Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amidst a Lavishing Garden

(Based on “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by John Singer Sargent)

Amidst a lavishing garden, against a darkening east,
A Chinese lantern glows a glory soft and oh! so compact.
And a girl, lilied in papery dress, planted in sphere of light,
Absorbs a lustrous beauty she will long, long reflect.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 6:1-12 in the New Testament

Few, if any of us, would accept that, as we grow from infancy to adulthood, we should remain at the level of intellectual, emotional, and moral development characterizing our elementary-age years. That was fine at that point in life. Yet, surely we should at least match our chronological and physical development with corresponding growth in mind, heart, and behavior.

How much more so should we grow spiritually from our first years in Jesus to our later years? Jesus radiates God’s glory and perfectly represents God to us (Hebrews 1). In Jesus we have this stupendous salvation from sin and death. We become sisters and brothers of Jesus, thus heirs to all God’s bounty (Hebrews 2). Should we not then devote ourselves wholeheartedly to living a life worthy of Jesus, of God’s inheritance? How can we do so unless we are growing spiritually and practically into the full humanity Jesus models and longs to develop in us?

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity….” So writes the author of Hebrews to followers of Jesus in the first century A.D. Many were stagnating in their initial, minimal understanding of and commitment to Jesus. They remained spiritual infants rather than growing in faith and life. At best they failed to mature. At worst they “crucified” Jesus again by disgracing him publicly through their weak faith and imperfect lifestyle. Hence, the author of this treatise exhorted them to devote themselves to growing, to maturing in mind, heart, and behavior into the likeness of Jesus.

How can we, like those early followers of Jesus and followers through the ages, do this – “leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity”? First, we realize that it takes a lifetime. We seek a faith for the long distance, not just the initial sprint. Second, in God’s grace, love, and power, we commit ourselves to practices which foster growth and maturity in Jesus (not to mention embodying the kingdom of God in this world): worship and prayer; study of scripture and spiritual reading; fellowship; acts of sacrificial compassion and charity. We practice these corporately with fellow Jesus-followers. We also practice them individually on our own. Gathering for worship, prayer, scripture, and fellowship on Sunday is good and essential, yet an hour or so on Sunday alone will likely leave us as spiritual infants. We must exercise these disciplines daily.

Let us, indeed, leave Christian elementary school, go on to higher learning in the school of Christ, and then enter the company of all those who labor with Jesus and like Jesus in a world of desperate need!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

White Dogwood

It is the dogwood this time of year
that bears a certain sort of dignity
within the bold impetuous spring,
for all about the clustering hues
play so ripe and lush to sight and smell,
they overwhelm our wintered senses
as greedy foretaste of melons
summering in prodigal succulence.

It is the dogwood—a leaner notion of beauty—
that understates the vast extravagant spawn
frothing the green swell of spring.
It is the dogwood, a certain sense of dignity
whose spare branches, pale blossoms evince
a beauteous austerity, resplendence restrained.

It is no poverty of passion that makes the dogwood so
for the stain of God’s own blood marks the flowering.
It is that in the dogwood exquisiteness of form
disciplines the nuclear tumult of dying and rising
that rages in all this spring.