how not alone we are

[a quote from the ending of the new book written by David Moore, pastor in Santa Barbara and adjunct faculty at SSU]:

Away with graceless Christianity, so full of suspicion and devoid of mercy! Out with the old and in with the new hope of Jesus. Even with its persistent sorrows, ubiquitous disappointments and lingering aches of the soul, life is hopeful. This will be realized increasingly in the days to come as more of us discover how not alone we are. Faith is generous. Hope is strong. Love is limitless. There’s no need to be selfish and stingy because the supply only increases, and access to it, as we share.

a weak and tender thing

[Wondering about the contemporary relevance of these words by Alan Paton, spoken in 1949 in the context of South African apartheid…]

But one must not imagine that this white settler is motivated solely by fear. He, too, is a human creature. He has not lived upon the earth without being influenced by the great human ideas, notably by the ideas of Christianity. Therefore, he too is a divided creature, torn between his fears  for his own safety and his desire for his own survival on the one hand, and on the other, by those ideas of justice and love which are at the very heart of his religion. We are witnessing today a struggle in the hearts of men, white men, between the claims of justice and of survival, of conscience and of fear.

It is my own belief that the only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love. It’s a weak thing and a tender thing; men despise and deride it. But I look for the day when in South Africa we shall realise that the only lasting and worthwhile solution of our grave and profound problems lies not in the use of power, but in that understanding and compassion without which human life is an intolerable bondage, condemning us all to an existence of violence, misery and fear.

  • Alan Paton (from a speech quoted by Lewis Gannett in his introduction to Paton’s famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country)

on not knowing

[After an amazing week in which SSU helped to host the inaugural Bonfire Festival in St. Stephen – with the help of many alumni and friends – we had some final songs from visiting artists to wrap up this morning at St. Croix Vineyard. In the middle of the service, when the vulnerability and presence of the Spirit were getting thick, Rosie Funk read this passage from Thomas Merton]:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

  • Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

where words are clarified

Two believers in conflict about their doctrines are concerned with the execution of divine will, not with a fleeting personal agreement. For the man who is so related to his faith that he is able to die or slay for it there can be no realm where the law of the faith ceases to hold. It is laid on him to help truth to victory, he does not let himself be misled by sentiments. The man holding a different, that is false, belief must be converted, or at least instructed … The thesis of religious disputation cannot be allowed to “go.”

[In contrast, I have only this confession] We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community. In the public catacombs of this expectation there is no single God’s word which can be clearly known and advocated, but the words delivered are clarified for us in our human situation of being turned toward one another. There is no obedience to the coming one without loyalty to his creature. To have experienced this is our way.

  • Martin Buber, Between Man and Man

[inspired by Englewood Review of Books and their celebration of the birthday of Martin Buber]

generous space

[We’ve just benefited from the wisdom and experience of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter as she visited SSU. This is from her new ebook, which you can get from the link below]

If the goal of generous space is to nurture a positive relational experience of unity in the midst of difference, then we do well to test how the theology that undergirds the four core values of generous space serves to promote such unity. Humility calls us to live as incarnational people, willing to strip ourselves of privilege and status. Humility shapes us and prepares us to prefer the other over ourselves as we commit to listen deeply, suspending our desire to persuade and convince. Humility chooses to embrace God’s strategy of powerlessness to overcome systems of evil and injustice. Humility allows us to truly see the other….

Hospitality embraces the reality of difference with the anticipation of a richer and deeper sense of grace and truth as we travel together. When we
live in hospitable communities we ask, “Whose voices are missing?”

Mutuality challenges us to learn to divest and share power. It invites us to learn the grace of “power-with” instead of “power-over”….

We enlarge our vision of justice in the longing for all to flourish in the recognition that if, “I diminish you, I diminish myself.” Justice calls us to live out our interconnectedness. It invites us to cooperate with others to dismantle the barriers that prevent others from flourishing.