Friday, March 31, 2006

anthrakia

A Thought or Two More on Hauerwas and "I Thirst"

Chapter 5 of Stanley Hauerwas's Cross-Shattered Christ is devoted to the words "I thirst," which Jesus said from the cross.

Hauerwas relates the words to the story from John's gospel of the Samaritan woman at the well--one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. (See John 4:1-26.) There's no walking on water here; no changing water into wine. The story represents one of the quiet moments with Jesus that probably occurred many times a day, but that seldom made it into the gospels.

It's a hot noon-time, and Jesus asks for a drink. The woman replies, "'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)" (John 4: 9, NIV).

And Jesus says, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10).

Hauerwas notes that Jesus is this living water, and Hauerwas's chapter asks how can this "living water" then be thirsty? (74).
"The work of the Son, the thirst of the Son through the Spirit, is nothing less than the Father's thirst for us" (77).

I love those two images--the one used by Jesus, "living water," and the one by Hauerwas, "the Father's thirst for us."

As I thought about this chapter and these passages, the word "living" seemed to jump out at me, much more than "water." Jesus is "living" water, even as he "thirsts" to complete his work for us through death, as Hauerwas says (76).

In fact, his living personality is still with us today, as Luke Timothy Johnson has argued in Living Jesus. He is water--everywhere present, life-giving, thirst-relieving. He is alive with us in prayer, in the Eucharist, and in our worship. He is living water on that hot Samaritan day, on the cross that Friday, and somehow is still living water through the cross today. He is thirsting for us, as he provides for our thirst.

There's the mystery.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Is the Reformation Over?

As you may noticed, I've added two websites to the list. The first, Jesus Creed: Exploring the Significance of Jesus and the Orthodox Faith for the 21st Century, is a blog hosted by Scott McKnight, a fine Biblical scholar; the second, New Reformation Homepage: Christian Fundamentals without the Fundamentalism, is managed by Steve Falkenberg, friend and professor emeritus of EKU.

Although a good many threads, links, and comments on each are well worth examining, reading, pondering, responding to, I recommend for the nonce that you take a look at Is the Reformation Over? and the many comments the question has generated. The initial posting begins this way:

A purple theology believes that to one degree or another the Reformation is over. By that it means that the Reformation’s summons of the Church to return to the Bible (sola scriptura) and to faith as the sole means of justification (sola fide) and to grace alone as that which saves us (sola gratia) has done its job. Those are no longer the central issues.

Has the time come for those sola-cutting instruments to admit that they did the job and that they have influenced Catholics and the Orthodox, and that there is therefore now a moment for us one more time to come together?

Take a look at what's going on over there and let us know if you think we might wish to run the question through our conversations here.

By the way, if you know of someone who might be interested in what's here at Anthrakia, let me know so I can send an invitation to participate to her or him.

March 29: John Donne

I almost let this day slip by without reminding myself and you that many Christains are remembering that on March 31, 1661, one of our best Christian poets died. John Donne wrote poems like "Batter, my heart, three-person'd God":

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


He wrote lots more poetry and preached many sermons such at this one, given on Easter Day, 1619. If you have some reason for appreciating what God has done in the life of John Donne, here's a prayer you may wish to give to God:

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes To see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

"I thirst."

Yesterday, after I posted my understanding of Hauerwas's reflections on Jesus' "I thirst," I came across this engraving in the latest issue of The Catholic Worker (March-April, 2006; 73.2). As I looked at this startling image, much of what Hauerwas said in Chapter Five came home to me. Now I ask myself: is it possible that in the "I thirst" of Our Lord, the cross-shattered Christ is offering up himself with all the Israel and all of us (whom He became in Mary's belly, as Hauerwas puts it) and presents Himself as the Son of God even as He give himself within the Holy Trinity to the Father and to us. If you have a copy of Hauerwas' The Cross-Shattered Christ, take a look at the woodcarving that illustrates Chapter Five and see if you too understand that image as a kindred iconic commentary on "I thirst" and Hauerwas's reflections.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Varieties of Religious Experince

I have just finished reading the classic by William James and it was, indeed, a spiritual experience (the reading of it,that is). His writing style was (or is) inspiring, his human decency shows through in his writing, and his empirical approach to evaluation of religious experiences is interesting to say the least. I appreciated his closing statement of personal faith. It is obvious to me that he definitely took no back seat to tha great European Philosophers of the 19th century. If anyone else who contributes to this blog has read James, I would appreciate your assessment of his Theology/Philosophy. You certainly don't have to agree with me.

Harry

The Cross-Shattered Christ: Chapter Five

In Chapter Five of The Cross-Shattered Christ, Stanley Hauerwas listens to the words of Christ when he cries out, "I thirst!" As in previous chapters, he asks again: how can the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity "thirst"? Should we think metaphorically here? Or are we to think that the cry somehow comes from the human side of Jesus Christ who is physically thirsty. Perhaps. But is it really a matter of a dry throat and parched lips? While, as I understand Hauerwas, there is a good bit of truth to these possibilities, something else, Hauerwas tells, far more significant takes place when the Son of God finds himself screaming (is that too strong a verb?) for water. As I understand what Hauerwas is saying in his own sparse sentences, it's something like this:

For centuries Israel, God's wilderness people, have been longing for everything that water means, abundant and full life with God, the coming to God's pasture-land. Is it not in the Songs of Israel that God's people cry out "in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 42). If we are to believe the Gospel, in the Incarnation, in the emptying of God into "Mary's belly," the Waters of Heaven have poured themselves into a cross-shattered Christ whose "mouth is dried up like a potsherd" (Psalm 22). In Christ we are witness to the oceanic Waters of Life going absolutely dry, drained of divinity, emptied of everything God is. Yet even as we make such statement, our words do not "explain" Jesus's "I thirst" from the cross. In Hauerwas's words:

It is a mistake to think these great doctrines of our faith, the Trinity and Incarnation, are meant to explain. These doctrines are quite literally names for mysteries, that is, the naming of what is open for all to see yet become for us the incomprehensible salvation wrought in Christ.

Quoting Rowan Williams (as he has done before), Hauerwas asks us to "remember the point of doctrine is to hold us still, to create depth in us, 'a space for radical change in how we think of ourselves and how we act'."

