light and bread?

[I usually avoid re-posting something that I read on Inward/Outward – excellent as it is, too many people receive both emails – but with last week focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr, I couldn’t find anything better and more apt than this quote]:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause [people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of [humanity] and fire the souls of men [and women], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. [People] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Source:

a good question

[This is the other poem that Rachael shared with us at last week’s talk on uncertainty and questions:]

A Good Question

Never underestimate the power of a question.
Don’t dismiss it as mere herald to the all-powerful answer,
Or despise its uncertainty as feeble or unsafe.

A good question is full of life.
It bursts with the curiosity and promise of undiscovered worlds.
Its key turns the lock of never-opened doors.

So don’t let your own question spill heedlessly from your mouth.
Instead, turn it,
Like a hard toffee between tongue and teeth.
Savour, smooth and hone it.

Hold and admire it, a wild bird balanced on your faltering hand,
And when you release it to another’s charge,
Be ready for it to return to you unfamiliar,
Changed beyond recognition,
And pulling in directions you did not predict or desire.

Learn to listen,
Just listen,
And to let answers be extended questions.

Likewise, when another’s question comes to you,
Don’t push it away if an answer does not spring instantly, comfortingly, to mind;
For this question’s gift was fashioned in the ferment of someone else’s strange soul.

A question should be given space
To roam through forgotten rooms.
Perhaps at first it will seem to bounce like a discarded rubber ball,
Its lonely thud echoing against the emptiness of abandoned space,
Bareness of untrodden floorboards.

But refrain from picking it up to thrust again into a cosy pocket,
And its ricochet will knock open closets,
spill chests,
split windows,
Drawing invisible arcs to connect random points,
Until the tangle of lines
Suddenly
Reveals a picture.

This picture you may pick up
And wonderingly exhibit,
Or carefully fold to store in your heart’s chest.

But the question?
Let the question bound on…

  • Rachael Barham – Saturday 29th December 2012

hospitality and freedom

[Our faculty are currently exploring the challenges of interfaith dialogue in the context of an academic and Christian community. At our last faculty meeting, we affirmed the role of hospitality and vulnerability and the next morning I read this passage from Henri Nouwen:]

Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.

: Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

the freedom of god

[excerpts from the final chapter of a book exploring how we respond to the fear of death]

….”God” and the religious institutions can become as enslaved to the fear of death as everything else in the culture….

So how are we to be set free from this idolatry? How are we to proclaim and experience the freedom of God? In the Old Testament, the battle with idolatry was fought by the prophets. And at its heart, the prophetic impulse is to proclaim the emancipation of God, the freedom of God, the liberty of God. The ambition of the prophet is to end the slavery of God….

This capacity for prophetic imagination, that God is free to be against us, is the great weapon against idolatry. Whenever and wherever the people of God lose this capacity, God becomes enslaved. When the prophetic imagination is eclipsed – when God can no longer be imagined as being against us and for those we oppress, exclude, stigmatize, marginalize, ignore, or aggress against – God is no longer free but a slave….

And what might be the sign of this eclipse of the prophetic voice? What are the symptoms of this failure of the prophetic imagination? Simply put, the alignment of, equating of, and identification of our voice and interests with God’s own….

This is how we know that God has been emancipated and set free from our slavery to the fear of death: When we can hear the voice of God crying out against us in the voices we ignore, marginalize, victimize, exclude, ostracize, harm, and kill, we know that God has been set free. The radical, prophetic freedom of God is fully realized when we see the face of God in our victims and our enemies. In that moment our slavery to the fear of death is fully overcome. In that moment the sacrificial love of Christ becomes fully manifest.

In that moment the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death (2014)

wendell berry on love and sorrow

If God loves the world, might that not be proved in my own love for it? I prayed to know in my heart His love for the world, and this was my most prideful, foolish, and dangerous prayer. It was my step into the abyss. As soon as I prayed it, I knew that I would die. I knew the old wrong and the death that lay in the world. Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.

– thoughts of Jayber Crow in Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow (2000)