Augustine, On the Trinity

“The truth is, men were more inclined to avoid the death of the flesh which they could not avoid, than the death of the spirit; that is, they shrank more from the punishment than from what deserved the punishment. Few, after all, care— or care very much— abou not sinning; but they make a great fuss about not dying, though it is in fact unobtainable. So then, in order that as by one man came death so by one man there might come the resurrection of the dead, the mediator of life came to show us how little we should really fear death, which in our human condition cannot now be avoided anyway, and how we should rather fear ungodliness which can be warded off by faith. And to do this he came to meet us at the end to which we had come, but not by the way we had come. We came to death by sin, but he came by justice; and so while our death is the punishment of sin, his death became a sacrifice for sin.”

Augustine, On the Trinity, Book IV, 13

By the Cross of Christ, a hymn

By the cross of Christ which brought us nigh
to God that we might see,
the coming fullness of all hope,
we know this joy will be.

By the love of God who did not withhold
such gift of life to those
who suffered long the death they chose,
this faith we’ve come to know.

Now all the power manifest to worldly eyes and hearts,
turned some to flesh, led dark to light;
God himself new life imparts.

Those he offended, Christ will shame
when in pow’r he returns,
but you who hope, abide in love;
His child he will not spurn.

Poem 8/13

Upon technical difficulties with a friend.

Tall-tale fears I’ve heard them tell:
man’s fate at the hand of rogue gadgets.
Ne’er had I worried for myself, I admit,
but none ever told of such foibles!

Our petty phones— nay, pocket nymphs!—
have worked such rascal mischief
to keep far friends yet further still.
What joy could be found in such plots?

Poem 8/12

On Repentance, a hymn

With every edging of the sun
must I repeat, “I’ve been undone”
to meet what lofty ledgers need
to know my sin lords not over me?
But I over that, by another’s power
do wield might, each moment, each hour.

How might I tire, save that grand sight
is given simply for delight!
What vision is this blinding day,
but he who stood in judgment’s way?

Poem 8/8

In memoriam: of a baby crane

Sweet was the sight of the three of you,
wandering comfortably through our yard.
Calm were your steps, and your calls were familiar;
when noticed, your love brought us joy.
To see you now is to see you alone,
to wonder why death couldn’t wait.
I selfishly hope never such for myself,
and shirk duty, that age-old mandate.

Poem 7/24

The Dinner Party

The aftermath was overwhelming:
piles and stacks, greasy and stuck.
The consequences would be lasting.
Everyone saw it; they all watched him leave.
Lemon rinds in coffee cups,
highballs upside down in bowls,
not quite regretting
—but that word came to mind—
and never remorseful, though certainly sad,
She considered just walking away.

Out the blue door, down the sidewalk,
in sunlight, miles take moments,
yet street lights grow dim.
A glint makes her blink and
she’s back, elbow-deep.
While beams dance on billowed suds,
she sips old wine.

A Selection from On Human Nature, Gregory of Nazianzus

But why me? why’s it for me to sing so much of humankind’s misfortunes?
The ache exists for each one of our race.
It’s not by me that the earth goes unshaken, the gales batter the seas;
and the hours give way to each other in a rush:
night’s laid rest to day, the air’s grown thick with cold.
The stars by the sun and the sun by a cloud
find their beauty expunged: and the moon revives.
Again, this heaven, full of stars, is half as bright.
And you, Lucifer, were once among the angelic choirs,
O evil-eyed! But you’ve dropped now shamefaced from the heavens.
Be merciful to me, O Trinity, cherished kingdom: not even you
entirely escaped the tongue of senseless mortals.
First the Father, afterwards the great Child, and then the great God’s
Spirit is attacked by scurrilous words.
Where will you stop while carrying me further, bad-counseling worry?
Stop. Everything is secondary to God. Give in to reason.
God didn’t make me in vain. I am turning
my back upon this song: this thing was from our feeble mindedness.
Now’s a fog, but afterwards the Word, and you’ll know all,
whether seeing God, or eaten up by fire.
Now, when the beloved mind had sung for me these things,
it digested its pain. And late from the shady grove I headed home,
now laughing at this self-estrangement, then once again
heart in anguish smoldering, from a mind at war.

Poem 7/18

O Lord our God, whose beauty beckons,
bring us in to know your light.
You’ve made us so to want to see you,
yet you alone can give such sight.
Hope you gave in songs and visions,
telling truth you laid in law;
Christ you came, our love apparent,
we looked on you and God we saw.

Endless joy to seek your face,
glimpses fuel yet more desire.
Meant to know you as your own,
to nearness raise us ever higher.

Give us grace, make us more like you;
give our minds what your heart seeks.
Tune our every contemplation,
that what we love we might now see.

On Hermeneutics and Ethics, Part II

In my first post, which you can find here, I began to contemplate the longing Rachel Held Evans expressed in An Evangelical’s Response to Homosexuality for Jesus to have spoken directly on the subject.

Even if only because Jesus said we ought to, it is integral to our faith that orthodox Christians consider all of scripture as the Word of God. Though Christ claims all of scripture points to himself, and validates the continued relevance and authority of the Old Testament by quoting the text authoritatively and being obedient to the law taught therein, he does critique and expand the contemporary interpretations and applications of scripture.

Two notable examples of this would be when he heals a man on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6) and his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5). In the sermon on the mount, each of Jesus’ critiques are a call to greater faithfulness to God’s Word. Each is a call to repentance, a condemning of misinterpretation and misuse of the Word of God. There is no sense of a release from the constraints of the Law, in fact Jesus anticipates this reading and preemptively proclaims, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” (v. 17).

Evans states, “I don’t assume to know what Jesus would actually say, but I have a feeling he would turn the tables in some way or another. He did that a lot, especially when people asked him about political issues, or about the sins of others.”  Jesus did often ‘turn the tables,’ but it is important to note that he never takes what the Old Testament explicitly calls sinful and calls it now not sin. Turning the tables on the religious leaders might be a call to repent from their own sins and be better priests to those struggling around them, but he never repeals the Word of God given in scripture. As I stated in my first article on this subject, this is most simply true because Jesus is, and as the Son of God has eternally been, the Word of God.

More to come.