Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A safe place

As all the inner pains surface, we can discover too that community is a safe place.  At last some people really listen to us; we can, little by little, reveal to them all those terrible monsters within us, all those guilt feelings hidden in the tomb of our being.  And they can help us to accept them by revealing to us that these monsters are protecting our vulnerability and are our cry for and our fear of love.  They stand at the door of our wounded heart.  In each one of us there is such a deep wound, such an urgent cry to be held, appreciated and seen as unique and valuable.  The heart of each one is broken and bleeding.

Jean Vanier

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

True community

The fundamental attitudes of true community, where there is true belonging, are openness, welcome, and listening to God, to the universe, to each other and to other communities.  Community life is inspired by the universal and is open to the universal.  It is based on forgiveness and openness to those who are different, to the poor and the weak.  Sects put up walls and barriers out of fear, out of a need to prove themselves and to create a false security.  Community is the breaking down of barriers to welcome difference.

Jean Vanier

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shot in the foot

For the last thirty or so years the modern church has sat itself down in public places and proceeded, with solemn and generally rather repellent insensitivity, to show the world how good it is at shooting itself in the foot. Writing, painting, dance, music ... these are things that have been regarded with deep suspicion by whole sections of the church and particularly when they suddenly find they have access to public platforms such as radio and television. Complexity and creativity are sucked out of the message ... leaving it so thin and pale, and yet so dogmatically assertive, that those who are exhorted to let it revolutionise their lives end up more annoyed than anything else.

Adrian Plass
qtd. in Art & Soul

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Art and humility

There are those who maintain that you can't demand anything of the reader. They say the reader knows nothing about art, and that if you are going to reach him, you have to be humble enough to descend to his level. This supposes either that the aim of art is to teach, which it is not, or that to create anything which is simply a good-in-itself is a waste of time. Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it. We hear a great deal about humility being required to lower oneself, but it requires an equal humility and a real love of the truth to raise oneself and by hard labor to acquire higher standards.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Letting art be art

An important consequence of the church's approach to modern and contemporary art is that in its commentators' zeal to engage it through certain philosophical, theological, or political perspectives, they have tended to reduce art to visual illustrations of propositional truths better expressed in other forms, usually words. This kind of soft iconoclasm, which is distrustful of letting art be art, has led to an impoverished ability to experience both the aesthetic presence of much of modern and contemporary art and to write about it allusively, expansively, and suggestively, recognizing that art is a distinctive mode of cognition and knowledge about the world. As George Steiner provocatively observed, art is a dangerous thing that can take over our inner house and transform us.

Daniel Siedell
God in the Gallery

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Giving birth to art

To paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an
incarnational activity.  The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver.  In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command. Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, "Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me." And the artist either says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Supporting the Call

I believe it is very important for the church to confirm a man's calling. Unfortunately many are deluded as to their calling. It is by no means unknown for a man or woman to feel called to tasks that they are not suited to or equipped for. The prayerful judgement of the church is a safeguard against vainglorious feelings and egotistical desires.
The church needs to take its responsibility in this regard very seriously. Care needs to be taken and prayer made for sound judgement. Christians should beware of having a plank in the eye. Jesus wasn't thought highly of in his home town and uttered those sad and dispiriting words: "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country."
Much is always made of the response of J.R. Ryland when William Carey raised the question of whether it was the duty of all Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the world at a minister's meeting of Particular Baptists. He is said to have retorted: "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." The impression is sometimes given that Carey ignored the put down and was on the next boat to India.
This is far from the truth. Instead he worked to overcome opposition to missionary enterprise and eventually the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen (subsequently known as the Baptist Missionary Society and since 2000 as BMS World Mission) was founded in October 1792, including Carey, Andrew Fuller, John Ryland, and John Sutcliff as charter members. They then concerned themselves with practical matters such as raising funds, as well as deciding where they would direct their efforts. A medical missionary, Dr. John Thomas, had been in Calcutta and was currently in England raising funds; they agreed to support him and that Carey would accompany him to India.
Carey only went to India after his call was confirmed by the association of churches to which he belonged.

J. Reed in his online commentary on Romans. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Moving on...

If any of us were to be asked, do you want to stay here on earth, or would you like to move into a bigger, better, brighter world we would probably answer that, even with earthly anxieties and problems, we would rather stay on earth than move into an uncertain future. But, like the child, we have no choice. At a time, not of our choosing, we make the transition from this world into eternity. From our earthly perspective this moment looks like, loss, parting, separation, it looks and feels like death. But the one who has died is encountering the fullness of God’s life and love, and is being offered this life for eternity.

Fr John O'Connor, on his blog Food for Faith

Unless the Lord guards the city

One important lesson which Madame Guyon learned from her temptations and follies was that of her entire dependence on Divine grace. "I became", she says, "deeply assured of what the prophet hath said, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain." When I looked to thee, O my Lord? thou wast my faithful keeper; thou didst continually defend my heart against all kinds of enemies. But, alas! when left to myself, I was all weakness. How easily did my enemies prevail over me! Let others ascribe their victories to their own fidelity: as for myself, I shall never attribute them to anything else than thy paternal care. I have too often experienced, to my cost, what I should be without thee, to presume in the least on any wisdom or efforts of my own. It is to thee, O God, my Deliverer, that I owe everything! And it is a source of infinite satisfaction, that I am thus indebted to thee."—From the Life of Jeanne Bouvier de la Mothe Guyon, 1648-1717.

Quoted in Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David: additional notes to Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord builds the house

Verse 1. Except the LORD build the house, etc. In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favour. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived for a long time 81 years; and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests; our prospects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, or conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

Benjamin Franklin: Speech in Convention for forming a Constitution for the United States, 1787, quoted in Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, on Psalm 127, verse 1