Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When Love Came Down

When love came down to dwell with us -- to wake and sleep, to work and play, to live and die, as one with us -- we turned cold-away, nailed shut our hearts, and sledged along in the darkened commerce of our daily lives. We followed no bright-hoped star at night, nor woke to tendered mercy at dawn. We valued none the straw nor stone where love was laid, was laid to rest, for us, for us. Yet love was love, from first to last, through life and death then life again, to turn our straw, to change our stone, from poor rough things to coin of light, to endless count of golden days.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christ in Word

Let us not so much invoke the name of Christ in proffered pieties as let the person of Christ inhabit the very grammar, dictionary, and essay of our common daily speech, neighbor to neighbor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Let the Bible Shape Our Lives

Why should we Christians let the Bible shape our lives? Put more strongly, why do we assert that the Bible should inform and form who we are and what we do?

These questions arise acutely if we take seriously the exegetical criterion of reading in context. Namely, if we must read a Biblical passage first in its context without importing our contemporary and personal context, to the extent that we can do this, we must ask why something from another context, especially an ancient one, should have any significant bearing on our lives. If it is difficult to read in context, and if it is difficult to bring forward anything from that context to our own, why should we let that occur, why should we feel it ought to occur? It is one thing to say that we find an ancient text interesting, such that we want to understand it as well as possible, so we must read it in context as far as possible. It is another thing to say we must read it in context as well as possible because we must discover if it is relevant to our context and, if it is, let it shape our context as far as possible.

We could answer generally that we may and perhaps ought to read and understand well any text, including ancient texts, because we may and perhaps ought to learn from the wisdom of others. It is unwise to think our own selves so capable and right that we become snobs of truth, to assume that we are so advanced and superior compared to what others have thought, especially the ancients. In general, then, we should read other texts with an openness.

Yet this general openness is not sufficient to explain why we read and try to contemporize the Bible as we do. The only sufficient reasons are the axioms (1) that in some way the Bible is God communicating to us and (2) that God communicates to us, then and now, to inform and form who we are and what we ought to do; that is, to communicate what creation ought to be and to bring creation into being as it ought to be. Only on these bases are there compelling reasons why we let, why we must let, the Bible (God, really) from its time and place shape us in our time and place, that we might more truly and fully live in that creation which is God's time and place for us.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

In Tea, as in Life

In tea, as in life, we should not take bitterness to be true flavor.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday's End, with Carolina Wren

Toward the last of this plein air Sunday in late September,
twilight washes sky, clouds, trees, and earth nearer night;
thus end of day, said to be good, very good, dawn to dusk.
Close to the darkening house, just beyond a still-open door,
a Carolina wren flutters the hydrangea, watercolors the air
with brief song, with after-tones of first palette and wet paper.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stuff as Miracle

Compare Joshua 5:10-12. In this brief passage is recounted the cessation of the provision of manna to the people of Israel after they crossed the Jordan and celebrated the passover on the plains of Jericho. From that point on they ate the ordinary produce of the land.

The real miracle is the mundane stuff of existence -- indeed, existence itself. Things of the ordinary are God's "supernatural" provision for us -- daily given, without spectacle. Any other act of God in, through, and for creation -- in, through, and for us -- is simply miracle upon what is already miracle.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Red Fox Barking

Out for a walk in the pre-dawn today, I was ascending the slope on one street when I saw above me, about 25 yards ahead, the silhouette of a red fox loping across the pavement into brush. As I reached the point where the fox had been, to trail it I turned down the crossing street where it had gone. I could hear it to my left moving through the trees and bushes about 5 to 10 yards away. The fox must have been alert to me because through these several minutes it kept up a series of screaming barks to warn me off. Then, still under cover, it coursed away into deeper brush, and I kept on my way along the sidewalk, the silence now as eerie in its way as the barking.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Self, Finitude, and Change

"Because for us personality is synthetic, composite, successive, and finite, we are related [to others] always in some sense 'over against,' in a fragmentary way, and to be with others always involves for us a kind of death, the limit of our being."

David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. In Part 2: The Beauty of the Infinite, ii. Divine Fellowship.

Hart points to our finitude, to the limit of our being, in describing our personality especially as "successive." This obviously correlates with the issue of continuity and discontinuity in personality, in self, over time. I do not pretend a profound or even adequate understanding of or rumination on this matter. Nevertheless, one way to entertain the issue is to think of the dynamic of liturgy (word and sacrament), particularly as liturgy involves death and resurrection. Clearly, liturgy involves Jesus' incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Put another way, liturgy engages us in creation, fall, and redemption. These mean life, death, and new life for us, in Jesus' life, death, and new life. Liturgy then "always involves for us a kind of death, the limit of our being." Yet as Hart goes on to state in his own context, God transforms our death into life, our limits into the charity of self-giving. Transpose that to the dynamic of liturgy. Liturgy acts and enacts God's transformation. This means in liturgy we die and rise. Liturgy is thus both superset and subset of God's transformation of our life. In Jesus we must die and rise, not once only in conversion, but daily in transformation. One of the chief purposes of liturgy then, through word and sacrament, is to deconstruct and reconstruct us week in and week out, to the very end of life. We miss, even thwart, God's transformation when we reinforce a static self by merely attending liturgy, by merely persisting and insisting, unchanged, in life. That kind of continuity of the self over time is finally death. Rather, we must be a different person leaving the liturgy than we were entering the liturgy. We must be a different person ending the day than we were beginning the day. In sum, we must submit to God's transformation, to death and life, to death and life in Jesus, for only thus will we come to that end which is true continuity of personality, of self, given us by God in love.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Light on the Tulip Leaf

It is mid June and a cool, early morning. The sun, on the far side of a cluster of trees, has been above the horizon for less than an hour. On the near side of the cluster, my side, branches and leaves remain largely in shadow, but for one leaf on a tulip poplar. This leaf fans out broadly, unobstructed to the sun. Light lights it through, wholly, to a translucent green. The moment shifts, as does the sun, and the tulip leaf returns to shadow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jesus and Loss

There is no evidence in the gospels that Jesus fought to avoid the cross until he was finally overwhelmed and overcome by superior power, thereby ending up being crucified. Rather, Jesus submitted to the coercive exercise of power, to loss and to the cross, thereby setting us a hard but sublime example.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Further to Go

At every rise, at every bend, whether exploring by auto or foot, I look ahead, and there is always further to go.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two Kinds of Reading

There are two kinds of reading: surface reading and depth reading. In surface reading, eyes skim text. Mind and heart little engage what sight barely touches. Mind, heart, and self tend to float along on words. In depth reading, the mind and heart launch into the text. Sight as an instrument or mechanism fades from view. The self submerses in sentences and paragraphs which stream with ideas and evocations of other realities, without mind or heart or self superimposing consciousness of otherness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Love Is What You Do

In this sin-struck world, love is what you do when you care for, without necessarily much liking, the other person. This is of course why love is such need and grace for us.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Art of Theology

The art of good theology involves knowing not only what to state but what not to state.