While I'm not quite sure what that "space for radical change" means, I'm grateful to Hauerwas to suggest that it may require that in the depth of Christ as I listen to him cry for water, I am called "to care for those who thirst for God's kingdom," and in that caring "the kingdom will be present." Perhaps then I will understand "I thirst."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March 29: John Keble, Priest, 1866

On this day many Christians will pause to remember John Keble 1792-1866. While more Episcopalians, Anglicans, and Lutherans will commemorate him than most other Christian churches, Keble's witness and importance to the whole Church is remarkable. Sketching his life, James Kiefer tells us that Keble was “born in 1792, ordained Priest in 1816, tutored at Oxford from 1818 to 1823, and published in 1827 a book of poems called The Christian Year, containing poems for the Sundays and Feast Days of the Church Year. The book sold many copies and was highly effective in spreading Keble's devotional and theological views. His style was more popular then than now, but some of his poems are still in use as hymns.”

As many Methodists study This Holy Mystery and attempt to recover their sacramental heritage, they will do well to remember that the Church of England was at one time in terrible need to renewal and that John Keble did much to restore the HolyMystery, the Eucharist, to the center of the local parish’s life.

Again Kiefer narrates the story:

On 14 July 1833, he preached the Assize Sermon at Oxford. (This sermon marks the opening of a term of the civil and criminal courts, and is officially addressed to the judges and officers of the court, exhorting them to deal justly.) His sermon was called "National Apostasy," and denounced the Nation for turning away from God, and for regarding the Church as a mere institution of society, rather than as the prophetic voice of God, commissioned by Him to warn and instruct the people. The sermon was a nationwide sensation, and is considered to be the beginning of the religious revival known as the Tractarian Movement (so called because of a series of 90 Tracts, or pamphlets addressed to the public, which largely influenced the course of the movement) or as the Oxford Movement (not to be confused with the Oxford Group -- led by Frank Buchman and also called Moral Re-Armament, or MRA -- which came a century later and was quite different). Because the Tractarians emphasized the importance of the ministry and of the sacraments as God-given ordinances, they were suspected by their opponents of Roman Catholic tendencies, and the suspicion was reinforced when some of their leaders (John Henry Newman being the most conspicuous) did in fact become Roman Catholics. But the movement survived, and has profoundly influenced the religious thinking, practice, and worship of large portions of Christendom. Their insistence, for example, that it was the normal practice for all Christians to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion every Sunday has influenced many Christians who would never call themselves Anglicans, let alone Tractarians. Keble translated the works of Irenaeus of Lyons (28 June 202), and produced an edition of the works of Richard Hooker, a distinguished Anglican theologian (3 Nov 1600). He also wrote more books of poems, and numerous hymn lyrics. Three years after his death, his friends and admirers established Keble College at Oxford.

Grateful to God for Keble’s witness, you may wish to offer this prayer:

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Toonspirit Updates

I have just completed another night's work on www.toonspirit.net. The "Papers" section of the web got a total overhaul. Now all of the papers are sorted by class and the order in which they were written. New text information on both the "Papers" and Resources" pages have appeared. Praise God!!! I want to thank Andy for the easy to get to link on the "links" section of "Anthrakia". I really appreciate it. More updates soon.

The Cross-Shattered Christ: Chapter Four


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27.46)

These are the words upon which Hauerwas reflects in Chapter Four of The Christ-Shattered Cross, a book several of us are reading during Lent. Like the previous three chapters, this meditation, short as it is, requires multiple readings, as least it did for me. Hauerwas begins by reminding us that we live in a "death-drenched" century. From all that we see going on throughout the world, "we think we have some idea about what it means to be forsaken," quite aware, as Hauerwas says, that "God remains silent." With death all around us, some people somehow manage to believe that "maybe God even suffers with us"; some people seem to think such a notion is "comforting [even when] given the fact it is very clear God is incapable of doing anything about our suffering."

Christians who entertain notions that God suffers with us, Hauerwas observes, is "but an indication of our refusal, indeed our inability, to believe that this One [Jesus!] who hangs on this obscure and humilating cross is God":

That this is God [hanging on the cross] means Jesus's words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" are not words describing the horror we inflict on our ourselves and one another.

God--not us!- is crying out, crying out with words from the inner life of Jesus who by himself works through Israel's pain articulated in Psalm 22. It is God in Jesus, the cross-shattered Christ, suffering out this prayer: " This is not [simply] a cry of general dereliction; it is the cry of the long-expected Messiah, sacrificed in our stead and thus becoming the end of sacrifice." As Hauerwas emphasizes again and again in previous chapters, what we hear from the cross is "the outworking of the mystery called Trinity." Here, as the Second Council of Constantinople put it, "one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh." That emphasis bears strong iteration: The creating Word of God is dying; the Word made flesh is dying. God is emptying himself, completing emptying Himself in death made possible by perfect love.

We dare not dilute what happens on the cross as some sort of gruesome "dumb show" demonstrating that God has our best interest at heart. God is collapsing into death. God, as Rowan Williams reminds us, is doing the unimaginably impossible; God in Christ is giving up all traces of power:

The silence of Jesus before Pilate can now be understood for was it was--namely, that Jesus refuses to accept the terms of how the world understands power and authority.

On the cross we see a God who refuses to save us by violence. This refusal is, as John's Gospel says over and over, the glory of God. As our powerless Lord, "the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment our sin produces, so that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross."

______________________________

While I'm not sure I "understand" what happens on the cross (and so agree with Pastor Strange's admission in yesterday's sermon that he too doesn't have a logical explanation as to how the crucifixion of Jesus "works"), I nevertheless think that Hauerwas is on to something tremendously important. Trying to understand what the cross-shattered Christ means to Hauerwas, I listen to Jesus cry out and this is what I hear: Utterly emptied, void of power, God descends into suffering, pain, dying, and death so we hear and see what it looks like when God in the flesh dies. When we listen to Him on the cross, we enter the Trinitarian heart of God

Monday, March 27, 2006

March 28/29: Hans Nielsen Hauge, Renewer of the Church, 1824

Depending on which church calendar you're using, we remember Hans Nielsen Hauge on Tuesday and/or Wednesday of this week. James Kiefer provides this biographical note about Hans Nielsen Hauge, who was born in 1771 in rural Norway, about fifty miles from Oslo. He had little formal education, but was a skilled carpenter and repairman, and was thus economically secure. He was reared in a devout home, and as a young man he did much religious reading, and was deeply worried that he might be damned. While working on his father's farm, on 5 April 1796 (just two days after he turned 25), he had a mystical experience. He suddenly felt assured of his salvation and called to share his assurance with others. He began to travel through Norway and Denmark, preaching everywhere about "the living faith," the personal commitment to the Lord that transforms the believer's life. He also wrote on the subject, producing about thirty books. He described his conversion experience as follows:

