Thursday, March 29, 2012

Presence and touch

The most important gestures of love do not involve words.  They involve presence and touch.  Words can interpret, augment, amplify and clarify such gestures.  But they can almost never substitute for them.  If ministry gets presence and touch wrong, there is little that words can do.  If ministry gets presence and touch right, words can come naturally.

Samuel Wells & Marcia Owen
Living Without Enemies

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Drifting towards cynicism

Over and above specific instances, and behind them, is a drift toward cynicism and away from mutual respect and from willingness to take responsibility for our life as a community and a culture. I know it is impossible to say this without seeming to idealize a past that was dreadful in many respects. But the difference between the evils of the past and the ameliorizations of the present is the measure of the willingness of earlier generations to acknowledge and act on needed change. These reforms were made in the name of justice. Justice is reckoned on the basis of our obligations to one another. These obligations are different, lower or higher, depending on the worth we are willing to grant one another.

Marilynne Robinson
"A Common Faith" in Guernica

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The particular identity

God's love cannot be understood, in the first place, somewhat counter to a certain tendency of ours, as a series of passionate heart throbs or the pouring forth of a general sweetness.  It consisted, and consists, in making available a rather particular human living out.  Perhaps this is not what we want....  It is not as though he is consoling us in our small, timorous identities; rather he is furnishing the means for us to take part in a different show, something which calls us to be something different from what we thought we were.

James Alison
Raising Abel

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A peculiar and monstrous people

The failure on our part to accept the reality of pain, of anguish, of ambiguity, of death, has turned us into a very peculiar and monstrous people.  It means, for one thing, and it's very serious, that people who have had no experience have no compassion.  People who have had no experience suppose that if a man is a thief, he is a thief; but, in fact, that isn't the most important thing about him.  The most important thing about him is that he is a man and, furthermore, that if he's a thief or a murderer or whatever he is, you could also be and you would know this, anyone would know this who had really dared to live.

James Baldwin, from an article in a 1964 edition of Playboy.  [Quoted on page 313 of Colm Tóibín's book, New Ways to Kill Your Mother]

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The everyday

The last place most people look is right under their feet, in the everyday activities, accidents, and encounters of their lives.... My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul.  What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Holy Co-operation

We need to reclaim Jesus’s message of liberation and transformation in a way that the world can see.  We need to stop talking about love and start showing it in ways that go beyond individual acts of kindness.  Cooperation is not a substitute for spiritual growth or redemption; it is a way to nurture the behaviors that support them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Small communities

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men.... In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized society groups come into existence founded upon sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique.

G.K. Chesterton

Taking sides

Not only will Christians thus take sides as they concern themselves with the miseries of contemporary mankind, but this taking sides will be a priority for them.... This taking of sides will of course produce conflict (of which there was much already).  The powerful will try to hang on to their positions.  One will not be able to avoid reflecting seriously on the place of violence in that conflict. Sad to say, it is not a conflict in which the church is to be found exclusively on the side of the exploited.  Christ was there, and is there, but his "body," the church, is not -- not all of it in any case.  So in taking the side of the exploited, Christians will find themselves in opposition to some of those who confess the same Lord.  That, for them, is yet another of the great sorrows of our world.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dead Times

And what of the "dead times" in a marriage, when the romance has faded, and "happily ever after" seems a cruel sham?  The rock musician Lou Reed once said that repetition was "fantastic," because it was "anti-glop."  His is an aesthetic concern for shunning the mushy and mawkish by employing repetitive sound, yet the insight might apply to marriage as well.  For repetition resists the glop of sentiment, and also tests the spirit.

Kathleen Norris
Acedia & Me

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sexual love and life

Sexual love is the heart of community life.  Sexual love is the force that in our bodily life connects us most intimately to the Creation, to the fertility of the world, to farming and the care of animals.  It brings us into the dance that holds the community together and joins it to its place.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sexual sin...

Sexual sin is sin not because it is sexual but because it is invariably covetous.  It replaces the pleasure and sexual enjoyment of two people in a loving relationship with a self-centered gratification of sexual longings that can never be fulfilled apart from commitment.  Such sin breaks the back of trust that is at the heart of community...

Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Bodies are central to the Christian story.  Creation inaugurates bodies that are good, but the consequences of the fall are written on our bodies -- our bodies will sweat as we labor in the fields, our bodies will hurt as we bear children, and, most centrally, our bodies will die.  If the fall is written on the body, salvation happens in the body too.  The kingdom of God is transmitted through Jesus's body and is sustained in Christ's Body, the church.  Through the bodily suffering of Christ on the cross and the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are saved.  Bodies are not just mirrors in which we see the consequence of the fall; they are also, in one theologian's phrase, "where God has chosen to find us in our fallenness."  Bodies are who we are and where we live; they are not just things God created us with, but means of knowing Him and abiding with Him.

Lauren Winner
Real Sex

Friday, March 02, 2012


I believe deliverance begins with questions.  It begins with people who love questions, people who live with questions and by questions, people who feel a deep joy when good questions are asked.  When we meet these people -- some living, some through history and art -- things begin to change.  Something is let loose.  When we're exposed to the liveliness of holding everything up to the light of good questions -- what I call "sacred questioning" -- we discover that redemption is creeping into the way we think, believe, and see the world.