Saturday, April 29, 2006
The power of prayer
Last week's bible study was on Mark 11:12-25. Jesus curses a fig tree. He ransacks the temple. Basically, we see a cranky Jesus. But then Mark wraps up the lesson with some words about prayer.

In preparing for Sunday morning, I found these words from John Chrysostom, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily. They didn't call him "Golden Tongue" for nothing:

Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm.

It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings.

It exceeds a monarch's power....

I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal.

I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted--this is the prayer which mounts to heaven....

The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.

In sum, prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.

I speak not of the prayer of the lips, but of the prayer that ascends from the inmost recesses of the heart.

Amen, and amen.

posted by Peter at 12:03 AM
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Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Kingdom

Was studying earlier for a church history test I had today. Orthodoxy. Rationalism. Pietism. All that good stuff.

Read this:
The demoralization of society... ought to appeal most powerfully to the Church, for the Church is to be the incarnation of the Christ-spirit on earth, the organized conscience of Christendom. It should be swiftest to awaken to every undeserved suffering, bravest to speak against every wrong, and strongest to rally the moral forces of the community against everything that threatens the better life among men...

That's Walter Rauschenbusch from Christianity and the Social Crisis, 1907. Walt is one of the big voices of the Social Gospel movement in America just prior to the first World War.

I've been looking for a good unpacking of what the Kingdom of God means lately, and I think I like what I see in Rauschenbusch. He lists eight characteristics of the Kingdom. Here is what he says, out of context, so keep that in mind:
1. The Kingdom of God is divine in its origin, progress and consummation...

2. The Kingdom of God contains the teleology of the Christian religion...

3. Since God is in it, the Kingdom of God is always both present and future...

4. Even before Christ, men of God saw the Kingdom of God as the great end to which all divine leadings were pointing...

5. The Kingdom of God is humanity organized according to the will of God...

6. Since the Kingdom is the supreme end of God, it must be the purpose for which the Church exists...

7. Since the Kingdom is the supreme end, all problems of personal salvation must be reconsidered from the point of view of the Kingdom...

8. The Kingdom of God is not confined within the limits of the Church and its activities...

Perhaps we'd all do well to drop by our local book depository and peruse A Theology for the Social Gospel in its entirety.

posted by Peter at 10:59 PM
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Put me in, Coach
So I'm sponsoring Kyle so he can get that personal advice he needs for the music ministry he's always been dreaming about. I'm just sure this is the nudge that will put him over the top. I know he's got his eyes on some of those U.K. soccer stadiums.

Random acts of kindness like this make me feel so good about myself.

posted by Peter at 10:53 PM
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Saturday, April 15, 2006
Easter vigil
I did not discover Tolkien's Lord of the Rings until college. I took a class on the Inklings. We read Lewis, Tolkien and Williams. I have this memory of reading Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. I may be 19 years old and sitting in the local coffee shop late on a Friday night, but I am standing at the bridge of Khazad-dum. "You cannot pass!"

With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged won and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lanshed and curled about the wizard's knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered, and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. 'Fly, you fools!' he cried, and he was gone.

I wept that night in the coffee shop.

In this closing hours of Lent, two cinematic scenes pester me will not leave me alone. I confess I did not watch the Passion of the Christ this Lenten season. Instead, I just watched this scene from Fellowship of the Ring. This is how I "get" the terrible loss of Good Friday, how I associate the grief of losing the guide and of losing all hope. As Frodo screams, "Gandalf!" my stomach knots. It stops me. I halt, and I remember.

Last night a group of us watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal. The picture that sticks with me is one of the closing images. In silhouette, Death leads six of our main characters, hand in hand, looking like a chain-gang, over the horizon: "And the strict lord Death bids them to dance." This is the fate of sin and death. This is what all the soteriologic rhetoric ("I got saved!") is for. I think this image is the condition of us all pre-Easter. I am saved from the dance of Death. It stops me. I halt, and I remember.

It is Saturday night.
Remember, the body is still in the tomb.
Remember, there is a day before a Savior.
Remember, there is a day with no "hallelujah."
Remember, there is a day for wringing hands, not clapping them.
Remember, there is a day the people of God scattered in fear.
Remember, there is a day hope extinguished.
Remember, there is a day shadow and flame conquered.
Remember, there is a night of seemingly broken promises.
It is Saturday night.

There is a day for singing the songs of Zion.
This is not it.
This is the night for singing Psalm 88.
This is the night for singing Psalm 137.
This is the night for singing "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded."
This is the night for singing "O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done."
This is the night for singing "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed."
This is the night for mourning the death of my favorite dream.

Only tomorrow are we Easter people.

Tomorrow I will bellow the words of the prophet Hosea at the top of my lungs. Tomorrow scream the words of Paul as loud as I can.

Tonight I huddle in the solemn darkness, some disillusioned and sobbing disciples my only complany.

posted by Peter at 11:53 PM
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Homer Simpson, priest
Overdue for churning some thoughts out. This is from OT theology reading, The Religion of Ancient Israel by Patrick D. Miller. And he's actually quoting this from Rodney Hutton's Charisma and Authority in Israelite Society. He's talking about the role of priest in leadership of Israel's religion:
He [the priest] was the equivalent of the modern nuclear reactor supervisor who must channel the tremendous energy of the reactor while at the same time facing potential death in preventing radioactive contamination, core meltdown, and nuclear catastrophe, and who must supervise the decontamination of the environment in the case of disaster, which in cultic terms was an everyday occurrence. (Miller 171)

An everyday occurrence. Was there really a time when approaching God was a matter of life and death? From an intellectual standpoint, I can accept that. Fine. The Bible tells me so (like 2 Samuel 6:6-11). But when I'm downright honest with myself, I don't think I live like it. Seriously, I don't approach YHWH with fear and trembling. Do I really know any better, though? Have the paradigms of religion that have trained me taught me fear and trembling?

The presence of YHWH deserves more than a healthy amount of respect. There must be careful preparation. Comb your hair. Brush your teeth. Put on your good shoes. Not to impress YHWH. Rather, it's because YHWH is God and I am not. There comes a danger in all of the I-am-a-friend-of-God or I-am-my-beloved's rhetoric. YHWH and I are not the same, not equals that we can be buddies. If Jesus is my Lord, he cannot also be my boyfriend.

The priest stood between two worlds. One the mysterious, terrible, lovely presence of YHWH. The other the contaminated and tainted world of men and women. Talk about a tense, volatile place to stand. Is my place as a Christian any different, halfway between a world defiled and world redeemed? The presence, and practice of fear and trembling, is no longer an everyday matter of life and death. Instead, it is moment by moment in the presence of YHWH.

That's all for now.


posted by Peter at 11:16 PM
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Monday, April 03, 2006
The box where sweets compacted lie
Happy Opening Day!

Jamie Moyer vs. Bartolo Colon, 5:05 EST.

posted by Peter at 10:05 AM
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