Sometimes I fell on my knees and prayed almighty God for the sake of His Son to establish me on the spiritual rock, Christ Jesus. ... One day while I was working outside under the open sky, I sang from memory the hymn, "Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion." ... At this point my mind became so exalted that I was not myself aware of, nor can I express, what took place in my soul. For I was beside myself. As soon as I came to my senses, I was filled with regret that I had not served this loving transcendentally good God. Now it seemed to me that nothing in this world was worthy of any regard. That my soul possessed something supernatural, divine, and blessed; that there was a glory that no tongue can utter--that I remember as clearly as if it had happened only a few days ago. And it is now nearly twenty years since the love of God visited me so abundantly. ... Now I wanted very much to serve God. I asked Him to reveal to me what I should do. The answer echoed in my heart, "You shall confess My name before the people; exhort them to repent and seek Me while I may be found and call upon Me while I am near; and touch their hearts that they may turn from darkness to light."

Norwegian law at that time prohibited any religious meetings except under the supervision of the parish pastor. Many of the authorities, in both church and state, thought that a movement led by an uneducated peasant might veer off unpredictably in any direction, and was best stopped before it did. After several arrests, and releases, he was finally imprisoned in 1804. I n 1809 he was released to work on a project to extract salt from the ocean, and then imprisoned again. In 1811 he was permitted to return to farming, and in 1813 arrested and imprisoned again for preaching. Finally released, he married twice, but his first wife died soon after their marriage, and three of his four children died in infancy. By this time, he had the friendship and support of several bishops. His health broken, his spirit broken, and his confidence in his mission weakened, he died on 29 March 1824. Because his preaching coincided with the years during which many Norwegians were immigrating to America, the Haugean influence on Lutheranism in America has been considerable.

For his ministry of renewal in the Church, you may wish to say something like this to God:

Gracious Father, we praise you because, when the zeal and love of your Church has grown cold, you stir up the hearts of your people, by sending to them men and women of faith, as you sent your servant Hans Nielsen Hauge, to preach repentance and renewal; and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such preaching, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blessed Mary and Richie Heinlein

Yesterday on the Feast of the Annunciation, I was reading Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others and thinking about Richie Heinlein’s ministry to our parish’s Sunday School third-graders when I came across this in McKnight’s chapter on “Mary: The story of Vocation”:

Most Bible readers fail to connect Jesus with Mary when they think of the teaching of Jesus. This failure fulfills what I think should be the (tongue-in-cheek) correct translation of Luke 1:48: “From now on all generations (except Protestants!) will call me blessed.” While some tend to adore Mary a little too much, Protestants tend to avoid her too often. Most Protestants have less respect for Mary than Frederica Mathewes-Green, who needed to adjust to Mary when she became Eastern Orthodox. She confessed: "I like [Mary] and everything. I respect her. She’s his Mom . . . . I feel a formal distance, like we’re still at the pleased-to-meecha stage. "

There is good reason, them, for many of us to reconsider Mary’s impact on Jesus because the Gospels clearly show that she had a significant influence on his teachings.

On any reading of the Magnificat (Mary’s Song), we find five of the major themes of Jesus’ very own teachings and mission. It is not hard to figure which came first. To begin with, as Mary blesses the holy Name of God and asks God to fill the hungry, so Jesus hallows God’s Name, prays for daily bread. And blesses the hungry. Second, as Mary is poor and from the Anawim [the Hebrew word for "the poor"], so Jesus blesses the poor and opens banquet doors to the poor. As Mary is a widow, so Jesus frequently shows mercy to widows. Third, as Mary prays for the powerful to be stripped of their unjust powers, so Jesus regularly tussles with unjust powers. Fourth, as Mary’s prayer emphasizes God’s mercy and compassion, so Jesus is known for mercy and compassion. And, fifth, Mary’s own prayerful concern for Israel’s redemption is seen in Jesus’ wrenching prayer for Jerusalem. These similarities are not accidents.

We must conclude that Mary passes on her own vision and vocation to her son. Our own vocations are not just to accomplish our special assignments, but to pass God’s claim on our lives to our children and the next generation.

As I read McKnight’s observations about Mary, I thought of Richie Heinlein and his own Sunday-by-Sunday Mary-like care of children. Like Mary, Richie is passing on God’s claim to the next generation. For that, Richie, on this day after the Annunciation, all of us say, “Thanks you!” as you magnify the Lord with Mary, whom you and all generations call “blessed.”

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Blessed Virgin Mary as Theotokos

Some of you may have noticed that in the previous post, Martin Luther calls the mother of Jesus "The Mother of God." In Greek we say that Mary is theotokos. In early Christian worship, Mary was declared the "theotokos," which in Greek literally means "God-Bearer." The title was officially made a part of orthodox Christian doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The term "theotokos" does not mean that Mary is somehow the mother of the Trinity, or that she existed at the beginning of time. No informed or educated Christian believes this; it seems only those who would seek to mischaracterize orthodox Christian belief assert that we believe Mary is somehow the mother of the entire Godhead.

Although the history leading up to the Church's use of the title "theotokos" for Mary is a bit long and messy, nevertheless affirming Mary as mother of God has little to do with who Mary is, but a lot to do with who Jesus is. Speaking historically about the Church's understanding of who Jesus is, it has everything to do with Christ being God and human at the same time. Calling Mary God-Bearer simply affirms that Mary is the mother of the one person, Jesus, who is both fully human and fully divine. This is all "theotokos" implies. Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and virtually every historically-minded protestant denomination accepts the statement of the Council of Chalcedon calling Mary "theotokos." This includes Lutherans, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptists.

March 25: THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Tomorrow, Saturday (nine months to the day before Christmas), the Church listens to the Annunication of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary said Yes to God's desire to create within her the body of the Messiah Jesus, and today we celebrate Mary's Yes, asking the Holy Spirit to give us the same Lord Jesus. Today many of your Christian brothers and sisters are listening to the story as Luke unfolds it in the first chapter of his Gospel:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.


