Friday, March 29, 2013

The Sacrificial God

Today is Good Friday, the day of the Christian year when our mind turns to the crucifixion. Not just any crucifixion, though. They were commonplace in ancient Rome and still are carried out in the Middle East today. This was the crucifixion of God. It is hard to fathom, but true. The God who created and delights in the universe and in the humans who bear his image, became one of us, part of his creation, to die. I've always wondered why it would take that. Couldn't there have been another way? I've heard various answers to that question since I was a little girl, but what I'm just beginning to understand is that our God is a life giving, sacrificial God. It is his nature, not an aberration.

If God is a god of sacrifice, then how should we, his image bearers live?

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Contra Dancing

One of the things I love about living in the area I do is the arts culture. In less than a hundred miles there are multiple art museums and festivals, a Shakespearean theatre, ballet companies, and music groups and festivals of all kinds. We are really quite blessed to be where we are.

One of the local events that David and I participate in is contra dancing. It has nothing to do with Nicaragua, nor is it a square dance. If you think of English line dances you see on BBC productions of Jane Austin novels, you can get a pretty close idea of what they're like, though it's less formal. If you'd rather, you can watch a video I've embedded of one of the dances last month at the local Roanoke contra dance. The contra dance community is very patient and happy to have newcomers. Every dance I've been to has a free workshop before the dance for beginners and the first few dances of the evening are a bit easier so that the newbies can get the hang of it.

If you live in the Roanoke area, then I'd encourage you to try it out. There are several venues, including Roanoke, Floyd, Blacksburg, and Lynchburg. There are also contra dances all over the U.S., so look them up in your area if you don't live nearby.

It is good fun!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thought Mash Up

Sometimes I have so many ideas and thoughts, it's difficult to sit down and write about them, so I've decided to just write a bit of stream of consciousness for now. Perhaps later I'll write more on some of them.

At this time our family does not have a home congregation. While this leaves me feeling a bit unmoored, it also feels incredibly freeing. I'm sure this is not how others think I'm supposed to feel, and I'm pretty sure that when we do settle in somewhere I'll feel even better, but right now I'm enjoying not dealing with church politics, doctrinal differences, discrepencies between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, etc.

I've come to really question how we express the body of Christ, particularly the U.S. We set up heirarchies like governments or businesses, ignoring that Jesus said,  “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.". And we wonder why the church is innefective. More and more, I think the church should leave the buildings and organizations behind and meet in homes or community rooms at the local library, share a meal, pray, sing, study, help those inside and outside the church in a way that makes sense for the community. Yes, community is an overused word these days, but sometimes it fits.

I find proverbs annoying. They are so contradictory and they remind me of Mary Bennet.

I am thankful for N.T. Wright, Peter Enns, Christian Smith and many others who are helping a new generation gain a better understanding of the Bible and how to read it. It has been quite liberating to know that others are wanting to understand it in a way that makes sense and honors it, even if it means we have to let go of our pet ways of interpretation, because we really do make it impossible.

This week I read a post about how doing things a little bit everyday can help one make great progress over time and a review of a book that says the best things and people are the ones that can handle and do things in extreme. Both ring true and their contradiction is annoying in the same way that proverbs are.

As I've written before, C.S. Lewis in, The Abolition of Man, talks about applied science, or as is called in our times, technology, as dangerous in that it gives humans control over nature which leads to control over others and even future generations. This has been on my mind a lot as I've learned more about GMO's and industrial agriculture in general. I'm more and more convinced that we are making our land, animals and ourselves sick, though mask it through modern drugs. When I consider how we are to be stewards of creation I don't understand why more Christians do not speak out on this subject. 

On the positive side, I'm very grateful for the internet with its access to information and the freedom and choice this gives. Really, no one in the West has the excuse of ignorance any longer. What is called a low information voter is really either a misinformed voter or a lazy one. For me it has been helpful in figuring out some health issues and being able to treat them with diet, which I'm convinced is the remedy for most Western ailments. A website I've found helpful in this arena is The Perfect Health Diet. The Jaminet's have also written a book by the same title.

