not having intended to buy this particular house or even knowing the town where this house was located in, the stranger made a bid for the distressed woman’s house and won the auction. She then turned to the tearful woman and told her that she was giving the house back to her and that she should make arrangements to move back in.

This is the point where the TXCN TV news crew came upon the two women, who had never met each other before in their lives. The woman who was crying was still crying but her tears had suddenly been changed to tears of joy.

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Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 29, 2008

In the ancient Sanskrit epic poem the Ramayana (which literally means “Ram’s Journey”), one of the principal stories is about when Prince Rama (Lord Ram) went into exile for 14 years. The eldest of four princes, Rama was about to crowned by his father as king in his place. However, King Dasaratha, Rama’s father, had promised one of his three wives (not Rama’s mother) the granting of any two wishes since she had once saved his life. Kaikeyi, Ram’s stepmother, asked that her son be installed as king instead of Rama and that Rama be sent into exile for 14 years. Reluctantly and heart-broken, Dasaratha agreed to her requests.

For the sake of his father’s honor, Rama did not contest the throne but accepted his fate. As he began to leave his city, all of his devoted subjects followed him out to the edge of the forest. Rather than have most of the city accompany him on his long, epic journey, Rama released the men and women to return to their homes and resume their lives. His exile was his responsibility alone.

As Lord Ram stepped into his exile and most of the people walked back to their houses, a certain smaller group did neither. These were the eunuchs. In that society, eunuchs were considered to be neither male nor female. Since in their minds their lord had not released them to go back to the city, they remained faithful and stayed at that very spot waiting for their lord to return.

When Lord Ram returned after 14 years, he found those eunuchs waiting for him. When he saw them, he blessed them and said that eunuchs would one day rise to power in the earth.


Kaikeyi was faithful to the letter but not to the spirit of her husband and king. Her request was based purely on a contract: “I will give you two wishes”. When she came to collect on these IOUs, this fulfilled her wishes but certainly not her husband’s, and so the hearts of the people were pointed towards her stepson and not to  her son. Her desires were not based on relationships of love but on an engine of selfish motivations steering a vehicle of obligation.

The eunuchs, on the other hand, waited patiently for their prince and lord without being asked. They had not been promised any reward for doing so. Such is the heart of faithfulness. It goes beyond mere laws and rules. It flows from a life of devotion and love.

Yet, Rama was also faithful to his father. Even though he had not done anything worthy of such a severe punishment, he was faithful to respect his father’s commands and not to dishonor him even when that meant banishment and exile.


“But the fruit of the spirit is … faithfulness, …; against such things, there is no law.”

You may not realize this but there is a web site dedicated to interpreting song lyrics. This site is called, interestingly enough, On this site, people are invited to post what they each think are the meanings (interpretations) of various songs.

For me, what is often most interesting about this site is not the interpretations themselves but the fact that the posted meanings so wildly diverge. (For example, type in “Hotel California” and read the possible song meanings that are posted there.) How can everyone listen to a popular song and yet come to such clearly different views of what the song really means? Didn’t the songwriter have only one interpretation in mind when he or she wrote the song?

Now let’s take a recent popular song, “Bottle It Up”, by singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles. Please go to the following part of to see both the lyrics of this song and its possible meanings:

(Please Note: You’ll need to be familiar with these lyrics in order to understand the rest of this post.)

For those of you who don’t already know, “Bottle It Up” is one of two popular songs by Ms. Bareilles, the other one being “Love Song”. On, “Bottle It Up” is described as being “cute”, about relationships going too far too fast, about a guy who’s too emotional in a relationship, or about Ms. Bareilles record label being too controlling. Evidently, what Ms. Bareilles had in mind was the last one in this list: her record label wanting to have too much of a say about her songs. See:

With this interpretation in mind, I listened to the song again and it made a lot more sense. The first half of the first verse and the third verse represent the record label talking down to Sara. The second half of the first verse, the second verse, the chorus, and the bridge are Sara responding (a very brief summary: “I do it for love.”).

Yet I’d like to suggest here an even more expansive and spiritual meaning of this song. If you take a look at the words of this song, the parts of the song where the record label is speaking can be viewed as being religious institutions. Just as a record label could be overly controlling of one its artists, so can a religious system place chains on the hearts of spiritual seekers. The parts where Sara is speaking can be seen, of course, as genuine love responding to religion and beginning to move beyond it.

First, notice how religious systems talk down to people: “Babe”, “Little Darlin'”, “kindly shut up”. And look at how the ultimate goal of institutional religion is everyone keeping up their end of the bargain, which is the essence of contractual law. Now there is nothing wrong with contracts, but they can’t in themselves lead themselves to the fullest expressions of true spirituality: faith, hope, and love. Without active traits like these in our lives, contracts (laws) can become mere tools for threats or manipulation.

In the third verse, the speaker talks in both the singular and in the plural, just as the singular “law” can be the plural “laws” and both mean essentially the same thing. The line “killing me sweetly” at the end of this verse plays on the words from Roberta Flack’s song “Killing Me Softly”. This is a subtle emphasis on how institutions love what is sweet (sugary). Sugar tastes good to eat, after all, but it provides little long-term nutritional value.

Religious institutions also love to “bottle up” an expression of reaching out to the divine and then try to repeat it over and over again, even when such old ways of doing things may no longer be necessary or appropriate.

The first verse turns like a door hinge on the word heart and how it can be seen in two different ways. Religious systems see the heart as something to be mechanically manipulated into “doing the right things”. Thus, we see the words “Get to the heart of it”. This is a command to strip things bare down to a cold and dry essence. Anything outside of certain predefined boundaries is not good. The turning of the first verse comes with the use of the s word, which represents a strong “push back” by the spiritual seeker. “No, it’s *my* heart, not yours!” The second verse describes a contrasting heart: one that blooms like a flower. It is delicate and beautiful. Here, knowledge in and of itself is not desirable (“I don’t claim to know much”), whereas love is gentle and encouraging.

The bridge of the song talks about maturing from law-based religion to love-based spirituality. Yes, when we are young and immature, rules (laws) can be useful. They tutor us, if you will, until we become spiritual adults. At the end of the bridge, religious (institutional) laws promise more laws (“resolutions”) as being the solution for all of life’s problems. The “new year” reference speaks of time, and the word “never” in front of it refers to what is locked in time. It can never be eternal. (In contrast, the word love is repeated eight times; eight is often seen as the number that symbolizes eternity.)

The ultimate expression of love comes overlaid upon the last time the chorus is sung. The essence of love is that you have to give it away before you can get it. This is something that goes beyond contracts and laws. At its highest expression, it is the laying down of one’s life for others.

God is love. In his eternal presence, love and not law will be the only guiding principle of interaction between one person to another. The “garden of love” was Eden where people and God met face to face and interacted purely on the basis of love. Where there was law, there was only the law that God made with himself. And so it will be again for those who love him.


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