Doing the Opus Dei
It is like something out of your worst nightmare, that is if you have nightmares about being chased through Paris by an albino killer monk. If your worst nightmare is standing next to your high school locker in your underwear then it’s nothing like your worst nightmare. We went and saw the Da Vinci Code with my folks and my mother told me that Silas was just as she pictured him from reading the book. Now if you didn’t read the book or see the movie then at this point you are totally confused wonder who or what a Silas is. Well he is one of the villains of the book and movie, here is a picture of him and yeah he pretty much looks like he was described in the book. Here’s a brief overview if you have neither read nor seen the Da Vinci Code to date. It all begins when Robert Langdon, the noted symbologist from Harvard University becomes entangled in a murder investigation while lecturing in Paris. Jacques Sauniere one of the curators of the Louvre is brutally murdered and it appears that Langdon has been framed as the murderer. He is helped to escape by the s beautiful police cryptographer Sophie Neveu. Langdon discovers that the murdered Sauniere not only is Sophie’s estranged Grandfather but he is also the Grand Master of Priory of Sion, a secret society entrusted with a secret which if revealed would destroy the Christian church as we know it.
Now over the past two weeks we discovered that the secret in the book is the revelation that Jesus Christ was only a good man and prophet, not the son of God and that before he died on the cross he married Mary Magdalene who was pregnant with their daughter Sarah when she became a widow. She then fled to France where their descendents still reside.
Last week and the week before we looked at a number of errors in the book that are presented as fact. 1) The Priory of Sion does exist but it was not established in 1099 to protect this secret it was actually established in 1956 in Paris by a convicted con artist, Pierre Plantard. 2) The Gospels of Mary, Phillip and Thomas are not credible sources, they were written 150 to 200 years after the Gospels of Matthew Mark, Luke and John were written and accepted as the true account of the life of Christ. 3) The divinity of Christ was not established by the Nicene Council under the direction of Constantine in 325 AD. instead it was taught and believed by Paul in his writings dating from around 48 AD, the first generation of the church never debated it and Christ himself allowed people to call him God and he made such statements as “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” 4) Mary Magdalene was a follower of Christ but there is no evidence at all to suggest the relationship was more then teacher disciple let alone that they married and produced a child.
However the gist of the story is that all of those fallacies, as well as others are true and they are so dangerous to Christianity that the Catholic Church has been willing to kill in order to keep those secrets under wraps. The deadly instrument used by the Vatican to achieve this silence is the Organization “Opus Dei” and at least in this instance they were using a mad monk, you gotta love a story with a mad monk in it, named Silas who was willing to kill anyone who stood in his way, including an elderly nun.
Dan Brown’s choice of villains shouldn’t surprise any of us because the Catholic Church is everyone’s favourite whipping boy these days. You can well imagine the outcry if the villains had of been a Jewish organization or the Islamic Church. Of course if the Da Vinci code had of been brave enough to tackle an earth shattering secret about Mohammed and Islam Dan Brown would be hiding for his life and Columbia Pictures would have been bombed by now. But it’s an ill wind that blows no good. In my 25 years in the ministry I have never seen so many Protestants rush to the defence of a Catholic Organization, as I have seen in the past few months. Especially an organization as conservatively Catholic as Opus Dei
This morning we are going to look at “Doing the Opus Dei” Now unlike the Priory of Sion Opus Dei does exist, just not in the manner described by Dan Brown.
Time magazine says “In casting the group (Opus Dei) as it’s heavy, Brown was as shrewd as someone setting up an innocent man for a crime. You don’t choose the head of the Rotary. You single out the secretive guy at the end of the block with the off putting tics, who perhaps has a couple of incidents in his past that will hinder an effective defence.”
On Dan Brown’s website he is asked about his portrayal of Opus Dei, this is his response.
“I worked very hard to create a fair and balanced depiction of Opus Dei. (I wonder if he’s read his own book or seen the movie?) Even so, there may be those who are offended by the portrayal. While Opus Dei is a very positive force in the lives of many people, for others, affiliation with Opus Dei has been a profoundly negative experience. Their portrayal in the novel is based on numerous books written about Opus Dei as well as on my own personal interviews with current and former members.”
On Opus Dei’s website they claim “We also want to point out that The Da Vinci Code’s depiction of Opus Dei is inaccurate, both in the overall impression and in many details, and it would be irresponsible to form any opinion of Opus Dei based on The Da Vinci Code.”
The Opus Dei According to their Words
So what does the balanced depiction look like? Well according to the story Opus Dei is controlled by a cabal of men who will stop at nothing to protect the secrets revealed in the Da Vinci Code. As a matter of fact in reading the novel or watching the movie you get the impression that is why they exist and they have been around for hundreds of years.
The reality? Opus Dei was started in 1928 by a young Spanish priest by the name of Josemaria Escriva who had a vision of a movement of Catholic laypeople who would extend the holiness of church on Sunday into their everyday lives. Escriva stated that he saw Opus Dei eventually acting as “an intravenous injection (of holiness) into the bloodstream of society.” Josemaria was forty years ahead of the Second Vatican Council with his emphasis on the laity but his rigid adherence to Catholic teaching left him at odds with liberals in the church.
The story, would have us believe that Opus Dei uses monks as a kind of storm trooper, or in this case assassins. After all who is going to notice a guy in a robe sneaking around killing people? The reality; there are no monks in Opus Dei, no albino monks, no blonde monks, no black monks, no monks, none. Monks are part of monastic orders who seek holiness by withdrawing from society, the vision of Opus Dei is to become a part of society and influence it from within.
