gospel as new possibilities, new dangers

[I’ve been fascinated lately by reading Ivan Illich and finding a creative analysis of modern culture that critiques those who wield power on the right and the left]:

I believe that the Incarnation makes possible a surprising and entirely new flowering of love and knowledge. For Christians the Biblical God can now be loved in the flesh. Saint John says that he has sat at table with him, that he has put his head on his shoulder, heard him, touched him, smelled him. And he has said that whoever sees him sees the Father, and that whoever loves another loves him in the person of that other….

The opening of this new horizon is also accompanied by a second danger: institutionalization. There is a temptation to try to manage and, eventually, to legislate this new love, to create an institution that will guarantee it, insure it, and protect it by criminalizing its opposite. So along with this new ability to give freely of oneself has appeared the possibility of exercising an entirely new kind of power, the power of those who organize Christianity and use this vocation to claim their superiority as social institutions.

  • Ivan Illich, The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich as told to David Cayley (2005)

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)

a kindly mist

[We had a lovely Fireside Chat today by Rachael Barham on the value of uncertainty and the power of a question. This is one her poems that she shared with us:]

If this be a kindly mist
Then I wish to surrender to it
Fall into its unclarity and darkness
As into a soft and giving sleep

But it must be Love:
It must love me like no other
And cause me to love in return
– To love the mist itself
And the shapes that rise in it,
Bodies softened,
Hard lines blurred

If this mist be Love
I wish to view all things in and through it
I wish never again to see clearly, boldly, singly
I wish never again to see the world divided, sorted, sifted
But joined, surrounded, lost in obscurity together

May the mist be thick enough to hide from me my own hands
Left from right, right from left
Good from bad, right from wrong
So that I can move unselfconscious
Unobserved and unnoticed

Should I feel myself tugged at by a hidden hand
Toyed with, pushed and pulled
Twisted round to face…
(What?)
Let me give in to the swirl, fold, whisper
And find myself taken in
Encircled, embraced and
At last
Lost

  • Rachael Barham

the self-emptying power of God

[an excerpt from the new book by Brad Jersak who teaches in our ministry program]

What if Jesus’ humility, meekness and servant heart were never a departure from God’s glory and power, but actually define it and demonstrate it? Take your time—read that sentence again. What if kenosis—self-emptying power, self-giving love and radical servant-hood—expresses the very nature of God! What if God does rule and reign, not through imperial power but through kenotic love! What if the first beatitude—“Blessed are the poor (void, empty) in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3)—is a vision of the glory of God lived through Christ! Why? Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns.

– Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel(2015)