Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1 Corinthians 13

N. T. Wright comments, “So often at weddings, [1 Corinthians 13] has not often been heard as what it is, namely, a poem about the now/not yet tension of Christian living, and the way in which love, agape, is not so much a virtue to be worked at, though it is surely that as well, as the ultimate bridge, in terms of human character, from present Christian living into the future kingdom” (Resurrection in the New Testament, 296).

This comes in the middle of a long discourse on how 1 Corinthians is Paul’s attempt to help the Church in Corinth embrace a more Christian eschatology, that is, a view of the end and how it matters in terms how Christians live today. Paul was concerned that they were being influenced by other worldviews in which they were beginning to think that they had arrived at some kind of final state of perfection or glory. This poem on love is a way of broadening their imagination to see how on the one hand life in this age flows continuously with life in the next age through the pattern of love that has been revealed/demonstrated in Jesus. And of course Wright does a good job of showing that Paul was well aware that there was still a distinction between the two ages, but that’s not what I want to talk about right. I am challenged to think about those relationships in my life where people with whom I am in contact with don’t hear the music from the next age spilling into this one. They don’t have ears to hear. I am challenged to be carefully gracious in loving them, as we are not operating on the same ultimate, unquestionable assumptions. But love. Love is a music that reaches across assumptional boundaries with a beautiful harmony and a fresh and fascinating aroma.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Time and Memory through Benjamin Button

***spoiler alert, sort of***

It is becoming a tradition on both sides of my family to go and see a movie on Christmas day. This year we went and saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to this film. I think it is one of those films that I will find popping up in moments of reflections on life and death. There are some really provocative aspects to this film. I found the following article very interesting, especially in light of certain ways of thinking about aging (and life and death) in our world. It’s interesting what this person (Sandra Hall) says about Fitzgerald turning Twains observation sort of on its head. While Twain sees the beginning of life as better than the end, Fitzgerald sees the beginning and the end as essentially the same. Most important, for Fitzgerald, time (and death) have the last word no matter how the life cycle goes. This is really interesting for me to think about as I prepare for a class on the resurrection in the New Testament. For Christians death is a reality for everyone, but it is not the last word—resurrection is. Perhaps most interesting is how Hall (a la Fitzgerald) says that time/death are defeated through memory. Very interesting for people, i.e. the Church, who exist in memory—a “memory of the future” (says Zizioulas and others) that informs the present.


I neglected to mention that the The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was originally a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I also seemed to imply that resurrection is a reality for everyone just as death is. I don't mean to imply that I am a universalist. I don't believe we have biblical warrant for universalism.

I also wanted to say more about memory. Hall says, "Underpinning it all is a meditation on the double-edged nature of time and the spiralling twists a life takes en route to its end. Time is brutal, the film is saying. Fitzgerald was right about that. Yet there can be moments that defeat time by enduring as long as they remain in someone's memory." That memory defeats time and death is what I found interesting and why I think it links with Church's memory of the future in the Eucharist.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I attended a Christmas eve service with my in-laws while I was in Escondido, CA. During the service the pastor mentioned the twelve days of Christmas song and what each day meant. This got me thinking again about how the church should think about the Advent and Christmas seasons, especially since next year I will be a dad. How should I speak about these seasons and their importance in the Church year in light of the cultural phenomenon that is Christmas in a consumer capitalistic society? How should we think about buying presents? For what reason do we buy presents? And all that jazz. The question I am specifically thinking about right now is how to integrate the full twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5). What are some ways we can actually break free in our homes from the necessity of spending money. I am thinking in lines with the Advent Conspiracy, but I am also thinking about how we will spend our time during those actual twelve days. Anyways, just wanted to throw that out there. Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ol' Brueggy at it again

This gave me pause for reflection this morning. In a few months I will become a dad. I have been thinking that the best thing I can do for my kids is to teach them to make sense of their world (their reality, their experience) according to a worldview whose foundational, unquestionable assumption is that Jesus is Lord ON THEIR OWN TERMS (terms being a loaded word, of course) and IN LIGHT OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE THEM. This is nothing new, of course.

