Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new day


We are a restless and uncertain people.  Our lives may not be centered anymore on plantings and harvests, but they will always center around buried failures and fresh undertakings.  By celebrating and making conscious our endings, we take time out from our restless searching and allow ourselves hope for a new beginning.  New Year's Eve can be one of the great washdays of the year.  We can shed and give up the lost job, the old house, the missed opportunities, the tax forms, the political, economic, interpersonal regrets and anxieties, some good things, some bad things.  Then we can announce a new day, a new year, a new creation which we resolve to participate in and to help form.

Gertrud Mueller Nelson
To Dance with God

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hospitality


The practice of hospitality is a good example of what can be lost when we forget a story.  Although hospitality was a significant practice in earlier centuries, its recovery has involved a deliberate effort to find it and tell the story again.  We have had to be intentional in connecting ourselves with sources that empowered previous generations of Christians.  Recognizing the importance of hospitality to Chrysostom or Calvin is not merely a historical exercise; it allows us to participate in the wisdom and the experience of a tradition.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Beatitudes

Too often those characteristics [of the Beatitudes] - the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted - are turned into ideals we must strive to attain.  As ideals, they can become formulas for power rather than descriptions of the kind of people characteristic of the new age brought by Christ; for the beatitudes are not general recommendations for anyone but describe those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb.  It is they who will hunger and thirst no more, having had their lives transformed by Christ's cross and resurrection.

Stanley Hauerwas: Hannah's Child - a theologian's memoir, pg 38 [Kindle edition]

Arms wide open


We might grieve for someone who’s missing from the table this year or lament the hold of consumerism over our family’s observance, even while we delight in a true expression of generosity or the nostalgia of a meaningful dish. And maybe we’ll experience conflicting emotions at the same time about the very same thing: gratitude and lament over a gift choice or pain and happiness at seeing a child outgrow a ritual. There’s not one perfect way to feel; rather, when we stop obsessing about ourselves, there’s an incarnate God, both helpless and sovereign, with arms wide open to embrace us in both suffering and unconditional love.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
"It was a horse" on catapult magazine

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

He did not wait


He did not wait

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L'Engle




Saturday, December 24, 2011

This is no time...


The Risk of Birth

by Madeleine L'Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn --
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn --
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

Theologians

Christians are a people that have a faith that forces people like me to exist. Christians are a people whose faith demands we understand what we believe. Accordingly, theology is an office in the church which some are called to perform. That does not mean that "understanding the faith" is restricted to those that identify themselves as theologians, but by being so identified you at least know who you are to hold responsible.

Begotten, not made: the grammar of Christmas - sermon by Stanley Hauerwas. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

George Eliot

[We] discern that the mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims, and that to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, page 311 New York Century edition.

Advent


We can miss Advent by not being ready, or by simply not waiting because we feel that we have nothing to wait for in our state of arrived self-sufficiency.  Even if we know that we have not arrived and we are not self-sufficient; even when we realize that we still live in an empire that scoffs at justice and continues to neglect the poor, abuse the environment, and trust the technologies of war, we still feel incredibly burdened.  We feel weighted down, exhausted, powerless and comfortless.  To the exiles, Yahweh proclaimed comfort and political redemption.  To us Yahweh's Servant says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  And as we come to him we say, "Amen, come soon Lord Jesus."

Sylvia Keesmaat
The Advent of Justice

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Creating and begetting


In the case of man, that which he creates is more expressive of him that that which he begets. The image of the artist and the poet is imprinted more clearly on his works than on his children.

from The Destiny of Man, by Nicholas Berdyaev

Quoted by Dorothy L Sayers, in the Preface to her book, The Mind of the Maker.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mystery


When you do recognize a mystery, though -- when you really recognize a mystery -- I believe you're compelled to address it, to try to speak its name and describe its features, to give it a face so that you will recognize and remember it until the end of your days. Because it's no small thing, the recognition of a mystery, even though it happens all the time and we may not even be properly aware of it. Still, I believe such recognition calls for some banging of pots and pans, some fireworks, some exultant noise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New World?

