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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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