It is the wide-spread custom of many Christians who do "Evening Prayer" ("Vespers") to sing "The Magnificat," the song Luke ascribes to Mary when she later visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. In "The Magnificat," Mary praises the Lord for his mercy and goodness, saying, "For He that is mighty hath done great things for me, and Holy is His Name" (1:49).

When four centuries ago Luther proclaimed the Good News of the Annunciation; here's what he said:

The "great things" are nothing less than that she became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed upon her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among whom she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in Heaven, and such a child. She herself is unable to find a name for this work, it is too exceedingly great; all she can do is break out in the fervent cry: "They are great things," impossible to describe or define. Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her or to her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees, or grass in the fields, or stars in the sky, or sand by the sea. It needs to be pondered in the heart, what it means to be the Mother of God. (Luther's Works, Vol. 21, p. 326, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Concordia Publishing House, 1956.)

Perhaps with Christians throughout the world, you too may say this prayer:

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord; that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Webpage Update

In one of my posts, the one marked "toonspirit", I told of my updates to the site. Andy wrote me and asked me to give the URL. The web address is http://www.toonspirit.net. Look under the resources page and see what you can find. Thanks Andy for telling me that you needed the URL (which I think is a fancy term for the address of the site.) and the opportunity to give information on what I have been working on. There will be more updates later. Also, if people want to look for updates, go to my profile on "Anthrakia" and go to the web page section. My webpage is there too.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

anthrakia

A Few Notes on St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

A few days ago, I wanted to post a note on St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (635-87), also known as Cuthbert of Northumbria, but I wasn't able to log onto the blog. So, a few days late, here is the note I planned to share on his annual day, March 20.

According to the Celtic Daily Prayer Book:

"After many years in the monastery [at Lindisfarne], Cuthbert finally entered with great joy, and with the goodwill of the abbot and monks, into the remoter solitude that he had so long sought, thirsted after and prayed for. To learn the first steps of solitude he retired to a place in the outer precincts of the monastery. (This is believed to be the tiny tidal island adjoining Lindisfarne which is now known as St. Cuthbert's Island.) Not until he had first gained victory over our invisible enemy by solitary prayer and fasting did he seek a more remote place on the island on Inner Farne.

"Bede tells us that the island was inhabited by demons; and Cuthbert was the first man brave enough to make his home there. Indeed, the demons fled at the entry of this soldier of Christ, clothed fully in the armour of God" (172).

Cuthbert was later called back from the island and made Bishop of Lindisfarne.

How cool is that! Cuthbert was a soldier of Christ strong enough to make demons flee. Of course, I can't retire to a remote island (although life with four children makes me want to, occasionally). I wonder what kind of prayer it would take to become a soldier of Christ in suburban mid-America?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

anthrakia

St. Augustine's Thoughts on Holy Week

The new issue of Christianity Today contains a short quote from St. Augustine in the "Reflections" column. The quotations in this month's "Reflections" all deal with Holy Week. The particular quote is from Sermon 233:

"He died, but he vanquished death; in himself, he put an end to what we feared; he took it upon himself, and he vanquished it; as a mighty hunter, he captured and slew the lion.

"Where is death? Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist, and now it is dead. O life, O death of death! Be of good heart; it will die in us also. What has taken place in our head will take place in his members; death will die in us also. But when? At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt" (94).

Best wishes,
Mason Smth

anthrakia

Was Superman a United Methodist?

According to a recent entry in the Wesley Blog (see link in the list to the right) an author who specializes in Superman trivia has said in an interviw that the Man of Steel was raised as a United Methodist by his adoptive parents--Mrs. and Mrs. Kent of Smallville, Kan.

This idea was apparenty based on passing reverences to Clark's upbringing in the body of work on Superman that has appeared since 1939. The author--I can't remember his name--was a script writer for DC Comics back in the 1980s, so he has some first-hand experience with the Superman back-story.

By the way, Batman is an Episcopal. Lois Lane is a Catholic, and Jimmy Olson is a Lutheran.

Interestingly, the blog entry mentions that these fictional characters are devoting themselves to a life of service at considerable expense and danger to themselves. The suggestion was made in relation to Superman, at least, that his small-town Protestant upbringing might have been a factor in his devotion to the service of humankind.

Unfortunatlly, like far too many United Methodists, Superman doesn't seem to be attending services as an adult.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

toonspirit

I am pleased to say that I have gotten some work done on my web. Updates have been made to the resources page. Lesson VIII had a slight mistake with its scriptures, but that is corrected now. As well there is a new lesson up which is lesson XXI "Habits And Idols" If anyone is interested please check it out. I count it as praise about what our Lord is doing!! Also, I have been up all night dubbing "The Chlorhydris Files" cartoon base for the next lesson set. Praise the Lord!!!! Best wishes.

Welcome Back

I want to welcome Andy back after his trip. I am glad he is back safe, sound, and blessed. I saw him at choir and he enjoyed himself. See you on Sunday Andy!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

anthrakia

Mary as the New Abraham

Andy's quotation last week from Chapter 3 of Stanley Hauerwas's book Cross-Shattered Christ--to the effect that Mary the mother of Jesus is seen as the New Abraham--reminded me of another passage.

This one is from a less scholarly book titled Daily Prayer Walk by Janet Holm McHenry. She notes that Abraham and God are friends (see Isaiah 41:8, and 2 Chronicles 20:7) . Here is her passage on this supernatural friendship:

"Let's look at this friendship in Genesis 18 when the Lord, accompanied by two agnels, visited Abraham at his tent. The Lord said, 'I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son' (18:10).

"Abraham ministered to his visitors' physical needs and then 'walked along with them to see them on their way' (18:16). The Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?' (18:17), and then told him that he would be the father of a powerful nation.

"When the Lord told his friend that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed for their sins, Abraham negotiated with God in an attempt to spare the two cities from judgment.

"We see several characteristics of a great friendship in this story. One friend humbles himself and serves his visitors. The other friend grants a long-term request, and then the two dialogue--speaking, listening, seeing each other's point of view, and agreeing.

"We can have a similar kind of relationship with God as well. It just requires our initiative" (83-84).

Thinking of God as a friend may see a little too informal for that important relationship--usually expressed in terms of parent/child love. But it's interesting, as Hawerwas suggests, that God approaches a very young woman, Mary of Nazareth, and tells her the plan directly. As my mother used to say, he "put it straight on the plate."