The created order, which God has begun to redeem in the resurrection of Jesus, is a world in which heaven and earth are designed not to be separated but to come together. In that coming together, the "very good" that God spoke over creation at the beginning will be enhanced, not abolished. The New Testament never imagines that when the new heavens and the new earth arrive, God will say, in effect,"Well, that first creation wasn't so good after all, was it? Aren't you glad we've got rid of all that space, time and matter?" Rather, we must envisage a world in which the present creation, which we think of in those three dimensions, is enhanced, taken up into God's larger purposes, no doubt, but certainly not abandoned.


N.T. Wright
Surprised by Hope

Note on Psalm 22

What people think, how they treat us, even how we feel God is ignoring us, are all, in the end, unimportant: praising God openly for Who He is and what He has always been doing for us are what will finally get us back on our feet.

Note in one of my older Bibles - not sure now if it was written by me or copied from somewhere else (!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Community

We do not undertake the spiritual quest alone. We need communities which nurture and hold us, communities which keep traditions and charisms alive and which hand them on to the next generation.... Thus an individual, privatized or purely personal spirituality is an oxymoron. Authentic spirituality can never be an isolated, privatized or an individual affair. It is always located in a particular community from which it derives flavour, character and efficacy.


Marie McCarthy
"Sprituality in a Postmodern Era"
in The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology

Monday, December 05, 2011

Authority

The authority that the church has in culture does not come from how right, cool, or loud it is, or how convinced it is of its doctrinal superiority.... A church's authority comes from somewhere else -- it comes from how we've been broken open and poured out, not from how well we've pursued power and organized ourselves to triumph.

Rob Bell & Don Golden
Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Personal vs social

What we ask from Christianity is not a narrow concern for personal salvation but a social ideal that will stir enthusiasm and gain our devotion.  Christianity must not give a warning to set one's face against this world but a vision of the worth and meaning of the work to be done in this life.


Robert Roth
quoted in Subversive Orthodoxy: Outlaws, Revolutionaries and other Christians in disguise by Robert Inchausti

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Diner theology

Churches seem to have offered teenagers a kind of "diner theology": a bargain religion, cheap but satisfying, whose gods require little in the way of fidelity or sacrifice.  Never mind that centuries of Christians have read Jesus' call to lay down one's life for others as the signature feature of Christian love, or that God's self-giving enables us to share the grace of Christ when ours is pitifully insufficient.  Diner theology is much easier than all this -- and it is far safer, especially for malleable youth.

Kenda Creasy Dean
Almost Christian

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pastoral work and prayer

In short, the Psalms provide the language, the aspirations, the energy for the community as it comes together in prayer, and they then call into being and are formative for the activities of prophets, wise men, and historians.  The Psalms initiate; the prophets follow.  The inner action of prayer takes precedence over the outer action of proclamation.

The implication of this for pastoral work is plain: it begins in prayer.  Anything creative, anything powerful, anything biblical, insofar as we are participants in it, originates in prayer.  Pastors who imitate the preaching and moral action of the prophets without also imitating the prophets' deep praying and worship so evident in the Psalms are an embarrassment to the faith and an encumbrance to the church.

Working the Angles: the shape of pastoral integrity, by Eugene Peterson, page 40

Facing death

Of course we're all going to die one day, and we become so adept at ignoring or obscuring that unalterable reality that it's easy to become impatient with someone who's facing up to their own mortality.  A voice in each of us says, "What's so special about you?  What about me?"  So the person who can look you straight in the face as you name the truth of your own mortality isn't just crossing a barrier of intimacy, they're resisting a childlike insistence that all the attention should be on them.  That's what it means to be a companion -- being with someone as they face how bad things really are and not changing the subject or drawing attention back to yourself.

