Poem 5/26

God is righteous, judge of all;
God is shepherd, seeks the lost;
God who set the sun shines forth
from beauty– at peace with his people.
God is he who speaks to call,
and weary, evil, repent, all.
His silence, his relent, would doom;
yet he comes nigh to save.
Now those who hear and see fall, joyful;
offer thankful lives.
Their chaos broken, now nearby;
salvation fills their eyes.

Poem 5/25

Does the bronzing of leaves or
the brief bloom of spring
reek of sin or keep pace in resistance?
Would the unchanging God
make a shadow of truth
in a form not his own and yet lovely?
Does all change need death; or
is all death of evil?
Would we know of the sun
that our God is eternal?

De Ordine, Part 1

“Some cauterize the wound of disordered opinion inflicted on them in day-to-day life by retreating into solitude. Others do the same by cultivating the liberal arts.”
-St. Augustine, De Ordine

In one of his earliest works, Augustine debates the accident of order with a few students and his mother. The questions which fuel their pursuit of understanding are that of unity. How can we reconcile that “on the one hand, God takes care of human affairs, on the other these same affairs are shot through with so much evil,” that God is good, that he is omnipotent, that nothing occurs outside God’s order, and yet that evil occurs? If evil contradicts the nature of God’s order, we cannot then hold that it occurs within it, but neither can we say evil is powerful to overcome God’s order and thus act outside of it, for then God is not omnipotent. If God causes evil, he is its author, and thus cannot be called good. So mankind observes in his world orderliness: that it does occur, that it seems good, and that it appeals to the wise as worthy of imitation and perpetuation, and he is haunted by the persistence of disunity. If this “clashing of contraries gives body to the overall beauty of the universe,” then is evil necessary for beauty? Is it necessary for the occurrence of order? If all was good, would all be order, or would order not exist? Then, what of God’s justice?

The work of Christian philosophy is discerning the eternal from the midst of a broken yet hope-filled world.

Work of the Holy Spirit

In the conversational argument around liturgy, I often hear the more charismatic/evangelical side stress a concern to be more “open to the movement of the Holy Spirit” throughout the church service. A more scripted service is constraining to those who anticipate new movements, new words, new inklings from God to arise in the midst of worship. The liturgical camp seeks to lean upon and learn from that which God has revealed and worked out with our brothers and sisters before us, and that to which the Holy Spirit guides us in careful and prayerful planning.

One group trusts that their whims during worship are inspired, the other goes to great efforts to subdue their whims to that which is practiced and studied. One group longs to be lost to the movement of God, outside of themselves in the moment, while the other seeks to be consciously reshaped in practicing habits of worship. Both deeply trust the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding the church to worship God in spirit and truth. Both long to worship in a manner shaped by scripture. Both long to be shaped by their worship, more so into the image of Christ their lord. Yet, hermeneutic leads them to such differing practices, the one often does not recognize the other as worship.

Poem 3/6

Silences fill full with
sweet words spoke softly;

Time breaths in sighs, and
the door holds back winter;

The warmth of their room
heats the days of their lives;

Where they meet, moons and myst’ries
meld one to the other.

The Fullness of God and the End of an Era

I was recently asked by a middle schooler, “Why did the Bible stop being written?”

Simply put, because Jesus was enough. All scripture leading up to the Jesus’ incarnation looked forward to that day. God’s people lived in hope for the coming messiah, being guided and prepared by God’s Word and acts to receive Jesus, who, “being by nature bodiless and existing as the Word, by the love for humankind and the goodness of his own Father he appeared to us in a human body for our salvation.”1

The Gospels give us witness of his incarnation, of the fullness of God in Jesus enfleshed, culminating in the ultimate act for salvation: death of the righteous one for the lost, and resurrection– proof of death, of sin, being conquered. The risen Christ revealed at last the fullness of God’s name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, that the Spirit might come to comfort, guide, and grow to maturity the people of God who await the final coming of Christ in the Day of the Lord.

So the Gospels bear this witness, and the rest of the New Testament applies what Christ did and said to the life of the church. The NT writers take what Christ said and did, test it by the text of the Old Testament, find that it is good, learn more of what had been revealed in ages past as it pointed to Jesus, and teach the church how then we might live as those whose hope has come in Christ. These writings are labeled scripture due to the author’s status as Apostle, their faithfulness to and consistency with the rest of scripture, their faithfulness to Jesus, and by their works “hav[ing] considerable value for church life and ministry.”2 To a large extent, we trust the brothers and sisters before us who were nearer to the writings themselves, to have been guided by the Holy Spirit to discern the Word from twaddle.

The mark of the age of the church is evangelism and growth. The scriptures are sufficient for God’s people to know and worship him in spirit and in truth, because it is centered on Jesus Christ. With a well-founded, deep-rooted faith, we gather as the body for the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, to confess our faith, to pray, to sing, to encourage one another in the Lord. Scripture ceased to be written because God is revealed truthfully and sufficiently (though never comprehensively) in Jesus, and his Word we have is powerful to prepare the world for his return.

 

  1. Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation.
  2. McDonald, Lee Martin, The Biblical Canon, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 401.

On Gilead and Me

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson has become one of my favorite books. I first read it late one night in my last year of seminary. Over the course of a few days, five different people recommended the book to me, so I decided to read it sooner than later. That Friday evening I made myself dinner, poured a drink, snuggled into my green velvet armchair beneath an affordable but lovely Tiffany lamp knock-off, and didn’t move until I’d read the entire book. This is the first book I’ve read in one sitting since I was a little girl. It captivated me. I laughed, I cried, I dreamed, I wondered, and I was comforted. I’ve reread the book twice since, and have a unique but consistently positive experience each time.

I recently began leading a book club at church, and chose to begin with Gilead. On the first week we met and got to know each other a little bit and I gave a brief introduction to the book. Due to the nature of this book, I structured the events so we would meet once for introduction and a reading of the first few pages, then regroup after a few weeks once we had all finished reading.

The diversity of reactions to the book was striking. For some, it was comfortable, warm, inviting, and even restful. For some, it was boring. For others, it is invasive and disquieting (some people even backed out because they hated the book so much).

Those who were bored, wondered when the plot would pick up. Those who were uncomfortable felt invasive being in Ames’ head the whole time. Those of us who loved the book, felt it was a similar experience to getting to know someone. Reading Gilead felt like sitting across the coffee table from a dear friend, late at night, for many nights, opening up each others’ worlds. It is intimate. So, just as in making a friend, you either hit it off, or you don’t. I found in John Ames a kindred spirit who shared my love of James Montgomery hymns, John Donne poetry, and a general concern for theological studies and how we are to engage them in relationships with actual people seeking or struggling to seek God. I found in him an elder who lived that life well, effectively, thoughtfully, and did benefit those around him. It’s amazing what art can teach us about ourselves.

of John Donne

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’ and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d and proves weake or untrue,
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be lov’d faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie,
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish me.