"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Joy as necessary to being

I have been accused of seeing the world through rose colored glasses.  Okay enough, I suppose.  Today I have been challenged - sermon won't come easily, there is stress to deliver and to provide, there is much going on around me that is beyond my control -- and it all stacked up today.  Searching around the internet for images of love and joy.  I came across this.  I have no idea what soulpancake is or is not.  I only know that in this staged exercise they captured joy.  Notice how it is not limited by age or race or whether one has tatoos or not.  Good reminder today for me.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  And joy is necessary to being.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Future and Fate

image can be found at dwell.co.uk - numberless clock

                One of the persistent themes I keep encountering is the theme of speculation about the future.  Some of this speculation is mythical and mystical, where there will be persistent reminders all this year about the ancient Mayan calendar which ends in 2012.  Some of this speculation is cultural, as an article in last month’s Wall Street Journal called The New American Divide, by Charles Murray, offers for consideration.  Its first sentence:  “America is coming apart.”  Its conclusion:  it will continue to do so unless drastic change is made person by person, family by family.  Some of the speculation is naturally political.  In an election year this speculation will only become more intense.  And some is ecclesiological, meaning some of it is about the church.  The outstanding Presbyterian journalist Leslie Scanlon published an article last month called, “It’s True:  American Protestant Congregations Continue to Decline.”   Citing multiple studies she notes that churches report dwindling financial health and demonstrate an inability to connect with young people:  a two-fold prescription for a rocky future.  Some of the speculation suggests that we in the West will be locked in unending struggles for civilization’s future with cultures in the Middle and Far East.  Predictions everywhere are dire.  So we have to ask, are our culture, nation, and church fated for decline?  When did realism become pessimism?

                One thing lacking from the debates in what I read is genuine theological discourse.   Good theological understanding might direct us to think that we are to be good stewards of what we have, including this challenging historical moment.  Good theology reminds us that the future is not fated.  The future belongs to God, and God alone.  We preserve the past through memory, history, record keeping, and nostalgia.  We engage the present through prayer, dedication, information, and analysis.  But the future?  We may make our plans and lay our foundations but it belongs to God.  The powerful conclusion of the book of Genesis directs this trust when Joseph tells his brothers, “what you intended for evil, God made good.”  Meaning that your plans, your preparations were for hardship, but God held our futures and your plans for evil were subject to God’s desire for something better.

                I hope many of you either heard Dean Thompson lecture this past weekend or heard him preach on Sunday morning.  His presentation was powerful and convincing.  One of his subjects was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and martyr.  While Dean was speaking, I kept being drawn back to a little entry in Bonhoeffer’s Meditations on the Cross.  The little sentence is simply a scrap from a letter he wrote from prison.  It’s called Fate.  He says, “The liberating thing about Good Friday and Easter is that one’s thoughts are swept far beyond one’s own personal fate to the ultimate meaning of all life and suffering, and of whatever occurs, such that one is seized by great hope.”


               Lent begins in a week on Ash Wednesday (be sure to join us at Ash Wednesday worship, February 22).  Lent is a good time to think about the past and pray about the future.  Lent is a good time to focus upon Easter, too.  And Easter is an ever present reminder that the future belongs to God.  Easter is a call to optimism.  In hope, I pray that we’ll answer and answer well.