Samuel Wells
Be Not Afraid

Monday, November 14, 2011

The constant idea

Already the only constant idea is that there exists something infinitely more just and happier than myself, it entirely fills me with immeasurable tenderness and glory, oh, whoever I am, whatever I have done.  For man, a good deal more indispensable than his own happiness is to know and in every moment to believe that there exists in a certain place a perfect and calm happiness for everyone and for everything....The entire law of human existence consists solely in this: that man can always bow his head before that which is infinitely great.  If human beings were deprived of that which is infinitely great, then they would not be able to live any longer and would die as victims of desperation.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, quoted in More Daily Prayers for Busy People, by William J O'Malley, page 173

Friday, November 11, 2011

Boring Bible?

Have you ever wondered why parts of the Bible are boring?  Like this text?  [1 Kings 15:33-16:7]  They're boring because they are the records of sinful men who simply repeat the sins and evil of those before them.  Sin is never creative but merely imitative and repetitious.  Maybe you can sin with a flair but you can't sin with freshness.  You can only ape what's already been done.  Goodness has an originality inherent in it which evil hasn't got.  Evil can distort and ruin and corrupt and do re-runs, but it can't be original, nor even scintillating.  Evil carries a built-in yawn.  'And he walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin' (v.34a).  What tedious stuff!  If the Bible is boring, blame Baasha.  It's his fault.

Dale Ralph Davis in The Wisdom and the Folly: an exposition of the Book of First Kings, page 181

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Being Christian

I think really, that as in all other fields, we must be Christian.  That is essentially what a Christian has to do.  There are some Christians who I have met in the media and their influence has been out of proportion to what it might seem to be, just because they were Christians and were known to be Christians.  I don't think that a Christian has to be a particular type of Christian to be a diplomat, or a particular sort of Christian to be a doctor, or a particular sort of Christian to be a labourer.  He has, in all circumstances, to be a Christian.

Malcolm Muggeridge, quoted in Imagine, by Steve Turner, page 127

Poetry religion

At first I steered clear of the church, having a sort of 'poetry religion,' but a Christian can't develop much on 'poetry religion.'  We all need the religion of ordinary people and the love of other converts.  That's why, in the end, I went back to church; to worship around people who don't like poetry.  It's a good discipline.  I can't put myself apart from them as someone very special.   As a convert I am just an odinary believer, worshipping the same Lord as they do.

Jack Clemo, in A Different Drummer, TV documentary, BBC 1980, quoted on page 122 of Imagine, by Steve Turner.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Winners and Losers

We are not the same in gifts, talents, advantages and disadvantages, joys and sorrows, but we still need each other; our common humanity, more than our differences, is the key to our future.  We are a community one way or another, either with destructive and dysfunctional relationships or with creative and healthy ones.  The issue is one of solidarity, and it is the decisive choice we must make.  When we make that choice, we all win.  And when we don't, the world is divided into winners and losers, but the losses of the losers will finally taint and undermine the victory of the winners.

Jim Wallis
The Great Awakening

 See also my recent post

Friday, October 28, 2011

The souls of the old

Dale Ralph Evans writing in The Wisdom and the Folly, page 115, and referring to Solomon's gradual turn towards other gods because of his relationship by marriage to so many foreign women: 

We must take a moment to be frightened.  'When Solomon was old...'  How that text ought to goad older believers to pray the last petition of the Lord's Prayer [deliver us from evil].  Is there not a warning to churches as well, who have a fixation on youth ministry and a love affair with young marrieds and/or young families?   Need we not exercise far more vigilance over our over-sixties crowd, many of whom will doubtless meet the major troubles of their lives in their final years? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lack of imagination

Our deficiency is not motivation or money, but imagination.  Our ability to live Christianly and be the church corporately has failed because we do not believe it is possible.... Wanting to obey Christ but lacking his imagination, we reinterpret the mission of the church through the only framework comprehensible to us -- the one we've inherited from consumer culture.

Skye Jethani
The Divine Commodity

Friday, October 21, 2011

Seeking the excluded

Christ opens up the idea of a system that seeks always to find those who are excluded from the system that is in power.  The Christian "worldview" is thus manifested as always seeking out those who have been rejected from the worldviews that have authority.  The way this works itself out in practice is that whatever political or religious idea is dominating the society at any given time, Christianity seeks out those who are excluded by it, the one sheep who is not in the pen, the one coin not in the purse, those who have not been invited to the party, the nobodies, the nothings.

