Friday, December 25, 2015

A Kind of Light: For Christmas Eve

A kind of light in the dark,
a kind of light so small
we may think it only weak
and insignificant, insufficient,
in a night beset by fear,
a world besieged by gloom

Yet a kind of light, a true,
of bright splendor descended
and bounded in frail flesh
to pulse a boundless love,
that we may awake, may arise,
to day, to realm, of glory suffused

Monday, December 21, 2015

Life and Death in Christ

We are too quick to speak of life in Christ without sufficient attention to death in Christ.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Fire-Winged Dove

     Near at hand --
just across the autumn-flecked ravine
in yards of well-clipped brick homes --
in all-consuming strength of play
little voices rise in ignorance
of hushed diminishings of evening.

     A dove breaks cover
pierces through the leafy veil
ascends the sky as one belonging so
as drawing all things up with it
in rushing strength of will
against the drag of aged woods' debris.

     The children clap and laugh
beholding such a wondrous rising.
Upturned faces eagerly shine
as ruddy little suns flamed
by wings glinting of light in the west.
They would happily plume the air as well
in imitation of the fire-winged dove --
so taken are they by leaping delight --
but parents call them in with clipped cries
to darkened rooms and sleep
(and restless burning dreams).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Scatter Words

I scatter words of prayer,
a little here, a little there,
from day to day, now years,
and wonder still what ears.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wisdom and Art in Theology

Wisdom and art in the practice of theology involve the disciplines of discerning what to say, how to say it, and what not to say.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Theology Must Serve Love

Theology must serve love: love for God and for his world. It has no other serious justification.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Copious Blossoming

Here in mid April, certain trees, especially cherries and pears, from renaissance in root and branch body forth clouds, not high and insubstantial but near and tangible, in multi-hued layers of white and pink, with splashes and points of green and orange, even petaled hints of bluish-gray, and through all a copious blossoming of glory.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Instrument or End

There is a difference between saying "the purpose for which God created humanity" and "the end for which God created humanity." The former is instrumental, and the latter is teleological. The distinction between instrumentality and teleology is significant. Put another way, there is a profound difference between being created as an instrument and being created for an end.

Monday, March 23, 2015

No More Can We Merit Salvation

No more can we merit salvation than we can merit creation. Doing, on our part, cannot generate being, for ourselves, whether in creation or in salvation. For us, being ontologically precedes doing, in creation and in re-creation. Grace preceded, grounded, and stamped created being in once-pristine existence; afterward, in now-sullied existence, grace again precedes, grounds, and stamps re-created being. We receive both first being in creation and second being in re-creation. Hence, engendered in and by grace, which we accept and take up by faith, when first made and then re-made by God, in living well or doing good we act in and from thanks and praise. Living well or doing good was always, is now, and ever will be that which proceeds from and expresses our being and "re-being" in God, never that which has any virtue to achieve either existence. We live because God first "lived" us. Then, we love because God first loved us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

To What Community Do We Belong?

To what community do we fundamentally belong? For followers of Jesus, the Church is that community. Our identity and allegiance root in and stem from our being in the Church. Certainly other communities to which we belong – nation, race, clan, gender, language, party, occupation, affinity, and more – shape and even "claim" us to greater or lesser degrees. Yet we must understand and pursue our essential belonging, our paramount and therefore focal identity and allegiance, in and through the community of the Church. We must subordinate, and in some ways and instances even refuse, claims from those other communities on our identity and allegiance, on our very life. To the extent we seek and experience the true commonweal of this world and of our individual life in it – trust and hope and love, and truth and beauty and goodness – we must do so fundamentally within and from the community, the society, which is the Church, which is ultimately the kingdom of God.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rain to Ice to Rain

After yesterday's storm with sleet and freezing rain, I went out early this morning, with great care, to walk around the neighborhood. While it was challenging due to the slippery conditions, it was lovely to see the play of emerging light on form and color as twilight yielded to the first of sun. Yesterday rain from the clouds turned to ice and froze on exposed surfaces, especially the trees. Today, as sun dazzled the branches, ice returned to rain under trees.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Confessional Meditation for Lent, Adapted from "The Book of Common Prayer"