And Mary, trusting her friend and her God, agrees, using the famous words from Luke 1:38, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (NIV).

McHenry ends her discussion of friendship with God with the comment, "He's a gentleman. He won't push himself or his ways on us" (84).

Interesting idea . . . . Any comments?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

anthrakia

Prayer Request for One of My Students

One of my students has lost a grandparent and is apparently finding the grief hard to deal with. I don't know the details, but my understanding is that the lost grandparent was a grandmother, and that she was a major force in his childhood. The student's first name is Matthew. He's missed most of the week in school because of this loss. If you could remember him in your prayers, I'd appreciate it.

In other news, I still cannot log onto the "Blog This!" page from my home computer. I'm not sure what the problem is. I'll try to resolve it in the next few days. Andy should be back soon, and regular posts will continue.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

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Possible System Problem on Blogger

Yesterday (Monday, March 20) I tried to post a short meditation on St. Cuthbert, whose day is March 20 each year, but I was unable to get into the "Blog This!" window. I was also unable to comment on other posts in our blog. Today the problem seems to be better, so I will try to post the article later. St. Cuthbert of Landisfarne has been in heaven since the 7th century, so perhaps he won't mind a one-day delay in our prayers.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Sunday, March 19, 2006

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Some Thoughts on the
Feast of St. Joseph, March 19

Today (Sunday, March 19) is traditionally celebrated as the day of Saint Joseph. The Book of Common Prayer suggests the following prayer on this date in the church calendar:

"O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

A friend of mine who is part of the Roman Catholic tradition, told me several years ago that St. Joseph was the patron saint of a good death. I asked him where this came from, becasue there is little about Joseph in the gospels other than the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. He said that when it came time for Jospeh to die, he almost certainly had the Virgin Mary praying for him on one side of the bed, and Jesus praying for him on the other side, and if one has to pass away, it doesn't get better than that. I had to admit that my Catholic friend had a point there.

I also have a special place in my heart for St. Joseph because my wife and I have two adotped children. This saint accepted a child that he knew was not directly of his body, and raised him with such love that when Jesus, in adulthood, wanted a metaphor for a loving heavenly God, he used the term abba, father. Certainly, if Joseph had not been loving, Jesus would have looked elsewhere for an image of loving-kindness.

We should all be so loving--even to persons not directly of our biological family. It is entirely appropriate for us to remember this imporant person in our prayers as part of the yearly cycle of church celebrations.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Monday, March 13, 2006

Traveling for a Week; Help Needed

Leaving tomorow morning early, June and I will be on the road, traveling from Georgia to Baton Rogue, LA, and then to Austin, TX. We'll be home again in Kentucky on Wednesday, March 22. Might I ask some favors from one or more of you Anthrakians? Three important commemorations are coming up on the following days:
  • March 17: St. Patrick, Bishop and Missionary, 461
  • March 18: Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, 386
  • March 19: Joseph, Guardian of Our Lord

If you have the time, might one of you do some homework and publish some information about one or more of these notable Christians? If I can get to a public library with Internet access, I'll try to help with the postings, but as busy as our journeying appears to be, I'll be blessed if only to keep my evening and morning prayer commitments. Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

The Cross-Shattered Christ: Chapter Three

It's been a good, but not overly easy, reading of Hauerwas’s “The Third Word,” in his Cross-Shattered Christ. What follows is a summary.

The “word from the cross” for reflection in the third chapter comes from the Gospel of John: "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (19.26-28).

Hauerwas first emphasizes that these words—and nearly every concern Jesus had for his family, and his mother included—are not examples of Jesus as an romanticized dying son . We note, for example, that Jesus “addresses his mother as ‘Woman,’ the same address he uses to respond to the woman of Samaria who had five husbands (John 4) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Naming his mother as “Woman,” as he did at the wedding of Cana, is “not a sentimental appeal to his “mom” (50) In fact, Hauerwas notes, “it must be admitted that none of the Gospels portray Jesus as family-friendly” (50). Jesus insists that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3). Remember it is Jesus who says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14). Jesus is thus not a so-called “normal” family man; he never married nor had children.

However, not wishing to call attention to Jesus’s “anti-family remarks to denigrate his address to Mary from the cross,” Hauerwas spends the rest of the chapter stressing that Mary is not simply another mother; rather—and this is important—“Mary is the firstborn of the new creation” (51). Hauerwas says it bluntly and clearly, if Mary had not said Yes to Gabriel, we would not be saved.
Raniero Cantalamessa, Hauerwas is convinced, has rightly given her the biblical honor she deserves when he titled his recent book, Mary: Mirror of the Church. Cantalamessa has made the fascinating observation that where as Jesus is often recommended to us as the New Adam, New Moses, and New David, nowhere is Jesus the New Abraham. The reason, Cantalamessa suggests, is that Mary is our new Abraham: Just as Abraham did not resist God’s call to leave his father’s country to go to a new land, so Mary did not resist God’s declaration that she would bear a child through the power of Holy Spirit. And just as Abraham came to understand that his son Isaac was to be sacrificed, so Mary at the cross, like Abraham, experiences the sacrifice of her son. With this great difference: Mary’s Yes could not save her son from being the one born to die on a cross. Mary is thus “the true daughter of Israel,” the daughter/mother “tested as no one in Israel had ever been tested.” Mary witnesses the immolation of the Son; it is she who enters “the darkness that is the cross” (52).

Now it is this Woman whom Jesus charges to accept and regard John, “the disciple whom he loved,” as her very own son. Mary is to adopt John, love him, and take care of him as her own child. And John, in turn, is to take Mary as his mother and take care of her. Mary, Hauerwas suggests, is thus “the first great representative” what we are and do as the Church, the loving-each-other community of Christ. What we see in this exchange is nothing less than the beginnings of the Church, the community of those who, in Christ, take care of one another.