Peter Rollings
The Fidelity of Betrayal

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skepticism

Skepticism—like relativism—tends to eliminate personal or moral responsibility since truth (which is crucial to knowledge) is systematically being ignored or evaded….We should consider the personal, motivational questions which, while not being an argument against skepticism, raise important issues that may be driving the skeptical enterprise.  Blanket skepticism is an affliction of the mind that needs curing.

How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? (pp. 28-29) by Paul Copan

Writing

‎"I have always found it a mistake to attempt to complete a manuscript in one day. I like to do part of it--enough to get the theme well on to my mind--and then go to bed with the work half-done. I do not consciously review the matter during the night: yet I invariably wake up with a batch of ideas that were not there the previous day."
Ships of Pearl, 16, by F W Boreham. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So how should Christians live in society?

Very carefully; but, I would also say, joyfully.  That's the most important thing Christians can do.  They should live in the United States, for example, without pretending they are at home here because they are not at home anywhere.  Every social order is going to give Christians peculiar challenges.  Christians belong to a worldwide church that has great and varied resources; they're not trapped in any one country.  Their home is part of a movable feast.

Stanley Hauerwas
The Hauerwas Reader

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Different aspects of love

The love for equals is a human thing -- of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing -- the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing -- to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy -- the love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Frederick Buechner
The Magnificent Defeat

Friday, October 07, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.


Steve Jobs
"2005 Stanford University Commencement Address"

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Listening

Until I learn to listen -- to the Scriptures, to those around me, to my own underlying life messages, to the wisdom of those who have already maneuvered successfully around the dangers of a life that is unmotivated and unmeaningful -- I will really have nothing whatever to say about life myself.  To live without listening is not to live at all; it is simply to drift in my own backwater.

Joan Chittister
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

Waking up alone

There is all the difference in the world between waking up in a single bed and waking up in a double bed with nobody on the other side. Many in our Western culture may be atheists or agnostics, but they still find themselves wondering why the other side of the bed still feels warm, and the sheets a little rumpled. And I think this is true in ways that were not the case even ten, let alone thirty years ago.

N T Wright (source not known, but possibly The Future of Preaching, Geoffrey Stevenson, editor, (SCM Press, 2010), p. 138

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ministry is impossible

As ministers we ought to speak of God. We are human, however, and so cannot speak of God. We ought therefore to recognize both our obligation and our inability and by that very recognition give God the glory. This is our perplexity. The rest of our task fades into insignificance in comparison.

Karl Barth, in ‘The Task of the Ministry’ in The Word of God and the Word of Man (pg 186)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The small things

Cynics look high and low for wisdom - and never find it,
the open-minded find it right on their doorstep.

Proverbs 14: 6 (Message translation)

The ineffable inhabits the magnificent and the common, the grandiose and the tiny facts of reality alike.  Some people sense this quality at distant intervals in extraordinary events; others sense it in the ordinary events, in every fold, in every nook; day after day, hour after hour.  To them things are bereft of triteness....Slight and simple as things may be - a piece of paper, a morsel of bread, a word, a sigh - they hide a never-ending secret: a glimpse of God? kinship with the spirit of being? an eternal flash of a will?

Abraham Heschel, from Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion


Monday, September 19, 2011

Circus

The circus – that ancient institution, that spectacle of ecumenism, that tent of democracy, that circle of sobornost, that festive assemblage of man and beast, sensuality and austerity, laughter and terror, life and death – the circus: is it not one of the great enduring signs of humanity in a world grown cold, bloodless, and inhuman? In a world ruled by the Machine, does not the circus maintain its gentle witness to the joy of Life? In a world ruled by Work, does not the circus uphold the true doctrine of the primacy of Play? In a world ruled by Death, does not the circus proclaim the happy gospel of death's defeat?