"In the traditioning process of retelling and retelling in order to make faith possible for the next generation, each version of retelling (of which there were surely many in the long-term process) intends, perforce, that its particular retelling should be the 'final' and surely the correct one. in the event, however, no account of traditioning turns out to be the 'final' one, but each act of traditioning is eventually overcome and in fact displaced ('superseded') by a fresher version. The later, displacing form of the tradition no doubt is assumed to be the 'final and correct' one, but is in turn sure to be overcome and, in part, displaced by subsequent versions of the memory. The complexity of the text evident on any careful reading is due to the happy reality that as new acts o traditioning overcome and partly displace older materials, the older material is retained alongside newer tradition. That retention is a happy one, because it very often happens that a still later traditionist returns to and finds useful older, 'discarded' material though to be beyond use."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Katie's new article

My lovely wife has written another article for Credo. This one is called Why Giving is Better than (For)getting. In this one she asks us to have a better memory about the nature of giving during the Christmas season. When we forget our story (God's story) and Saints like Nicholas we are all the more vulnerable to be formed by the story of consumerism and what it says is true about the world. If you want to check out an alternative Christmas practice, look up Advent Conspiracy.


I'm in the middle of reading the story. Looking forward to the movie. Post if you want to talk about it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One by Walter

The Little Gate to God
By Walter Rauschenbusch

In the castle of my soul
Is a little postern gate,
Whereat, when I enter,
I am in the presence of God.
In a moment, in the turning of a thought,
I am where God is.
This is a fact.
This world of ours has length and breadth,
A superficial and horizontal world.
When I am with God
I look deep down and high up.
And all is changed.
The world of men is made of jangling noises.
With God it is a great silence.
But that silence is a melody
Sweet as the contentment of love,
Thrilling as a touch of flame.
In this world my days are few
And full of trouble.
I strive and have not;
I seek and find not;
I ask and learn not.
Its joys are so fleeting,
Its pains are so enduring,
I am in doubt if life be worth living.
When I enter into God,
All life has a meaning.
Without asking, I know;
My desires are even now fulfilled,
MY fever is gone
In the great quiet of God.
My troubles are but pebbles on the road,
My joys are like the everlasting hills,
So it is when I step through the gate of prayer
From time into eternity.
When I am in the consciousness of God
Those whom I love
Have a mystic value.
They shine, as if a light were glowing within them.
Even those who frown on me
And love me not
Seem part of a great scheme of good.
(or else they seem like stray bumble bees
Buzzing at a window,
Headed the wrong way, yet seeking the light.)
So it is wen my soul steps through the postern gate
Into the presence of God.
Big things become small, and small things become great.
The near becomes far, and the future is near.
The lowly and despised is shot through with glory,
And most of human power and greatness
Seems as full of internal iniquities
As a carcass is full of maggots.
God is the substance of all revolutions;
When I am in him, I am in the Kingdom of God
And the Fatherland of my Soul.
Is it strange that I love God?
And when I come back through the gate,
Do you wonder that I carry memories with me,
And my eyes are hot with unshed tears for what I see.
And I feel like a stranger and a homeless man
Where the poor are wasted for gain.
Where rivers run red,
And where God's sunlight is darkened by lies?

May God's sunlight shine again. Thy kingdom come, God!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rowan Williams on Christian Faith

"Christian Faith has its beginnings in an experience of profound contradictoriness, an experience that so questioned the religious categories of its time that the resulting organization of religious language was a centuries-long task. At one level indeed, it is a task that every generation has to undertake again. And if 'spirituality' can be given any coherent meaning, perhaps it is to be understood in terms of this task: each believer making his or her own that engagement with the questioning at the heart of faith which is so evident in the classical documents of Christian belief. That is not, it must be said, to recommend any of the currently fashionable varieties of relativism or to romanticize a wistful 'half-belief.' The questioning involved here is not our interrogation of the data, but its interrogation of us. It is that intractable strangeness of the ground of belief that must constantly be allowed to challenge the fixed assumptions of religiosity; it is a given, whose question to each succeeding age is fundamentally one and the same. And the greatness of the great Christian saints lies in their readiness to be questioned, judged, stripped naked and left speechless by that which lies at the center of their faith."

Rowan Williams, The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to Saint John of the Cross