Authentic Living Danish Style

The Danes of Aarhus asked me to talk about authentic living. I said that authentic life is the opposite of trying to get one thousand Facebook friends just to look good. It's the opposite of trying to climb to the top of the ladder of money, power, celebrity or security, or of going round in circles, getting nowhere, following others, not having your own convictions. Jesus told some Pharisees that they were putting on a false show. The pharisee tendency is not just among Jews, it continues also in the church.

An authentic person is the same inside as outside. Authentic people tell the truth and are true to themselves. Religion, work, private life are not separate. Our aim is to be like Jesus who was the same when he was in the kitchen as when he was being killed. The essence of Jesus is Defenceless Love. With defenceless love we do not have to pretend, push, or prove things by creating pressure in ourselves or others.

Celtic Spirituality helps us to live authentic lives by teaching that the deepest reality about ourselves is not the ugliness of our sins but the beauty of our origins in God. God is the deepest part of our being. That is why we do not need to pretend or pressurise. We can be vulnerable in the presence of others and allow them to be who they are in our presence. We are available, but also we can be honest about our needs.

Celtic Christianity takes sin seriously, but the sins we fight against are our false self, not our true self, which is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). Celtic Christians are inspired by the 4th c Egyptian Desert Christians who are known as Athletes of Christ. These made ceaseless struggle to overcome what is not authentic – pride, lust, greed, envy for example until only the gentle love of God remained in them. Christians who teach that there is no goodness in us cannot live in this authentic way, but although they quote the Bible they are in fact living a heresy.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read how the ways of Christ spread to the Greek-speaking world. After a few generations the aspect of Greek philosophy that separated the material from the spiritual world did that also with Christianity. Work was split from prayer. The body was split from the soul. Life in Christ was no longer a whole, no longer therefore authentic. But when the ways of Christ came to Ireland, which was outside the Roman Empire, the new Christians were holistic. They saw God in Scripture and in nature, in their bodies and in their spirits. Heaven was not just in the future, heaven could penetrate ordinary life. Martin Luther recognised this truth when he urged people to pray each day ‘Let your holy angel have charge of me…’

More centuries went by and people in Europe became individualistic. The individual was separated from community. To be authentic means that we recognise we are part of the human community. When the Reformation and printing came every individual could have a Bible. But the Bible was the church’s book. People forgot that, and everyone started to interpret it in their own way without paying attention to the world-wide Christian community. The apostle Paul wrote ‘Do not only think of your own concerns, think also of the concerns of other people’ (Philippians 2:4). The Celtic Christian tradition combines a beautiful spontaneity that allows each person to be guided by the Holy Spirit with a beautiful community that calls us to obedience, that is attentive listening to and honouring of others. So in the Way of Life of Anamcara (CA&H in Denmark) we strive to weave together the God-given strands in Christianity which have become separated, for example the Pentecostal, Scriptural, Sacramental, Contemplative and Social Service strands.

I love revivals, but sometimes revivals separate the journey to become more spiritual from the journey to become more human. In Celtic spirituality the two are one. Celtic Christians have a rapport with John the Loved Disciple, who perhaps more than any of the other apostles shows us how to have an authentic relationship with Jesus and with one another. As we reflect upon the flowing love between John, the loved disciple, and Jesus, the gentle Lamb of God, may the tenderness of eternity be formed in our hearts...As we reflect on John listening to Jesus’ heart-beat at the last supper and to Jesus’ heart-beat in creation, may this become Denmark’s way of listening, its passion and its glory.'

A listener who was too shy to speak emailed me after my return 'you hit a deep longing in my heart... So I have listened to the birds song, watched the spring flowers and heard Gods voice when I saw the sky. What nature says to me is: All is well!! Look at this fantastic creation. How good it is to be alive. Fold yourself out like the flowers. Share yourself. It is so good for me to hear, because I have so many challenges with fear in my life. I was very moved hearing about a soulfriend and making hospitality first of all is something I do in my heart by creating space for other people. I am so moved. I don´t know where my travel will lead me, but I know I am moved.

And also I would like to thank you about sharing so open and honest about yourself both good and bad experiences from your life. When I listen to an honest person I feel more free myself. I want to be better at that point too. And I am longing for churches that have this quality. I feel that the contact between people get much better, when we are honest. So much life grows with honesty.'

Posted at 02:23am on 13th March 2014
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