What gift remains?

Some passages of Scripture, it feels, have been hollowed out because of frequent use in arguments and debates. What gift remains? Continue reading

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Gerard Manley Hopkins on a Sunday Afternoon

After a Sunday afternoon nap, I drank coffee and read Gerard Manley Hopkins. I am generally not much for poetry but this winter I am drawn to it. The poets I’ve been reading remind me that creation and faith cannot be fully settled down into the dust of reason. These subjects are opened wide when they not confined for argument’s sake. Today Hopkins offered me a description of the church that is, to my mind, as provocative as it is accurate. I hope you’ll enjoy it with me and, perhaps, share some of the poems, songs, or paintings that have helped you to think well about the life of faith.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Excerpted from “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Snow Day: An At-Home Liturgy

A beautiful covering of snow is being whisked hither and thither in Huntington, Indiana, tonight. Our church community will not be gathering tomorrow morning in order to prevent folks from unnecessarily driving in dangerous conditions. So, I created this liturgy to encourage them to worship together in the Spirit while physically at home.

I thought some of our readers may delight, whose churches may also not be gathering, would find it edifying so I’m sharing it here! You can click here to download the PDF which has all of the links (to the worship songs and the homily).

Every blessing to you all. Stay warm and give thanks!

Music and Emotion in Worship

Jeremy Begbie is a joy to read. A Peculiar Orthodoxy is a thoughtfully compiled series of lectures and essays that Begbie had created over the span of a decade and wished to share with a wider readership. These essays deserve to be widely read. Yet, most laity and many undergraduate students would find the essays difficult and, perhaps, irrelevant. This is precisely why pastors and professors should engage with Begbie’s work, inviting their congregations and classrooms into conversations around the “peculiar orthodoxy” Begbie finds through the theology of the arts.

In the chapter “Faithful Feelings,” for example, Begbie addresses worship, music, and emotions. It can be difficult, as a pastor, to grasp the fullness of worship, the place of music in worship, and the role emotions should play in leading and participating in worship. Advent highlights this difficulty well. What is a pastor to do when many folks in the congregation think Advent is simply “Christmas preseason,” and feel frustrated when the pastor preaches lectionary texts that are not filled with the holly jolly sentimentalities? What is worship for, they might ask, if it is not meant solely to cover the harshness of life with warm fuzzy feelings? What has worship to do with actually addressing our complex emotional lives? Continue reading

Pastors & Power: What to do?

Theology Forum contributor Kyle Strobel co-wrote an important essay for Christianity Today about pastors and power. You can click here to read the whole essay. But I want to highlight an excerpt that stole my attention, and offer a few comments. Kyle and Jamin Goggin write:

While toxic power is surely a dangerous and corrosive agent in the church, there is another form of power we are called to embrace. Kingdom power is power in weakness for the sake of love. It is power grounded in humble dependence upon God and wielded in service and blessing. This is the power modeled by Christ. Therefore the cross defines kingdom power, and as such the world deems it foolish and weak (1 Cor. 1:18).

This is an important distinction. We cannot throw power out altogether, because that would be dishonest. “The Christian life,” they write, “is a call to power (2 Cor. 12:9–10), and more specifically, God has vested the pastoral office with authority.” The question is what kind of power do we have?  Continue reading

Hymns of Resistance?

What are we doing when we worship? The answer to that question is multifaceted. According to Matthew Gordley, the New Testament hymns indicate one facet of Christian worship is to resist grand narratives, other than the Gospel, that “may have a claim on the lives of community members.” Read Colossians 1, Philippians 2, and John 1 as someone who is part of a fledgling community in the middle of a vast, tribalistic empire. They take on a slightly different tone, don’t they?

You can read my review of Gordley’s book over on Christian Century’s website. I’d be interested to know what hymns or songs your church sings that could be categorized, like the hymns found in the New Testament, as “resistance poetry.” Comment below!

Givenness and Revelation

“There is revelation not because paths have been made straight, the valleys filled, the hills made low, and everything straightened that was winding (Lk. 3:4, quoting Is. 40:3-5), as just so many preliminary conditions to be filled before God can manifest himself. No: there is Revelation precisely while these paths remain twisted—or even so as to show they are.”

Jean-Luc Marion, Givenness and Revelation, p. 59


Slowly, I am wading through a dense little book called Givenness and Revelation by Jean-Luc Marion (Oxford University Press, 2016). Marion is delightfully and unashamedly verbose. He expects of the reader a solid working knowledge of phenomenology and Aquinas, so I’ve put Google to work defining terms. I feel like I’m always several steps behind. So I read, and read again.

Despite my shortcomings, I have found myself scribbling notes, underlining phrases, and putting exclamation points next to striking sentences. The quote above received two exclamation points.  Continue reading