Made to be “spectators”

Every human being is
“formed to be a spectator
of the created world – and given eyes
that he might be led to its Author
by contemplating so beautiful
a representation.”

–John Calvin (1509 – 1564)
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Published in: on 07/31/2012 at 10:08  Leave a Comment  
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An ancient heresy

The Church as been infected from almost the start with ancient Greek heresies that saw earthly matter and the human body as sub-par and “spirit” alone as desirable. Under this sinister influence, some in the Church depicted the Faith as salvation from the human body and this world. Biblical Christianity – thank God! — repudiated this heresy. Our Faith contends that only sin — not creation — is evil, and that this present world should be subordinated to Christ’s authority. Sin, not God’s world, is the problem.

–P. Andrew Sandlin  

Saying grace for everything

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

–G. K. Chesterton
(1874 – 1936)

Nature’s laughter

Earth laughs in flowers.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803 – 1882)

Published in: on 07/19/2012 at 6:14  Leave a Comment  
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To be enjoyed

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God
who has endowed us with waterfalls, sunsets,
rainbows, laughter, music, friendship,
strawberries and forests has intended us
to neglect their enjoyment.

–adapted with apologies to
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642)

 

Published in: on 07/18/2012 at 8:48  Leave a Comment  
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Seeing with new eyes

Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.

–George W. Robinson (1838 – 1877)

Two Conversions

It has well been said that everyone needs two conversions: first, from the natural to the supernatural; and the second, from the supernatural to the natural.

–Charles G. Trumbull (1872 – 1941)

The festivity of life

It was not a marriage only, but a marriage-feast to which Christ conducted His disciples. Now, we cannot get over this plain fact by saying that it was a religious ceremony: that would be mere sophistry.

It was an indulgence in the festivity of life;
as plainly as words can describe,
here was a banquet of human enjoyment.

The very language of the master of the feast about men who had well drunk, tells us that there had been, not excess, of course, but happiness there and merry-making.

Neither can we explain away the lesson by saying that it is no example to us, for Christ was there to do good, and that what was safe for Him might be unsafe for us. For if His life is no pattern for us here in this case of accepting an invitation, in what can we be sure it is a pattern? Besides, He took His disciples there, and His mother was there: they were not shielded, as He was, by immaculate purity. He was there as a guest at first, as Messiah only afterwards: thereby He declared the sacredness of natural enjoyments….

For Christianity does not destroy what is natural, but ennobles it.

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.

–F. W. Robertson (1816 – 1853)

Sharing in the wonder

Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder.
Surprise me, amaze me, awe me
in every crevice of your universe.
Each day enrapture me with
your marvelous things without number.
…I do not ask to see the reason for it all:
I ask only to share
the wonder of it all.

–Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907 – 1972)

Name one thing…

Name one thing that is not
ultimately a miracle.

–Author unknown

Published in: on 07/11/2012 at 8:36  Leave a Comment  
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Sacred moments

There are no ordinary moments.

–Dan Millman

Down-to-earth spirituality

Our God is a down-to-earth deity.

Literally.

The Word became flesh. The very stuff our bodies are made of. He became “human”—a term which derives from the root “humus,” meaning earth. This was the raw material our Creator used to make us. “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground…” (Gn. 2:7)

The staggering miracle of the Incarnation means that not only is man made of dust—but now God is too! Deity took on “humus.” This is the ultimate circuit blower! God didn’t just visit our race; he became a part of it!

“Theos” and “anthropos”
were organically joined.

A member of the Trinity now has skin color, eye color, hair color and fingerprints. He has immersed himself in the physical realities of human existence, and his favorite self-description became: “Son of Man.”

Martin Luther rightly stated, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

J. B. Phillips concludes that we need “to be shocked afresh by the audacious central Fact—that, as a sober matter of history, God became one of us.”

The foundational article of the Christian faith—”The Word became flesh”—is a bombshell for the Gnostic who affirms that the material world is illusory and evil. It also overturns the tables on Christians who subscribe to a world-denying spirituality.

The Incarnation forces us all to rethink our ideas
about nature and matter and the physical world.
It totally shipwrecks our dualistic separation
of “sacred” and “secular.”

