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