For this reason, Hauerwas asks us not to “repress the role of Mary in our salvation” (53). Because Mary is a part of the Church, a holy and excellent member, above all others but, nevertheless, a member of the whole body, we ought not “compromise Mary’s home,” her place in our community of faith. We will want to remember her and her Song of triumph, the so-called Magnificat. Mary-like we “must live by hope—a hope that patiently waits with Mary at the foot of her son’s cross” (55). In Christ God “re-members” with Mary; that is, God joins with her in God’s re-membering; together in Christ we are members one of another, and that, as the Protestant theologian Hauerwas says, is why we pray “Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us.”
Most Protestant Christians have not taken the time or made the effort to think about the role of Mary in the Church's theology and prayer life. If you're interested in beginning such an exploration, you may want to visit Holy Mary, Theotokos or comment on your own understanding of Mary's place in salvation history. If you wish to do some prayerful pondering about the Blessed Virgin Mary, visit What about the Virgin Mary? As a Christian informed by the Lutheran tradition (and worshipping among Methodists, Baptists, and Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics) I'd be glad to offer more reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March 12: Remembering Gregrory the Great

In addition to being the Second Sunday in Lent, today is also the day we give thanks to God for the ministry of Gregory the Great, the first pope of that name and the last of the four doctors of the Latin Church. He was born in Rome about the year 540 and died in 604.

English-speaking Christians remember Gregory for sending a party of missionaries headed by Augustine of Canterbury (not to be confused with the more famous Augustine of Hippo) to preach the Gospel to the pagan Anglo-Saxon tribes that had invaded England and largely conquered or displaced the Celtic Christians previously living there. Gregory had originally hoped to go to England as a missionary himself, but was pressed into service elsewhere, first as apocrisiarius and then as bishop of Rome. He accordingly sent others, but took an active interest in their work, writing numerous letters both to Augustine and his monks and to their English converts. Here is one of the prayers the Church lifts up to God in thanksgiving for giving us Gregory's Christian witness:

Almighty and merciful God, who raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My profile

I see that 6 people have looked at a pretty much non-existant profile of mine. I have got it up now. I don't know why I didn't put one up earlier, but check it out if still interested. Thanks!!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

FEEDblitz Sends You New Anthrakian Postings

This afternoon I installed FEEDblitz, a program that converts blog postings and updates into email messages and delivers them daily to subscribers. (At least that's what I'm led to believe :-) If you'd like to receive Anthakia's postings by email and so be alerted to developing conversations, please subscribe yourself by typing in your email address in the textbox. Soon thereafter you'll receive an email message asking you to confirm your registration. And thereafter, I hope, you'll receive notice of new postings and comments as they enter Anthrakia. If you subscribe, please add a comment here letting me know so; then let me know in a later comment that you are in fact getting emails alerting you to new postings. Let's see if it works!

Listening to Jesus enter the Prayer of God

I’d like to go back to Chapter One in Hauerwas’ Cross-Shattered Christ because I was struck by Hauerwas telling that in listening to the words of Christ on the cross, we are in fact overhearing, as it were, the Second Person of the Trinity intimately addressing the Father; in other words we are listening to a conversation within the Holy Trinity. Quoting Herbert McCabe (whose collected sermons I recommend), it is suggested that at the cross we are listening to “nothing less than the interior life of the Triune God made visible to the eyes of faith.” Such a remarkable insight. It means that we are privileged to hear God talk to God. At one time in my life I couldn't imagine or entertain such a notion. I can remember when I was a freshman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, college that I ran across what Saint Paul says in in Romans and Galations:


The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs to deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (8. 26-27)
and

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father" (4.6).
Years ago I couldn’t make sense of these Pauline insights because they seemed to imply that I was somehow an automaton, not entirely in charge of my life; as a Christian, it looked as though I was somehow a puppet of God: God did the praying, God did the saving, God did the interceding; and I did nothing. As a freshman in college, I wanted to do something! At least let me pray by myself, I thought. I didn’t want to hitch a ride with the Holy Spirit; I wanted to drive my own car. I couldn’t image God the Holy Spirit coming into my life and praying to God the Father. But some years later I found these strange words in Luke:

In those days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in the “prayer of God. (6.12)”
It looked to me as though Jesus himself enters "God’s prayers." Now granted, that’s not what most English translations say (they usually translate the phrase as “prayer to God”), but when reading the New Testament in Greek, it’s obvious an exact translation of proseuxe tou theou requires one to read the generative case tou theou as “the prayer of God.” Here the all-night-praying Jesus goes into "God’s praying." Quite frankly I never quite imaged God having prayers and Jesus entering into such prayers and therefore I kept the notion rather privately to myself; that is, until recently when I was reading the letters of C. S. Lewis where time and again, he says that God prays within Himself. (I don’t have the citations here at the lakehouse, but trust me, Lewis is quite clear about the matter.) Slowly it all began to make Trinitarian sense; our God is truly a living and loving community of Three Persons even as the famous Ruble Icon of the Trinity makes abundantly clear. What this means is that Hauerwas' suggestion--we are listening to the Second Person of the Trinity, the "cross-shattered Christ," address the Father!--makes for a wonderful understanding of Jesus’ words. Now when I hear and read them, I see how the Holy Trinity, our holy and immortal God, is working within Himself together to reclaim the world in suffering love. I even am beginning to think that the Holy Spirit is praying within our Lord in his weakness. As a consequence, I now think of my prayer life as one that is united with the prayers of God. By my baptism I have been invited to participate in the conversation of God. I not only prayer to God, but I pray with Him. I will never be able to listen to the cross-shatted Jesus again without somehow eavesdropping on that conversation. As Hauerwas says, " We are made members of the kingdom governed by a politics [that is, a kingdom codes, customs, and courtesies] of forgivness and redemption" (31).

Christian de Cherge, OCSO


In his Cross-Shattered Christ, Stanley Hauerwas refers in both Chapters 1 and 2 to Christian de Cherge. Very briefly, here's why:

On May 24, 1996, a group of Islamic terrorists announced that they had "slit the throats" of seven French Trappist monks whom they had kidnapped from the monastery of Tibherine in Algeria and held as hostages for two months. Prior to the kidnapping, the superior of the monastery, Father Christian de Cherge, had left with his family this testament "to be opened in the event of my death."
Like Jesus' last words on the cross, Father Christian de Cherge's "last words," tell us how he and his companions went to their crosses; his Last Testament is worth reading slowly, worth serious reflection, especially during Lent.
Yesterday I read Chapter Two, “The Second Word,” in Hauerwas’ Cross-Shattered Christ. In these eight small pages Hauerwas asks us to ponder Jesus’ words to the crucified thief: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43). Reminding us how little the sparsely narrated Gospel tell us about Jesus (we know “next to nothing about Jesus growing up, or his relationship to women”), Hauerwas contends that such “reticense of the Gospels” is purposeful: "That reticense is a discipline given us by God to draw us into, and make us participants in, the silence of redemption wrought by the cross" (39).