This God become “humus” grew, breathed, walked, ate, drank, worked and wept. He enjoyed taking walks, working with wood, eating dried figs, basking in sunshine, cooking breakfast on the beach and laughing with friends. In the words of one writer, “Jesus . . . seemed as comfortable at a party as He was in the Temple.” The Creator, who at the beginning of time looked upon his creation and declared it to be good, now tasted, touched, smelled and felt its goodness.

“Time was when you could despise the body and love God, or despise God and love the body. One could be an ascetic or a hedonist.” says theologian Peter J. Leithart. “Then God got Himself a body . . . the incarnation made the ancient choice of ascetic or hedonist impossible. Since the incarnation the only choices are to love the body and God, or to despise both.”

It is often heard in wedding ceremonies that, by His presence in the wedding at Cana of Galilee, Christ blessed and sanctified marriage. However, a wedding was not the only place he showed up. He toiled at a carpenter’s bench, strolled through markets and meadows, went boating on a lake, enjoyed meals in friends homes and hiked up mountains. The unavoidable conclusion is this—Christ sanctified every sphere of human activity.

Jesus of Nazareth
is our most compelling evidence
that “spiritual” and “material”
cannot be separated,
that supernatural and natural
belong together.

In one of his poems, William Wordsworth speaks of “the light of common day,” to which G. K. Chesterton reacted angrily and in effect said, “Don’t you dare call it common—that’s blasphemous!” A similar rebuke was given to the apostle Peter, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

A Gnostic view of spirituality has led many to believe that only that which is explicitly “Christian” is truly glorifying to God. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that true holiness requires one to wear Christian shoes, eat Christian food, sleep in a Christian bed, listen to Christian music, drive a Christian car and breathe Christian air. Obviously this is absolutely absurd! And such thinking is inconceivable for anyone who seriously believes in the Incarnation.

The fact that Holiness took on humanity forces us to reconstruct our understanding of “spiritual.”

No longer can we view the secular as unsacred. No field of human endeavor is out of bounds. “For everything belongs to you—be it Paul or Apollos or Peter, the world or life or death, things present or future—everything belongs to you; and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:22,23).

“Everything belongs to you” moves the goalposts of spirituality to the ends of the earth! It’s all encompassing. The only thing to avoid is that which contradicts who we are in Christ. The rest is ours!

We can honor our Creator, not only in prayer and worship, but also in farming, medicine, business, music, landscaping and computer programming. Through work we enrich one another and cultivate and care for the created world that God made, sustains and loves.

A musician serves God by composing great music, and not just by writing songs about Jesus. An architect honors his Maker by bringing beauty and excellence into his work, and not solely by designing cathedrals. Human activities do not require a Bible verse added on to make them valid.

When asked whether the world needs more Christian writers, C. S. Lewis replied, “No, we need more writers who are Christian.”

We can cook, paint, dance, write novels, compose music, fly kites and grow orchids to the glory of God. The duties and delights of daily human life are not obstacles, but opportunities for spirituality. In Christ the joys, pains, pleasures and struggles of earthly living are the very context of godly living and worship. We are not called to take flight into some spiritual stratosphere of mystical experience. We are called to live in a physical body in a physical world—to the glory of God.

“Christianity,” affirms Brian Zahnd,
“is a flesh and blood faith.”

It is perfectly fine to have a human body. As a matter of fact, God now possesses one Himself—and will do so forever.

The God of heaven is deeply involved in gritty activities such as creation, incarnation, redemption, resurrection and re-creation. Evidently matter matters. And when He writes the last chapter, it will not be about an eternal, ethereal, disembodied existence. It will be about new heavens and a new earth where we will live in perfected, human bodies in a physical, renewed world.

We are called to deny sin—not life.

Christian spirituality is not an other-worldly affair. It is about becoming truly human—like Jesus. It entails embracing the miracle of God’s real presence in our life and in our world. It involves celebrating sunsets, roses, coffee, family and all of God’s good gifts with gratitude and joy.

The reformer, John Calvin stated, “There is not
one blade of grass, there is no color in this world
that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

So slow down. Stop. Look. And, like Moses, take off your shoes because holy is all around us in the common stuff of everyday life. Spirituality is a down-to-earth matter.

If God truly became “humos”—how could it be otherwise?

