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World-Calm

World-Calm

At the time of Advent, words are spoken at the altar that sound as an echo of the past.  It seems as if these words no longer fit in our hectic world.  What are we to make of the expression the world-calm around us?  Where can that calm still be found?

When we listen to the world around us we usually hear nothing but noise: traffic, machines, masses of people who are restlessly on their way.  And when we listen more deeply than the audible noise, we hear inwardly a world of anxiety and pain, a world that is shaking on its foundations.  Even when some people show outer self-confidence, under the surface you can sense profound insecurity.  Is that perhaps the world that Christ meant when He said: “And human beings will lose their heads for fear and expectation of what is breaking in upon the whole earth”? (Lk.21:26)

When you listen even more intensely, more deeply than anxiety, more deeply than the ground of the soul, more deeply than the abyss, you find the ground of existence—a world of infinite calm and unshakable security.  That is what in the Advent epistle is called: the working of the Father Ground of the world.

And when in a chaotic world you look higher than our restless cities that never sleep, you find at this time of the year the rays of the dimming sunlight, that change everything they touch into gold—even the most banal and unsightly things people build on earth.  And above it the unshakable firmament.

Wherever we go and stand:

Christ walks by our side,

hidden in the world-calm around us,

hidden in the ground of the soul,

waiting to be recognized,

waiting to be found,

even when we are lost.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 29, 2020.

Priest Child Education Fund

Our priest families are supported through the freely given donations of their congregational members that cover the basics of housing, food, utilities, transportation, health care, etc.  One key expense that is not typically included in the priest support is the cost of educating their children.  North American congregations have helped to raise money for the Priest Child Education Fund which is distributed to priest’s families to help with educational costs. No matter how large, or how small the gesture, it helps!   Click here to read more about this fund and to donate.

 

 

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Be Mindful of the Breaks….

Be Mindful of the Breaks…

In the Apocalypse, which describes a world in downfall, there are sometimes sudden moments of calm.  A power that is stronger than all destruction brings the storm of annihilation to a standstill.  As a spectator, you have just a moment to catch your breath before the irrevocable demise of the outer world rushes on.  The course of events is literally stopped by a command from on high: “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have set our seal on the foreheads of those who serve our God.” (Rev.7:3)

In an apocalyptic world such as ours, time is compressed—events on the world stage take place at incredible speeds.  And not only on the grand stage—our own lives too are usually breathtaking.

And yet, when you develop a sense organ for the quality of the time, you discover that in the midst of all the rushing and stress life also creates brief breathing spaces.  The trick is to observe these moments consciously, to briefly step out of the maelstrom of time, and to catch your breath before life rushes on again.  At such moments you are, as the painter Picasso once expressed it, “secure in insecurity.”

What or who is it that bestows such moments on us?  Someone who was able to look behind the screen of time, behind the veil of the perishing earth, once expressed it with the words:

“Be mindful of the breaks, the brief moments destiny often unexpectedly bestows on you.  In the same way, the Coming One will also one day come.”  (Friedrich Doldinger)

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 22, 2020

 

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Wealth and Poverty (Rev. 3: 14-22)

Poverty and Wealth (Rev.3:14-22)

A well-known theologian of the 20th century once said: “God feeds us with hunger and quenches us with thirst.”  That is an eloquent and partly true saying, but this truth is usually overshadowed by another reality: we suppress our spiritual hunger with all that chains us to the earth.  And we disguise our thirst for the spirit through all that benumbs the mind.  That mixture of materialism and intoxication, of yearning for the earth and flight from the earth, is usually called prosperity.  And the more prosperous we are in this outer sense, the poorer in spirit we are likely to become.  From the point of view of the angels we are, as stated in the Book of Revelation, “…how pitiful, pathetic, and poverty-stricken … how blind and how naked.”  We have become poor as church-mice.  What do we have that we can give to the spiritual world?

And yet, this is being asked of us in the contradictory words: “Therefore I counsel you to obtain gold from me which is refined by fire, so that you may become rich again…”  How can anyone obtain gold who is poor?

Indeed, the only thing we can give to Christ is our poverty.  The only things with which we can feed Him and quench Him are our hunger and thirst.  But whoever becomes a beggar for the spirit, who ardently longs for His presence, on those can He bestow His wealth.

For He is Himself as a beggar: a human being who knocks on our door, who asks and implores us to open—to share His meal with us.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 8, 2020.

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You have the name of being alive…(Rev. 3:1)

You Have the Name of Being Alive… (Rev. 3:1)

When we are tired after a busy workday and look back on what we have done, we are likely to feel the heavy burden of all the obligations we had to fulfill.  That is because our pace of life does not allow us to stand still.  We run from one obligation to the next.  And when we are not running, we get left behind by the facts.  Our hectic world cannot be compared with the time when daily life consisted of work and prayer: ora et labora.  When prayer started to disappear from daily life, the motto became: work and relax—in which relaxing usually means: do nothing, do not think, look for recreation.  In our time there is a new, grim perspective: work and burn out.  In a world that roars past at a breathtaking speed we run the risk of being driven on until we fall down.  How can we stand up in such a world?

Sooner or later we will be facing a moment when we realize: this is the last day of my life.  Would we then still think the same way about all the so-called obligations of our existence?

From the perspective of eternity, everything looks different.  Much of what on earth looks necessary becomes insignificant, or even less.  For the spiritual world we humans are like walking dead: “You have the name of being alive, and you are dead.”  For our narrow-minded, utilitarian thinking, to pray or to sit before an altar is a waste of time: we are doing nothing, producing nothing, earning nothing.