I find the teaching of Jesus on non-violence very difficult and compelling. Of course he has shown us by his life, death, and resurrection what non-violence looks like. Why do we not take this more seriously?

Sometimes I want understanding and harmony so badly it aches. To find the intersection of truth, goodness, and beauty seems to be my heart's longing. There are days when this desire is particularly palpable to me, and then I need to do the laundry, take Emma to ballet, help Olivia with her math. It is said that Lewis's sense of longing faded when he became a Christian. I'm not sure if this means I've weak faith, am a poor Christian or am just wired differently. Probably it's all three. What I do know is I love those longings. It is such a part of who I am, and I can't help but think that when I see Jesus, they will be fulfilled.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

From Whence Comes Your Authority?

Sometime last year I read an article by Mark Galli. Now, I read a lot of articles, some I remember, but most I might take in a bit of information, then they are mostly forgetten. Not so with Galli's article. The article had to do with authority. This is a topic that comes up a lot in society. There are arguments over who or what has authority in government, the church, private and public organizations, business, and even the family. These arguments are really over who has power, and that's why this particular article was so memorable for me, because he says, and I think rightly so, that one's authority comes from love. He says:
So, the temptations to ground our authority in anything but love will be with us always. But sooner or later, God's good grace will knock us up the side of the head. We'll discover that disconcerting but liberating news that we have no power to ground our authority in the first place. It is something grounded in us, and grounded by another. And that other grounds it in love—more particularly, his love for us. In the same way that we are called to listen to Jesus because the Father loves him, so people in our charge are called to listen to us only because the Father loves us.
I think of this in relation to two stories. One, a story by a French author written in the mid 19th century, Victor Hugo, and the other told by Jesus.

The first is Les Miserables. My husband and I took in the movie version of Les Miserable tonight, and I couldn't help feeling for both characters, Jean Valjean and Javert, and they reminded me of the second story, told by Jesus of The Father and Two Sons. Valjean fell from grace, not terribly far by our societies standards, yet he fell. He stole a loaf of bread. He of course reminds me of the younger son in Jesus' story, who actually fell a lot further than Valjean. And, of course Javert reminds me of the elder brother, insisting that law and standards be maintained. They aren't perfect representations of the other, but there are enough similarities, that I can't help but wonder if somewhere in the back of Hugo's mind Jesus's parable bled through.

The second story, told by Jesus is often referred to as The Prodigal Son, but really the story is about the father, or Father, and I think the same is true for Les Miserables. The father loves the wayward son so much that he rejects laws and traditions in order to restore him, and in this story, we have the hope that this son in receiving this gift of grace will live worthily of it, because he can be confident of his father's love. The father loves the first son as well, and has bestowed on him every grace he has needed, including himself, yet the first son doesn't understand this. He expects his father to care for him because he has followed the rules and traditions. He hasn't understood that it is simply the father's love that keeps him in his father's care.

The same can be said of Valjean and Javert. Valjean, shown the Father's grace through a priest, accepts that love, gives up his righteous anger, and blesses those with whom he has contact. This isn't without cost to him, as love always sacrifices, yet he grows in heart and courage as he aids those who need him. He is empowered by the Father's love.

Javert is just as confused as the elder brother. How can one live if the rules don't count? What happens if the ledger doesn't add up? In the same way the elder brother can't understand that he is accepted and empowered, not by keeping the rules, but because his father loves him. In the end, not being able to accept the Father's grace and love leads to Javert's destruction.

Of course both stories and both men are about us. Do we treat others with the authority which love gives, or do we want everything to add up and to be square? Are we able to proceed confidently and lovingly because we are so confident in the Father's love for us? If we aren't, then we will seek power over others instead of aiding and loving them as they so need. It is through the authority of love which we work to see the Kingdom expanded. All the rest is straw.

Update:  My apologies for having earlier mispelled Javert. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Tollers

Tolkien would have been 121 years old today. Here is a recording of him reading from The Hobbit. This was the scene that my daughters most enjoyed in the movie.