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"Talking Life in the Land of the Dead" - 12th Sunday after Pentecost - August 23, 2020

I. Misquoting Irenaeus

Today, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the feast day of St. Irenaeus. A Greek bishop, theologian, and martyr – who is believed to have heard John the Evangelist teach. And there is this quote from Irenaeus that you may have heard or seen before…it goes like this:

“The glory of God is a human fully alive.”

It’s often quoted by spiritual authors and conference leaders. If you were to do a quick Google image search you’d see it written across the page in a cool font with an accompanying photo of someone rock climbing, or swimming in the ocean, or jumping in the middle of a field (like you do), or standing at the top of a mountain or sea side at sunset with arms raised in a V. The glory of God is a human fully alive. Now, if you’re a mountain climber, or deep-sea diver, or if you just happen to be a person who occasionally enjoys running and jumping in some random field – more power to you. The risk, the adventure, the deep plunge or ascent into some pocket of creation is good and holy…it reminds me of another quote from the film Chariots of Fire, when Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell says, “I know God made for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run I feel God’s pleasure.” So…sure, we can feel some sacred connection and pleasure in those things. But when we see that Irenaeus quote along side those manufactured images I think what it can give us is this idea that the glory of God is discovered in our being adrenaline junkies, or that “aliveness” – that “full life” looks something like that...

Which is all well and good, but what if you’re a parent trying to raise kids, work a full-time job, and navigate a monthly budget with your spouse? What does “aliveness” look like then? What if you’re a person with physical or financial limitations and you can’t afford to find God in the middle of your personal Patagonia commercial? What does a “full life” look like then?

Well the good news is…we’ve misquoted old Irenaeus and missed what he was writing about those centuries ago. But before we revisit that, we need to walk with the disciples through Caesarea Philippi – because it might show us what “aliveness” and a “full life” looks like.