But for the spiritual world things are different.  In prayer, at the altar, our mortal existence is called to life.  There Christ invests our perishable being with the white robe of His pure life—that we bury not our eternal being for the sake of our temporal.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 1, 2020.

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The White Horseman

The White Horseman (Rev. 19)

After an exhausting, eventful life, the wish to finally find rest is perhaps as old as humanity.  The most common expression of it can be found in our cemeteries.  Time and again we see the words chiseled into headstones: “Rest in Peace,” or even “Here Rests…”  As if all is past—no more troubles, sorrow, tears.  Is it really that simple?  Or is this wishful thinking?

One day Rudolf Steiner was walking in a cemetery with a friend.  As he was reading the constantly repeated words on the headstones, his commentary was: “First of all he is not here; second of all he is not resting.”  In other words, the deceased evidently are having a very different life than we imagine or wish.

The Book of Revelation of John helps us to get to know the sobering reality of the spiritual world.  Instead of finding comfortable rest or an eternal paradise we are confronted with a world of crisis and battle—just like the world we have daily around us and which we would rather not see.

The word of the white horseman is as a sword that strikes humanity and causes separation.  With the staff of iron He reigns as shepherd and warrior at the same time.  Christ is more than the gentle shepherd of a flock of sheep, the way He is so often represented in tradition.  He is the shepherd who leads humanity to the moment when we are irrevocably confronted with ourselves and the consequences of our deeds.  He is the shepherd who wants to wake us up: do not fall asleep with the promises of false prophets who delude us with hopes of an earthly paradise or eternal peace.

Wake up to Him who will gather the harvest of the Earth.  We—humanity—we are the harvest.  The harvest is His alone.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 25, 2020.

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Looking for a Refuge

Looking for a Refuge  (Rev. 12)

A desert is usually a place of loneliness and hardship, a wilderness.  Rarely is there water, rarely a sign of life.  In early Christianity, the so-called desert fathers lived as monks in the desert for many years, sometimes for the rest of their life.  They had to fight a lonely battle with themselves.  The enemy—no robbers and looters, for there was nothing to rob or loot—was the army of demons they were confronted with.

Although in our time we don’t normally live in such lonely places, our cities often have the nature of deserts: a dead world, built up of stone.  In these modern deserts everyone is thrown back onto himself—in our time more than ever.  “Everyone for himself…” is the part of the old saying that we hear around us in every possible version.  Strangely enough the second part of the saying is usually lacking: “…and God for us all.”

There is no other way—we all have to find our own individual path through the desert.  But loneliness is not only inevitable; it is also necessary in order to form a strong, autonomous I.  Our desert is the world in which we live.  The dragon in our desert is the inhumanity with which we are confronted day in day out.  Is there a place of refuge, or do we only have to stand up until we fall?  Can we, like the woman in the desert, develop wings to flee to a safe place?

Our wings are made by the strength of our prayer.  Recently, a well known physician expressed this idea in everyday language with the words: “The most powerful medicine against depression is prayer: it lifts up the soul.”  Indeed, every true prayer, every real meditation, gives wings to the soul, so that we can find a spot where we can take shelter—a spot that was prepared for us by God.

This does not mean that it frees us from the opposing power, on the contrary.  But every true prayer brings us to a place where the Spirit assists us, helping us to remain upright in our lifelong struggle—lonely, but not alone.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 18, 2020

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The Armor of God

The Armor of God (Eph.6:10-20)

In a world full of conflicts and crises, peace has become a concept that usually no longer corresponds with hard reality.  In war zones, peace has often become a distant promise, an illusion.  In its stead, an expression has developed that is closer to the sobering truth: “armed peace,” a term we use for the condition in which peace is maintained, if need be, with force.

If we want to hold our own in a world full of violence we will have to arm ourselves.  In the past century, the fine dreams of pacifism pretty much went up in smoke.  They are no longer of our time.  Instead, the battle for survival has become a daily reality.  In social and political life we speak of competition and power.  In our personal life we need assertiveness and preparedness.  What else can we do to avoid being tread underfoot?

Armed peace—perhaps we need to take a second look at this expression.  In our search for rest and security we usually cling to outer certainties to protect ourselves from violence.  Those certainties have fallen away.

Peace in a violent world is only possible when we arm ourselves spiritually—with the shield of Faith, the helm of Healing, the sword of the Spirit.  Only those who fight with these weapons truly know what armed peace really is.

For whoever remains incorruptibly true to the Spirit, is also protected by the Spirit.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 11, 2020

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The Wedding Garment

The Wedding Garment (Matt.22:1-14)

In our time, many people are living in the illusion that they can step into heaven just as they have lived on earth—straight up to God to tell him that things are not right on earth, and that He has to do something to put them in order.

Long ago, there was a time when people said when fate had struck: “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.  Praised be the Name of the Lord!”  Thereafter it became quiet, and people began to have doubts about the omnipotence of God.  And now?  It is only a relatively short time ago that people dared to ask: “Where is God in all those places where life has turned into hell?  Why doesn’t He show His omnipotence?”  In all questions of this sort sounds a still or loud reproach.  We do not want to change ourselves; God has to do it for us.

When we want to ask God a question, we cannot simply stay the way we are.  In the words of Christ: “…whoever does not take up the Kingdom of God in himself like a child, he will not find access to it” (Mk.10:15). When we want to enter His realm, we have to leave behind all that binds us to the dying earth existence: our possessions, our affairs, our everyday habits, our judgments and prejudices.  We have to become like new-born children.  We can stand before God only when we take our shoes off our feet, when we put away our outer confidence, when we want to receive the white garment of His pure life from His hands.  Then we are ready to enter the wedding hall and stand eye to eye before Him.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan 10/4/2020