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


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


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


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


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 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)


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