The leanness of the Gospel requires us to enter the sparse stories and go to those silent spaces, where as Rowan Williams says, “God is in the connections we cannot make.” In other words, God meets us where we find silence in our listening and reading. In a world full of satisfied intellectual expectations and scientific explanation, you and I regularly find such silence uncomfortable and unsatisfactory, so much so that that we regularly impose meanings on the Gospel stories that simply are not there. We make up meanings and produce more stories to satisfy our need for interpretation, criticism, and theory. We do this because we want ourselves—and the stories we create—to be significant. We believe ourselves to be so important! Believing that somehow we must and shall not be forgotten in the great scheme of things, we avoid God in the Gospel’s silence. If however, we enter the silence surrounding this story of two sentences, here is what Hauerwas says we might possibly hear:

It is almost impossible for us not to identify with the thief’s request. Please, dear Jesus, remember us. Insure that our lives will he significance so that we will be more than bubbles on the foam of life. Jesus’s crucified companion, however, does not ask to be remembered so that his life will have significance. Rather he asks, as Psalms have taught Israel to ask, to be remembered when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Such a request makes sense only if Jesus—a man undergoing the same crucifixion the thief suffers—can fulfill such a request. We desperately ask to be remembered, fearing we are nothing. In contrast, this thief confidently asks to be remembered because he recognizes the One who can remember. How extraordinary. (42)

The thief has come to believe that “Jesus is about a kingdom” that threatens the kingdoms of this world." When the remembering Jesus asks us to “Do this [meal of bread and wine] is remembrance of me,” our Lord invites us into “an eschatological politics—that is, a politics of hope . . . as real as lives like Christian de Cherge [the martyred Trappist to whom Hauerwas introduced us in Chapter One].”

Jesus is the kingdom itself. “To be in paradise is to be 'with Jesus,' to be pulled into God’s life by the love made visible on the cross. Our salvation is no more or no less than being made part of God’s body, God’s enfleshed memory.” After all, “the remembrance that matters is to be remembered by Jesus.”


It has taken me several days to find the silence necessary to read this short chapter and to reflect on the even shorter words of Jesus. Hauerwas recommends a Lenten caution: don’t be overly productive when entering the Gospel; nonetheless, be sure to meet God “in the connections we cannot make.” The bare bones of the crucified Jesus and his few words fill the silence with all we need.

God and Life

I am writing on this blog to challenge everyone to think about what God is doing in their lives. What is He up to? Are you in awe or are you tied up sometimes in your lives? Sometimes it is hard I bet. Busy schedules, commitments and yes even fun are vying for attention in our lives. If everyone doesn't mind, in this Lent season, check your hearts, write your thoughts of praise or concern on this blog. This will help us to focus on Him especially through this season and Easter. I furthermore challenge everyone to prayerfully praise God with the praise reports with each other and prayerfully ask for help for each other in the weaknesses. I am sure that we will all find we have a lot of praises and a lot of weaknesses as well.

I will start by saying that God is doing a lot in my life. God is calling me to be less and less selfish and more like Him. Another weakness I have is that I sometimes am not forgiving to myself when I mess up. However, my strength is that I am in awe everyday of my life because of what He is calling me to do. My prayer life is strong.

To help me out with feedback, I would like it if everyone wouldn't mind to take a look at my website. I write Bible lessons using normal cartoons that you people might be aquainted with. Please pray for this ministry to make it stronger and for God to give audience to this so all the lessons will have a strong voice. My website's address is www.toonspirit.net. To Andy, thanks for the opportunity to help this blog out. To our Lord God be the glory forever and ever Amen!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday, Lent I: Still in Georgia, Now Connected, and Remembering St. Perpetua, Felicitas, and Their Companions

Somewhat frustrated that I have not been able to stay in touch with my Anthrakian friends, I'm happy to announce that today my Bellsouth DSL modem arrived and my umbilical cord is re-attached to mother-net. So for the next several days I should be able to read and catch up on the conversations and comments posted.

This morning's Eucharist at the Church of the Good Shepherd proved to be so full of grace, not only most assuredly with the sacramental Presence of Jesus, but also with a good homily by Father Tim on the remembrance of Sts. Perpetua, Felicitas and Their Companions, who in 202 A.D. were martyred in the arena at Carthage because they refused to bend their knees to Emperor Septimius Severus. In case you don't know the story of their martyrdom, visit Perpetua and Her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage. Fr. Tim in his homily suggested that perhaps the Church in the early days of Lent gives us the example of these martyred women for two reasons. First, in hearing the story of the sacrifice of their lives, we may be encouraged by their example to reflect more seriously on our Lenten disciplines, small as they might be. And second, that in hearing such stories of the Church's martyrs, we may more fully realize that our own stories, though admittedly less dramatic, are nonetheless also important, especially when we live out our Christian lives in conformity with Christ's suffering and passion. If you wish to remember these martyrs before God, here is the prayer appointed for the day we recall their witness:

O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Few More Thoughts on Stanley Hauerwas: The Quote from de Cherge

Greetings:
Today I was re-reading Chapter 1 of Stanely Hauerwas's Cross-Shattered Christ, and came again to the beautiful quote from Trappist prior Christian de Cherge, killed by Islamic radicals in Algeria in 1996.
De Cerge wrote a letter to his family shortly before his death. Hauerwas says "he [de Cherge] expressed the fear that his death will be used to accuse in general these people, these Islamic people, whom he has come to love" (31).
Here is the quote:
"Obviously my death will justify the opinion of all those who dismissed me as naive or idealistic: 'Let him tell us what he thinks now.' But such people should know that my death will satisfy my most burning curiosity. At last, I will be able--if God pleases--to see the children of Islam as He sees them, illuminated in the glory of Christ, sharing in the gift of God's Passion and of the Sprit, whose secret joy will always be to bring forth our common humanity amidst our differences.
"I give thanks to God for this life, completely mine yet completely theirs, too, to God, who wanted it for joy against, and in spite of, all odds. In this Thank You--which says everything about my life---I include you, my friends past and present, and those friends who will be here at the side of my mother and father, of my sisters and brothers--thank you a thousandfold.
"And to you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing. Yes; for you, too, I wish this thank-you, this 'A-Dieu,' whose image is in you also, that we may meet in heaven, like happy thieves, if it pleases God, our common Father. Amen! Insha Allah!" (32).
Hauerwas concludes the chapter--which centers on Christ's words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing"--by saying that God's love makes "possible lives like that of Christian de Cherge, that is, lives lived in the confidence that Jesus, the only Son of God, alone has the right to ask the Father to forgive people like us who would kill rather than face death" (33).
Earlier in the chapter he says, "We are made members of a kingdom governed by a politics of forgiveness and redemption. The world is offered an alternative unimaginable by our sin-drenched fantasies" (31).
I've thought about this passage a long time.
We live in a world in which each day's headlines tell of Islamic people who kill, and all too often of Christians and Jews who kill in retaliation. These headlines depict sin-drenched fantasies, indeed. We would rather kill than face death. In contrast to this bloody fantasy, how can we further the kingdom of forgiveness and redemption even amid the on-going killing and war?
Your thoughts?
Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Monday, March 06, 2006