The story reveals to us a society as vicious as the mafia in pursuing their goals, they seem to be quite capable of lying, stealing, drugging and killing people all in the name of the church. The reality: There have never been criminal charges brought against Opus Dei and while there may have been abuses of power and individual wrongdoing as you would find in any organization that has close to a hundred thousand members, it would appear these are anomalies and not the norm.
The story tells us that Opus Dei is incredibly wealthy and has used the wealth for such things as funding the Solidarity Union Movement in Poland to overthrow communism and helping to bail out the Vatican Bank in 1982. And there is gold in them there hills, it is estimated that the organization has about $344 million in US assets and about $2.8 billion in assets world wide. Which is a lot of money but hardly enough to do what the book says. If you look at how much our property has appreciated since we have bought it combined with the value of the building, furniture and the five hundred feet of hose I bought for our new lawn our assets at Cornerstone are probably in the 1.5 million range and we average about 130 on a Sunday Morning, but our membership is considerably less then that. Proportionally if we had 85,500 members like Opus Dei does our assets would be around $8.55 billion or 3 times Opus Dei.
Probably the most disturbing images in the movie and the book revolved around Silas punishing himself, first with the cilice, a small chain with inward pointing spikes worn around the upper thigh for up to two hours a day and secondly through flagellation that is whipping himself with a whip called a discipline. Wouldn’t work for me, I even hate going to the dentist. Here is a video from Opus Dei, explaining the use of “mortification”.
So where does that leave us? The title of the message is Doing the Opus Dei, do I expect you all to join the organization, buy your own cilice and discipline? No. But the term Opus Dei is actually Latin and it means “Work of God”. And what I expect of each believer who attends Cornerstone is that they be doing the “Work of God”, doing the Opus Dei.
So now let’s look at The Opus Dei According to the Word.
Let’s go back to the scripture that Karen read for us earlier. 2 Timothy 2:21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a utensil God can use for his purpose. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. Did you catch that last part? You will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. It doesn’t say that you will be ready to sit back and relax or you will be ready for a day at the beach, there is a certain element of work that is involved in this adventure called Christianity.
When Jesus describes the Kingdom of God he uses action words, a farmer sowing or reaping, a fisherman fishing, a man searching for treasure. When Paul describes Christianity he uses action words he talks about walking and running, competing in a race, he compares Christians to athletes and to soldiers.
This is not a holiday, it is a challenge. And so Paul tells Timothy that he can be used in God’s work if he is pure. But what does purity mean and what does it entail? Listen to the next verse 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
That first part is a little intriguing; Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. The word lust there basically means a longing for what is forbidden, it’s temptation and that easiest way to defeat temptation is to run from it. The word run is mentioned 102 times in the Bible, ten of those times are in the New Testament. And when the writers are not speaking about literal running they are telling us to run to God, run the race set before us, run with endurance. But three times we are told to run away from certain things. We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:18 Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Plus 1 Timothy 6:11 But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things . . . And finally in 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Kind of a common theme that is running through there.
What we are being warned about are those areas in life that we are prone to be spiritually weak in. And it’s a personal thing, what may tempt you may not tempt me and vice versa. But you know what areas you are weak in. Someone once said “The reason most people don’t pray ‘lead me not into temptation’ is they are afraid God will take them serious.”
This isn’t rocket surgery people. If you have a problem with gambling you don’t go down to watch the folks feed the VLTs, if you have a problem with lust you don’t watch certain programs or go to certain movies, if you struggle with alcohol you don’t hang out in the bars or keep a bottle around just in case.
Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to walk away from evil, or to saunter away from evil or to stroll away from evil. Instead he yells, Run away, run away. Don’t mess with it; don’t play with it, just run away from it.
You say “Don’t worry Denn, I have everything under control.” Sure, famous last words, I think Custer said the same thing. Remember what Solomon asked in Proverbs 6:27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? While that is a rhetorical question and isn’t meant to be answered, the correct answer is “No you dummy.” You don’t stick your hand into the fire and pray that you won’t be burned, you keep your hand out of the fire and pray for enough sense to not put it in.
I’ve told you before, I am telling you now and I will tell you again. Sin will always take you further then you want to go, keep you longer then you want to stay and cost you more then you want to pay. Run Away, Run Away.
Let’s go back to 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
Paul has one piece of negative advice, one thing not to do, but it is followed by a bunch of things we should be doing. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Do you find it easier to do what you are supposed to do after you’ve been worshipping together and being with other Christians, does reading your bible or praying make you want to do the right thing? Then that’s what you should be doing.
We run from the wrong things but we are supposed to run to the good things, faith, love and peace. The scriptures tell us that if we want to live positive lives then we need to think positive thoughts. Am I promoting the Power of Positive Thinking? Well couldn’t hurt in a lot of cases, but no I’m not saying that if you think enough positive thoughts only good things will happen to you. But thinking positive thoughts will go a long way to making sure you are a positive person.
And that’s why Paul gives us these words of advice in Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Then Paul finishes his advice to Timothy about doing the work of God by saying 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. You’re all smart enough to know that the people we hang around with have an incredible impact on who we are and what we do. And you know if you are honest that you act differently when you are with your cruddy buddies then when you are with other believers. That’s why you need to find some positive role models and why you need to be in church on a regular basis and take part in a midweek group.
I know that Jesus hung around with sinners, but he influenced them, they didn’t influence Him.
So are you ready? Are you ready to do the Opus Dei? Are you ready to be an instrument of God?
Powerpoint is available for this message, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org