Wednesday, July 30, 2003

This morning part of my reading was Matthew 23, that provocative chapter where Jesus reveals the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees 7 times. The spirit led me to dwell on an earlier passage which, though perhaps less famous, is equally provocative:
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus here is teaching us that all of us--disciples and doubters--are members of a universal family. We have but one Father--the one to whom we address the Lord's Prayer--and the love, obedience and deference owed to a father is owed to Him.

Further, we only have one teacher, only one who brings us new and true knowledge, and that is the Son of God, our savior, the Christ. Anything that we discover, anything that we come to know, is through Him only. The corollary is also true--anything that anyone seems to learn from us is actually from Christ. We cannot claim to teach anymore than the blackboard in a school-room can claim to teach. It is an implement, as are we, through which teaching may occur.

It is in this context that the final sentence I quoted needs to be read. If we try to claim the authority and stature that is owed to a father; if we try to claim the authority and knowledge that is owed to a teacher; we will find ourselves without any of those traits. If we recognize that we are under the authority of the one Father and under the tutelage of the Christ, then we will find ourselves true heirs of the universal family.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

A few weeks ago we took a family drive through the nearby farmlands. We are very close to farm country--not surprising considering we back up to a horse farm--but it is easy to forget when the nearest McDonald's is only a short walk away. As we were driving, we decided to stop by one of the many little creeks that run through the area and feed the South Anna and Chickihominy rivers. At the spot we chose, there was an old ruined mill with a damn that cascaded water about 12 feet from top to bottom. The boys were thrilled with the rushing water and the dilapidated stonework. They were appropriately cautious around the still sturdy but weathered timber that held up the old mill. I know if a few years we'll have to restrain them from climbing all over such places. For now, though, we enjoy innocence among the ruins of the past.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

A persistent night-time cough has kept me up to all hours recently. On top of that, I've been quite busy at work with a large project. As a result, I haven't had much time or energy to blog. I did decide on Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and the little bit I've read has been quite enjoyable. At some point, I'd like to write some about Stephen Ministries, as I am about to embark down this path at our new church, but today is not the day. Blessings to you all...

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Last night I finished Alister McGrath's Christian Theology: An Introduction. McGrath is clearly well read in the history of theology, and he does an admirable job covering such an immense subject. The book suffers from the typical weaknesses of textbooks--it is often repetitive and often oversimplifies. I think he made the repetition worse by beginning the book with a very brief history of theology before discussing theology in a topical organization. As a result, he had to cover certain figures (like Augustine and Aquinas) and certain movements (like the Donatists, for example) multiple times, and the information contained in the historical section was invariably repeated at other points in the work. That said, I'm glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a broad survey of Christian Theology.

Now I have one of those problems every reader loves: choosing what to read next. I haven't unpacked all my books from my move, but sitting nearby I have Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism, Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain. An embarrassment of riches! Anyone want to offer some guidance on what I should take up next?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Every now and then, I think it is a worthwhile exercise to examine the disciplines that are part of our Christian life to see if they are still moving us down the path of Christ-like living. As with any habits, what was once fresh can become rote; what was once invigorating can become drudgery; what once felt like the pinnacle of our spiritual life can seem cast in shadows of mundanity. In that spirit, I have been looking at my disciplines and have decided to make a few changes. I may change back, and I may make some other changes too, but these are my initial thoughts.

Morning Devotional and Prayers--for a couple years now I have been using the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for my daily devotions (in particular, I've been following the Daily Office). I have a deep love for the language and prayers of the BCP, and it's been a difficult decision, but I've chosen to put it aside for awhile. In it's place, I've decided to take an approach that is sort of a combination of prayer, meditation, and Lectio Divina. For the reading, I've come up with a sort of variation on the "read the Bible in a year" methods. I've come up with a schedule that will have me reading the Old Testament in a year, the psalms 4 times a year, the epistles of the New Testament twice a year, and the Gospels 5 times a year. Between each reading, I take time to pray and listen to God's responses to my prayers and reading. It sounds complicated, but it isn't. I'm using a variation of the order in the BCP for the Psalter, and the other sections I just divided in a fairly even manner. Today's reading, for example, was Gen. 1-3, Psalms 1-3, Acts 1 and Matthew 1:1-2:18. My goal is to hear the Scriptures speaking to each other as I repeat through the various books. I don't know that I'll make it through the entire year, but that's the goal.

Other Devotions--I'm spending some more time in prayer here, but I'd like to reincorpate some fasting into my life, and I'd like to see how I can incorporate simplicity more into my (very) material existence. I'll try to update these as I come to some clarification through the Spirit.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Today is the birthday of the Reverend Thomas Bowdler. You may not recognize his name, but you probably recognize the verb associated with it: "bowdlerize." Bowdler was easily embarrassed, and found he could not read through much of Shakespeare without a blush coming to his cheek regularly. So he produced a work where any word he deemed objectionable was replaced with another. So, for example, Lady MacBeth's "Out damn'd spot" became "Out crimson spot" (scanning of verse be crimsoned!).

Whenever I think of Bowdler, I think of the misprinting of Cymbeline that once occurred. At one point in the play, there is a line that reads, "Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the strumpet in my bed." In this edition, however, the 's' in the objectionable word was omitted, thus rendering the line, "Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the trumpet in my bed."

I wonder what Pisanio would have thought of that!

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Can I blow my nose on your butt?

Philosophers of language have long noted that in every language there are an infinite number of sentences which are grammatically correct, but which have no value as a speech-act. Put another way, a string of words may be put together completely in accords with grammatical rules, and yet there is no chance that such a sentence would ever be spoken in conversation.

Yesterday, my son diminished the number of grammatically correct but never-spoken sentences when he asked to discharge his nostrils on my posterior.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Food for thought...
We have the Gospels to bear witness to solidarity with the poor, with the oppressed, with the unfortunate, and with the defenseless--we do not have a Gospel to announce the promise of an earth without evil, without suffering, and without conflicts. We have Gospels to damn those who, in their comfort and their glory, remain deaf to the suffering and the hunger of the disinherited--we have no Gospel to preach social equality or inequality, or to prescribe a recipe for a complete social system through which all human drives and desires are fulfilled and all frustrations are set aside. We have Gospels to denounce tyrants and persecutors--we have no Gospel with which to make a pact with one form of tyranny against another in the name of chiliastic dreams. A Christianity in which it is quietly accepted that God stands ready to serve us, to protect any kind of cause, doctrine, ideology, or political party, is disguised godlessness.
--Leszek Kolakowski
"God in a Godless Time"
First Things, June/July 2003

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