Most merciful God,
I confess that I have sinned against you
     in thought
          by what I have done
          and by what I have left undone,
          thus not loving you with my whole heart
          and not loving my neighbor as myself;
     in word
          by what I have done
          and by what I have left undone,
          thus not loving you with my whole heart
          and not loving my neighbor as myself;
     in deed
          by what I have done
          and by what I have left undone,
          thus not loving you with my whole heart
          and not loving my neighbor as myself.
I am truly sorry, and I humbly repent.
Have mercy on me, and forgive me;
     that I may delight in your will
     and walk in your ways,
     to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A White-Tailed Deer in Distress

I went out mid-morning today for a 2-hour walk along Goose Creek, about 10 miles west of us in Loudoun County, with the temperature about 10 degrees. Goose Creek is a tributary of the Potomac River. In the first half of the 1800s investors began to build a canal to run beside stretches of it as it neared the Potomac to bypass low-grade rapids in the creek. The idea was to transport flour from the many mills along Goose Creek's 50 some miles across the Potomac to the C&O Canal, then to Washington and Alexandria. As with some other canal projects of the time, the railroads put the Goose Creek Canal out of business before it could be completed and make a profit. About 1/4 mile up from the creek's entrance into the river, a walker can still see one of the sandstone locks from the 1850s, and for some way up the creek one can see the remnant of the canal itself. At any rate, I enjoyed walking about 3 miles along the creek, seeing the canal lock, and observing many birds: about 6 great blue herons; many juncos; wrens; flickers; sparrows; mallards; canvasbacks; a downy woodpecker, a tufted titmouse; a belted kingfisher. Some parts of the creek showed considerable ice; some parts ran free. The most interesting experience occurred as I was exploring around the canal lock. I heard a crashing sound in the woods behind me, and I turned to see what appeared to be a young adult white-tailed deer bolting among the trees and brush toward the creek, about 15 yards from me. The deer had small antlers. It must have walked or run through some kind of ribbons, perhaps once attached to balloons, for the ribbons seemed snagged on the deer's antlers and trailed behind as the deer ran in agitation. I walked quickly after as the deer found its way 7 to 8 feet down the steep bank to the creek. Trying to cross on the ice, the deer's hooves slipped and splayed and slid out from under it, and the deer fell heavily on its side on the ice in the middle of the creek, with the pink and blue ribbons contrasting with the white, steel, gray, and brown of the ice and the deer. Stunned, the deer lay there for a moment. Then it struggled to stand and awkwardly continued to the far bank. There it slipped again and fell through the thinner ice onto its side and into the shallow cold water edging the bank. Again, it seemed stunned, this time for about 30 seconds. Finally it struggled again to stand up out of the water and gingerly mount that bank to get away from the river and disappear into woods on the other side. This was a dramatic scene to witness. I could not help but wonder what will become of this deer, with several feet of pink and blue ribbons trailing from its head and down along its side as it negotiates the wooded and developed areas along Goose Creek and the Potomac River in eastern Loudoun County.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Who Will Be in the Kingdom?

I had better accustom myself to the truth that there will be people in the kingdom of God I think should not be there; people I do not want to be there. If I cannot acknowledge that this will be true, then I have simply made the kingdom over in my own image. If however, by grace, I come to the point where I can admit that this will be true, I had better start now learning how to love, in the cruciform not sentimental sense, beyond my own reflection. For the full humbling depth of this truth is that some other person in this world must grow accustomed to the prospect that I may well be among those in the kingdom of God, even though that person thinks I should not be there, that person does not want me there. How can this be? In the end the inclusion of at least some we consider the unlikely, the unliked, is likely, as it is God’s kingdom, not ours; and he lovingly embraces, in the cruciform sense, where and when we do not. This we must account as grace and mercy, as good news; for if we look truly within, we must sooner or later realize, however excruciatingly, there is no deserving of residence in that kingdom.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Storing the Christmas Decorations

There is a melancholic air in the house as we take down and store away the Christmas decorations. The festive forms and colors will now be hid in boxes in the dark storage spaces until, God willing, another Christmas season. I always enjoy the return of the house to its normal appearance as we have a somewhat modest but most pleasant arrangement. Additionally, with the daylight hours beginning to lengthen noticeably, the large front window, now without the Christmas tree, admits much light from the westering winter sun. I know as well that the pleasure in the Christmas decorations stirs in part because they are seasonal. Were they in place the year round I suspect we would take less manifest pleasure in them. Yet the melancholy does seep into the changes as we return to the ordinary. In this I cannot help but call to mind and grasp in heart and spirit that it is for the very ordinary that Jesus came in love so low.