Ben Myers: At the Circus

Conservatism

We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better.  But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse.  The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative.  The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact.  But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are.  But you do not.  If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.  If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.  If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.  Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.

G K Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, page 99

Our nothingness

It is not that we find God and then realize he created us from nothing.  Rather, it is only in finding our own nothingness and embracing it that we realize God exists.  For only an encounter with our nothingness takes us far enough outside our world for us to realized there is a giver of being who does not belong to it.  One finds God by dying.  And what dies last and most reluctantly is our longing to be important, to be beings in our right, our not wanting to shrink, in mortifying embarrassment, in acknowledging one's own nothingness, one discovers for the first time one's true and utter unworthiness.  And only someone suffering, in all its mortifying anguish, that sense of unworthiness, of not deserving to exist, is in a position to know what it means to be loved into being by God.  For it is precisely in our nothingness, and nowhere else, that God loves us.  To be loved, we said, is to be wounded, and no love hurts more, pierces more deeply than the kind we are completely undeserving to receive.

Jerome Miller in The Way of Suffering: a geography of crisis, page 47. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

A new community

The work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing, and self-sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline.  In that sense, the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ's message, but to be the message.


Peter Steinfels
On John Howard Yoder, qtd. in The New Christians

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kinship

These unjust inequalities, these masses living in misery who cry out to heaven are a sign of our anti-Christianity.  They are declaring before God that we believe more in the things of the earth than in the covenant of love that we have signed with him, and that because of our covenant with God, all human beings should consider themselves brothers and sisters.... Human beings are more children of God when they become more brotherly or sisterly to other human beings, and less children of God when they feel less kinship with their neighbours. (September 18, 1977)

Oscar Romero
Through the Year with Oscar Romero

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Love your enemies

Loving our enemies has become, in our time, the criterion of true Christian faith.  It may seem impossible, yet it can be done.  At no point is the inrush of divine grace so immediately and concretely perceptible as in those moments when we let go our hatred and relax into God's love.  No miracle is so awesome, so necessary, and so frequent.

Walter Wink
Engaging the Powers

Monday, September 12, 2011

Answers


Just as Galileo finally made us realize that the Bible meant something else when it said the sun stoo still, God’s unwillingness to bend to my prayers finally made me realize that Jesus meant something else when he said every prayer would be answered.  It will be.  But not with answers, with the Answer.

William J O’Malley – More Daily Prayers for Busy People – pg 10

Friday, September 09, 2011

Body Politics

... loving the world and refusing conformity to it, being present in its midst and being a foreign body, are not opposite ends of a scale, components which one is free to choose between or to mix as one pleases, but two sides of a coin, both always necessarily present.

John Howard Yoder
Body Politics

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Not Independent

We cannot and must not remain rootless people or rootless churches.  Christ needed water from the earth, food from the ground, education from his elders; yet we too often experience church as an organization that has absolutely no need for its surrounding community or area.  It is too often an appendage, something slightly apart and independent, not needing the neighboring culture in order to survive.  To admit our need as a church, our dependence on our host culture, is a risk.  Yet like Christ we must take this risk of interdependence, this risk of being born, this risk of life.
Kester Brewin
Signs of Emergence

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, "Yu, u nobuntu"; "Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu." Then you are generous, your are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons." It is not, "I think therefore I am." It says rather: "I am human because I belong. I participate, I share." A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.
Desmond Tutu
No Future Without Forgiveness

Saturday, September 03, 2011

True humility

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason.

The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic.

G K Chesterton, in Orthodoxy. (no page reference given)

Community

A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.

Jean Vanier
Community and Growth

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brokenness

To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.

Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Holy versus human


You do not have to be holy to love God. You have only to be human. Nor do you have to be holy to see God in all things. You have only to play as a child with an unselfish heart.

Matthew Kelty
qtd. in Dakota [by Kathleen Norris]

See also this blog post written on the occasion of Kelty's death at 95. It includes one of Kelty's homilies.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Welcoming....

My experience has shown that when we welcome people from this world of anguish, brokenness and depression, and when they gradually discover that they are wanted and loved as they are and that they have a place, then we witness a real transformation--I would even say 'resurrection.'