–Jurgen Schulz

The Maker of matter

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God . . . I do not worship matter. I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God. Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me.

–St. John of Damascus (675-749)

Seeing God in the mundane

The challenge before us today is for God’s people to recapture the apostolic worldview that begins with removing the hard dichotomy of sacred and secular. As we move out into the world our prayer should be for God to open our eyes to see Him in big and small ways within the “mundane.”

We need to enlarge our understanding
of what really is spiritual.

If God can speak through donkeys and drop food from ravens and heal people who dip in dirty rivers and pursue reluctant prophets with large fish, if God can appear in a desert bush or show up on a mountain top or take a ride in a fisherman’s boat or speak to a fear-filled man in a cave, God can be seen and experienced at your place of work, school, home or wherever you live life during the other six days of His creation week.

–Darrow Miller

Let’s get on with life

Some time ago, my friend Brenda flew to Chicago for a visit with her daughter’s family, and especially with her granddaughter, Charity. Charity is five years old—a plump, cute, highly verbal little girl. Charity’s paternal grandmother had been visiting the previous week. She is a devout woman who takes her spiritual grandmothering duties very seriously, and she had just left.

That morning after Brenda’s arrival, Charity came into her grandmother’s bedroom at five o’clock, crawled into bed, and said, “Grandmother, let’s not have any Godtalk, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let’s just get on with life.”

I like Charity. I think she is on to something.

“Let’s get on with life” can serve as a kind of subtext for our pursuit of spiritual formation and how easily and frequently the spiritual gets disconnected from our actual daily lives, leaving us with empty Godtalk.

It’s not that the Godtalk is untrue, but when it is disconnected from the ordinary behaviour and conversation that make up the fabric of our lives, the truth leaks out.

A phrase from Psalm 116:9 “I walk before the Lord in the land of the living”—clears the ground and gives some perspective on Charity and “let’s just get on with life.”

–Eugene Peterson

World-affirming spirituality

[There should be] grateful celebration . . . among us, uninhibited by our lingering evangelical asceticism.  For the truth is that a world-denying Gnosticism has not yet been altogether eradicated from our theology and practice.

Instead, we pride ourselves on our super-spirituality, which is detached from the natural order, and we look forward to an ethereal heaven, forgetting the promise of a new earth…

We should determine, then, to recognize and acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate, all the gifts of the Creator: the glory of the heavens and the earth, of mountain, of river and sea, of forest and flowers, of birds, beasts and butterflies, and of the intricate balance of the natural environment; the unique privileges of our humanness (rational, moral, social, and spiritual), as we were created in God’s image and appointed his stewards; the joys of

gender, marriage, sex, children, parenthood and family life, and of our extended family and friends; the rhythm of work and rest, of daily work  as a means to cooperate with God and serve the common good, and of the Lord’s day when we exchange work for worship; the blessing of peace, freedom, justice and good government, and of food and drink, clothing and shelter; and our human creativity expressed in music, literature, painting, sculpture and drama, and in the skills and strengths displayed in sport.

–John R. Stott

The Creator and his creation

Any error about creation
also leads to an error
about God.

–St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Published in: on 07/03/2012 at 7:56  Leave a Comment  
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Creation renewed

The story the Bible tells does not begin with the Fall and end with judgment. It begins with a good creation and ends with a new creation.

–Brian Zahnd

Published in: on 07/02/2012 at 9:03  Leave a Comment  
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Super natural living

In The Travail of Nature, Paul Santmire invites us to imagine that we are climbing a mountain. There are two alternatives that we are asked to consider as we make our way up the mountain: either we keep our gaze firmly fixed upwards, unaware of all around us as we journey towards the transcendent light above . . .

On the other hand, we may choose to look around us as we make the journey, our eyes drinking in the beauty and glory of the mountain scenery …
look up or look around.

The first perspective – which Santmire describes in the metaphor of ascent – implies a form of spirituality that takes us not just towards God, but away from nature, away from the physical world around us. The second metaphor, that of fecundity (or lush fruitfulness), invites us into an awareness and appreciation of the rich goodness of creation. The second alternative suggests that, in the words of Sally McFague, we need to be not just supernatural Christians, but ‘super, natural’ Christians!

–Graham Buxton

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