June's brother is hospitalized; we are in Georgia.

June and I had to made a hastily arranged (and barely packed) drive to Georgia because Harold, June's brother has been admitted to Emory University Hospital. At our lakehouse in Georgia, we don't have Internet service yet, so it's a bit difficult to keep Anthrakia up-to-date. How wonderful, then, to come to the Monticello Public Library, come to Anthrakia, and find that number of you are posting and commenting! Thank you so very much. Please place Harold Pilgrim in your intercessions; he's suffering from some sort of intestinal blockage and in considerable pain. I'll try to keep you posted as to how he is doing as the days go by.

Cross-Shattered Christ, by Stanley Hauerwas

Greetings:
Some of us were reading Stanely Hauerwas's book, Cross Shattered Christ as a Lenten meditation. I've been reading along in the early chapters. (It isn't a long book.)
In his first chapter on Christ's first "word" from the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), Hauerwas notes the following: "These words are not first and foremost about us, about our petty sinfulness. It is the Second Person of the Trinity who asks, 'Father, forgive them for the know not what they do.' The Son intimately addresses the Father. We loook away, embnarrassed by a love so publicaly displayed. According to Herbert McCabe, these wrds, 'Father forgive,' are nothing less than the interior life of the Triune God made visible to the eyes of faith. The Son asks the Father to forgive, a forgiveness unimaginable if this is all about us and out struggle to comprehend the meaning of our lifes in the face of death" (29-30).
As you can probably tell, the book is challenging, so I may not be understanding enough of it to comment intelligently, but one theme that seems to come through for me is that the events of Good Friday and Easter are not only "about us," but have cosmic significance. We're like the title character in the Book of Job: suffering and in need of answers from God, but spiritual wars are raging around us in which we are soldiers. We may never get the full picture.
I don't think Hauerwas is arguing that the traditional readings of Easter are necessarily wrong. In one sense, Easter is about us. But Hauerwas suggests in his early chapters that there are large issues at stake--some perhaps larger than mere humans can immediately comprehend. If it's not "about us," how can we ever know what was in the mind of the Almightly, in any of his three persons?
I had never before thought of Jesus's prayers as being in some sense the interior monologue of the Trinity. Does this understanding change the way we read any other prayers of Jesus?
Other thoughts by my fellow Anthrakians?
Best wishes,
Mason

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marcus Borg

My friend, Harry Smiley, and I are exchanging a few books. Harry has been reading Marcus Borg and has gone through Meeting Jesus Agaiin for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith two times, his second reading (am I right about this, Harry?) being more appreciative. Last night after choir rehearsal, Harry took home with him several Marcus Borg books he said he like to read:


The God We Never Knew : Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally

Meaning of Jesus : Two Visions (a discussion in the form of essays between Borg and N. T. Wright)

Maybe you've read or are reading Borg. If so, you might like to visit the following to listen in on some conversations about his work:


I'm Richie

Hello, I am Richie. Andy told me about his Blog and I thought it would be a great idea to post my comments and input on it. I go to the FUMC with my friend Andy. We sing in the choir together (tenor). I hope that I can be an asset on this Blog.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 2/3: John and Charles Wesley, Renewers of the Church, along with Chad, Bishop of Lichfield (672)

Depending on what church calendar you use, you may be remembering John (1791) and Charles (1788) Wesley on March 2 or March 3. My Lutheran calendar (and my Prayer Book) recommends the second of March, while Methodist and Episcopal calendars suggest the third. To discover how powerfully God used these two brothers to revitalize the church, visit the following:

John and Charles Wesley, Renewers of the Church
The Wesleys and Their Times
Charles Wesley: Great Hymnwriter

If you wish to give thanks to God--especially if you're a Methodist!--for the wonderful ministry of these renewers of the church, you might use this prayer:

Lord God, who inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Today we also remember Chad, Bishop of Lichfield. This remarkable servant of the Lord is perhaps best known for not being Archbishop of York. He was elected and duly installed, but various persons raised objections, and rather than cause division in the Church he withdrew in favor of the other candidate, Wilfrid (remembered on 12 Oct). The objection was that some of the bishops who had consecrated him--although not Chad himself--were holdouts who, even after the Synod of Whitby had supposedly settled the question in 663, insisted on preserving Celtic customs on the date of celebrating Easter and similar questions, instead of conforming to the customs of the remainder of Western Christendom. He was soon after made Bishop of Lichfield in Mercia. There he travelled about as he had when Archbishop of York, always on foot (until the Archbishop of Canterbury gave him a hors and ordered him to ride it, at least on long journeys), preaching and teaching wherever he went. He served there for only two and a half years before his death, but he made a deep impression. In the following decades, many chapels, and many wells, were constructed in Mercia and named for him. (It was an old custom to dig a well where one was needed, and to mark it with one's own name or another's, that thirsty travellers and others might drink and remember the name with gratitude.)

We give thanks to God for Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, with this prayer:

Almighty God, whose servant Chad, for the peace of the Church, relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, (in honor preferring one another,) that the cause of Christ may be advanced; in the name of him who washed his disciples' feet, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

New Blogs of Interest


Michael Bird of Dingwall, Scotland, on Euangelion posts several new blogs that you may be interested in visiting:


Sometime later this week I'll add them to our list.

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