Jean Vanier
From Brokenness to Community

Thursday, July 21, 2011

God's vision...

... God's vision for a better future has much more to do with making a difference than with making a dollar. It has more to do with creating a new reconciled global community of justice and celebration than with producing a new global community of consumption. It has more to do with coming home to Jerusalem than with returning to Babylon. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are all invited to devote our lives to the subversive cause of the mustard seed that is destined to redeem a people and transform a world.

Tom Sine
Mustard Seed vs. McWorld

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Access

God wants all people to have access to the productive resources to be able to earn a living. Justice for everyone, particularly the disadvantaged, takes precedence over the rights of the person able to pay the market price for land. Thus, the rights of the poor and disadvantaged to possess the means to earn a decent living take precedence over the rights of the more prosperous to make a profit.

Ronald Sider
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trust

The question I ask myself is: if I put a certain amount of money away for my livelihood post-career instead of giving it away, does that reflect that I only “sort-of” trust God to provide for me later in life?

Paul Chaplin
"My comfort tomorrow or someone else’s today?" in catapult magazine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Understanding poverty

Can overfed, comfortably clothed, and luxuriously housed persons understand poverty? Can we truly feel what it is like to be a nine-year-old boy playing outside a village school he cannot attend because his father is unable to afford the books? Can we comprehend what it means for poverty-stricken parents to watch with helpless grief as their baby daughter dies of a common childhood disease because they, like at least one-quarter of our global neighbors today, lack access to elementary health services? Can we grasp the awful truth that thirty-four thousand children die every day of hunger and preventable diseases?

Ronald Sider
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Giving away...

Any father ... must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God. It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents’ love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness.

Marilynne Robinson
Gilead

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Breadth of vision

"To develop a broader vision we must be willing to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision. In the short run it is more comfortable not to do this - to stay where we are, to keep using the same microcosmic map, to avoid suffering the death of cherished notions. The road of spiritual growth, however, lies in the opposite direction. We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear. The path to holiness lies through questioning everything."

M Scott Peck - source unknown.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Gospel is...


The Gospel is “...exclusive in the sense of affirming the unique truth in the revelation of Jesus Christ, but not in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation to those outside the Christian faith; inclusive in the sense of refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christians, but not in the sense of viewing other religions as salvific; pluralist in the sense of acknowledging the gracious work of God in the lives of all human beings, but not in the sense of denying the unique and decisive nature of what God has done in Jesus Christ.”

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, pp 182-3

Strong v weak

Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak. This is a matter of tremendous significance, for it reveals to what extent a religion that was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of nations whose very position in modern life too often has been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to defenseless peoples.

Howard Thurman
Jesus and the Disinherited

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More theology, not less


“A genuine Christian radicalism cannot be built upon woolliness of belief, vague liberalism, or the assumption that theology and dogma do not matter. Theology is highly toxic and nothing could be more disastrous for Christian rebels than the kind of ‘theological striptease’, which divests itself of as much belief as possible. When we are confronting monsters, we need all the theological and spiritual resources we can get. We need more theology, not less” (p.76).

Kenneth Leech, “English Rising” in Prayer and Prophecy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bad art

I’m convinced that bad art derives, like bad literary theory, from bad theology. To know God falsely is to write and paint and sculpt and cook and dance Him falsely. Perhaps it’s not poor artistic skill that yields bad Christian art, in other words, but poor Christianity.

Tony Woodlief
"Bad Christian Art" from Image

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Reading the signs


...nowhere in the New Testament does the ‘end of the world’ bring about the second coming of Christ. The New Testament looks forward to the very reverse, that the second coming of Christ will bring the end of destruction and persecution in the world. Anyone who reads the ‘signs of the time’ with the eyes of his own existential anxiety reads them falsely. If they can be read at all, they can be read by Christians only with the eyes of hope in the future of Christ.

Jurgen Moltmann, in The Crucified Christ, (page 21, SCM edition)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The task of art

The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art, aided by science, guided by religion, that peaceful co-operation of man which now maintained by external means -- by our law-courts, police, charitable institutions, factory inspection, and so forth -- should be obtained by man's free and joyous activity. Art should cause violence to be set aside.

Leo Tolstoy
What Is Art?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Art as answer

Tired of pat answers and mere preachiness, more and more believers are turning to art to experience truths that cannot be reduced to a paraphrase. God promises that we will be changed when we see Him. This pursuit of what film critic Andre Bazin calls "holy moments" becomes an exercise of transformative recognition of God in the everyday world. You could call it "practice," the art of becoming ready for the day we see Him in His fullness. Such discipline carries over in the humdrum of daily existence, in walks at the park, in unexpected moments of eye contact between friends and strangers.

Jeffrey Overstreet
Through a Screen Darkly

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Patience with God


Patience is what I consider to be the main difference between faith and atheism. What atheism, religious fundamentalism, and the enthusiasm of a too-facile faith have in common is how quickly they can ride roughshod over the mystery we call God – and that is why I find all three approaches equally unacceptable. One must never consider mystery “over and done with.” Mystery, unlike a mere dilemma, cannot be overcome; one must wait patiently at its threshold and persevere in it – must carry it in one’s heart – just as Jesus’s mother did according to the Gospel, and allow it to mature there and lead one in turn to maturity.

From Patience with God: the story of Zaccheus continuing in us, by Tomáš Halik

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The arts community

God has set things up so that cultural endeavour is always a communal enterprise, done by trained men and women in concert, gripped by a spirit that is larger than each one individually and that pulls them together as they do their formative work. Should a stray Christian who is an artist make it in the big time, and like a christian who is a professional football or baseball player make a testimonial announcement for Jesus Christ, we may praise the Lord; but that is a baby action next to the grown-up witness of a christian work community of solid artists, identifiable as people of God, who are able to earn their living from the gifts God gave them. That would be a mature witness to the world of God's grace.

Calvin Seerveld
Rainbows for the Fallen World

Friday, May 20, 2011

Universities and Modernity

The shriveled visions of universities under the impact of modernity--particularly the effects of bureaucracy and technology--seem more concerned to produce people who are technically competent but who have little interest in the whys and wherefores of their competencies. Education must be oriented to preparation for a calling and not just training for a career. The difference is one of substance, not semantics.

Steven Garber
The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Christian schools...

To be blunt, I believe that there are two kinds of Protestant Christian schools: those who are convinced they have answers but would rather not take questions, and those who see questions as the meat of intellectual life and who find answers naive and distasteful. The former group separates itself from culture; the latter often sits comfortably in culture's fellowship at the expense of identity and substance.

Daniel de Roulet
"Thorough converts" in catapult magazine

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Christian walk

’ In truth, the Christian life is as much to do with the walk—the journey—as it has with a destination. If the destination is the main deal, then we want a map with a clear and straightforward route clearly marked ahead of time. Heaven here we come! I have to confess that this is the way I once treated the Bible, a bit like the Melways to eternity. But today I appreciate it less as a book of maps and more one of stories—the stories of those who have taken this ‘long walk’ ahead of me. I learn so much from their successes and failures, their detours and disasters. As I read these stories over and over, I come to appreciate the tried and true practices of faith that have been consistently sustaining and spiritually formative for aspiring pilgrims like me.

from Dorothy Butler Bass’s book Christianity for the Rest of Us, quoted by Simon Carey Holt on his blog.

Education

Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve -- both the living human community in its natural household or neighborhood and its precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit. To educate is, literally, to ‘bring up,’ to bring young people into a responsible maturity, to help them be good caretakers of what they have been given, to help them to be charitable toward fellow creatures.

Wendell Berry
“Higher Education and Home Defense” from Home Economics

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Justice

When I say that the moral wounds of the world must find a place in our curricula, what I mean is not just that we must teach about justice--though we must; I mean that we must teach for justice. The graduate whom we seek to produce must be one who practices justice.

Nicholas Wolterstorff
Educating for Shalom

Friday, April 29, 2011

Shalom

Shalom incorporates delight in one’s relationships. To dwell in shalom is to find delight in living rightly before God, to find delight in living rightly in one’s physical surroundings, to find delight in living rightly with one’s fellow human beings, to find delight even in living rightly with oneself.

Nicholas P. Wolterstorff
Educating for Shalom

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meaning

Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention.

Neil Postman
The End of Education

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Exclusive/inclusive

The gospel is...

“exclusive in the sense of affirming the unique truth in the revelation of Jesus Christ, but not in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation to those outside the Christian faith; inclusive in the sense of refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christians, but not in the sense of viewing other religions as salvific; pluralist in the sense of acknowledging the gracious work of God in the lives of all human beings, but not in the sense of denying the unique and decisive nature of what God has done in Jesus Christ.”

Lesslie Newbigin: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (1989) pp 182-3

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Born again and again

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over to give birth to themselves.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love in the Time of Cholera

Friday, April 15, 2011

Born again - maybe?

Maybe we're being born. Again. Maybe the spirit really does move and blow. Maybe it's happening around us all the time. Maybe God is saving the world. Maybe there's groaning and blood and pain in the birthing process and maybe it doesn't feel like being in the womb. And maybe it isn't always a nice warm breeze but thank God for breath and life and for enduring the labor.

Debbie Blue
Sensual Orthodoxy

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where God is


Gary Moon asks: We are asking where God is when He is all about us and within us. But why is this? Why do we seem to need directions to a place when we are already there?

Jim Finley replies: Yes, and let me give an example of how this happens in psychotherapy. Often in therapy someone will start to talk and begin to open up about his difficulties. I ask him questions about what he is saying and attempt to form a bond of genuine empathy with him in his suffering. As the person and I go on in this way, there begins to grow in me a sense of oneness with this person in his suffering. I begin to get a sense of how much courage it takes for him to open up like this and how hard it is for him to go through whatever it is he is going through. As this process deepens, I begin to sense we are on holy ground together. Now, this person and I were on holy ground together from the first moment he walked in the door. But it wasn’t until I entered into the process of opening myself up to the depths of his presence that I was able to become aware of that. Simultaneously for the person in therapy, he was on this same holy ground with me from the moment he walked in the door. But it was not until he began to open up, to trust, and to become vulnerable with me that he was able to begin to sense he was on the holy ground we all live on all the time as precious human beings.

In a similar fashion, the same process occurs in intimate relationships, in prayer, and in meditation. The process is one of learning not to keep skimming over the surface of the life we are living. It is learning not to continue in the momentum of moving on to some goal other than where we actually are at the moment, the momentum of being on our way to someplace else. The process is one of learning to slow down, to settle in, to open up, and enter into the interior richness of what’s really going on. As we do so, we begin to discover the ways God is already present in the hidden depths of the present moment; it is just because we were skimming along across the surface of what is happening that we were unable to know and rest in that presence…”

James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God, A Conversation with James Finley, pp. 20-21.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The fallen world

Christ's message was not to pretend the world isn't fallen but to take up our crosses and follow him through suffering and sacrifice. To create a body of work illustrating a world without the Fall is, for a Christian, to render Christ superfluous.

Gregory Wolfe
"The Painter of Lite" in Intruding Upon the Timeless

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Missional motives

Maybe this is why people who believe in eternal torment are so grumpy, mean-spirited, and miserable. If hell is the only motive for coming to God, if sinners are the one's having the most fun, well, of course these "turn or burn" Christians are unhappy. They've been called out of a fun and joyous life into the Kingdom of God where all is proper, boring, structured, grey and lame. But hey, at least they aren't going to hell! So there they sit in their churches, jealous and grumpy that the world is throwing a party that they can't attend because they had to dress up and go to church on Sunday. No wonder these sorts of Christians want the world to go to hell. They are jealous.

Richard Beck, in the Experimental Theology blog: Musings about Universalism, Part 9: The Urgency of Joy: On Evangelism and Mission