Category Archives: Reading

Acedia

I have a book that is presently my before bedtime reading; Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. Great book, especially as I see that it is an affliction (or sin) that besets me too. Last night what I read was profound. I usually don’t read stuff out loud to Leo but this was good. Acedia is often called laziness or sloth but as the author understands it, it is much more than what those words mean to me. She describes the concept of sin as something given to us to encourage us to believe that we are made in the image of God and to act accordingly. (p.114) Then she quotes the words of preacher Fred Craddock which “define the sin of sloth so clearly that it stings like a slap in the face.”

What we casually dismiss as mere laziness, he says, is “the ability to look at a starving child…with a swollen stomach and say, “Well, it’s not my kid”…Or to see an old man sitting alone among the pigeons in the park and say, “Well…that’s not my dad.”  It is that capacity of the human spirit to look out upon the world and everything God made and say, I don’t care.

She goes on to describe some of the injustices that do happen in North America by people hardened to other’s suffering.  And then continues with this profound insight:

But even as such outrages are exposed, we are beset by a curious silence: the more that societies ills surface in such evil ways, the less able we are, it seems, to detect any evil within ourselves, let alone work effectively together to fix what is wrong.  The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre finds that while our “present age is perhaps no more evil than a number of preceding periods…it is evil in one special way at least, namely the extent to which we have obliterated …[our] consciousness of evil.” … Acedia, which is known to foster excessive self-justification, as well as a casual yet implacable judgmentalism toward others, readily lends itself to this process.  (114-115)

I had never thought of Acedia in these terms before; never thought of it as that kind of profound indifference and callousness that sets in and keeps us from keeps us from acting as people changed by Jesus.

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Thoughts

This morning I read in Mark 14 the story of the woman who poured expensive perfume over the head of Jesus while he was a guest at Simon’s house for dinner. So often when I re-read a story like this one, I come away from it with a fresh perspective on it.

The woman who came to that dinner – uninvited and subsequently soundly criticized for her action – came to worship the one who had given her something of more value than all the money she spent on that perfume. The story and the criticism she received reminded me that we all need ways in which to express our deepest feelings in worship of Jesus. Jesus recognized her action as worship and told his frugal followers (concerned for the waste) that her act of anointing was in preparation for his death. Of course they didn’t understand that his death was close at hand. And of course they had never seen anyone worship God in this way, spontaneously with an action coming from her heart, perhaps from her recent experience of love being poured out onto her hurts and sorrows as only God can. It wasn’t that the disciples and other followers were unused to expressions of worship, but worship had its prescribed forms that were to be followed and this just wasn’t the norm. This was lavish and messy and maybe embarrassing sensual.

I have been suffering from the effects of change lately. I think. The effects of living in changing times are not always glaringly obvious but I think that is what I am experiencing as we settle into anew rhythm of church life that comes with new staff. Things we used to do have no great significance to the newcomers but suddenly the change takes on new significance for me. There are things I miss; their absence makes me suddenly homesick for the old ways. Old habits suddenly take on meaning way beyond what they are worth. New patterns of worship are waiting for me to explore if I can embrace them; if I’m not too afraid to recognize that they too are ways of worship.

New ways of worship. They are going to happen. They need to happen. A new generation needs to find its own expression of faith and worship. Maybe it will look more like expensive perfume being poured out extravagantly to bless God in ways I never would have dared.

And then again, it could be that I am a bit like that woman, and the stuff I am longing for is the experience, sensual as it is, of pouring out my love to God in ways that others don’t always understand.

A short paragraph in Mark; the story of a woman that will be remembered – as Jesus promised. The words are stirring some kind of soul work in me.

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I am a new creation…

This book by NT Wright that is causing me to think is exciting.  I suppose it is exciting to become aware of old ideas presented in new ways that in turn open up new horizons of thought.  God is always so much greater than – well greater than I thought him to be just yesterday.  And so each day of life brings new possibilities; new chances to think in new ways.

Surprised by Hope is about the resurrection.  It’s about the promise of new life and new creation that we have in Christ.  So here are a few quotes that seem significant to me so far:

The challenge is in fact the challenge of new creation.  To put it at its most basic: the resurrection of Jesus offers itself, to the student of history or science no less than the Christian or the theologian, not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical, and foundational event within the world as it has begun to be.  It is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world.  The claim advanced in Christianity is of that magnitude:  Jesus of Nazareth ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.  p67

and then a page later:

…the question of Jesus’ resurrection, though it may in some senses burst the boundaries of history, also remains within them; that is precisely why it is so important, so disturbing, so life and death.  We could cope – the world could cope – with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples’ minds and hearts.  The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one.  p68

Good stuff. 

Reminds me of that chorus – “I am a new creation… here by the grace of God I stand.”

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Quote from Eternal Echoes by John O’Donohue

 

Every day of your life joy is waiting for you, hidden at the heart of the significant things which happen to you or secretly around the corner of quieter things. If your heart loves delight, you will always be able to discover the quiet joy that awaits to shine forth in many situations. Prayer should help us develop the habit of delight. We weight the notion of prayer with burdens of duty, holiness and the struggle for perfection. Prayer should have the freedom of delight. It should arise from and bring us to humour, laughter, and joy. Religion often suffers from a great amnesia; it constantly insists on the seriousness of God and forgets the magic of the divine glory. Prayer should be the wild dance of the heart, too. In the silence of our prayer we should be able to sense the roguish smile of a joyful god who, despite all the chaos and imperfection, ultimately shelters everything.

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Seven Stanzas At Easter

In preparation for a class which I am taking this summer, The Theology of Caring and Health, I have been reading a book by Kenneth Bakken; The Journey In To God; Healing and Christian Faith. At the end of the first chapter he quotes a marvelous poem by John Updike.  It seems right for this season and it stirred something deep in me.  Poetry tends to do that for me and this one made me stop and catch my breath for the deep truths it was teaching me.

Seven Stanzas At Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cell’s dissolution did not reverse,
the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths
and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that – pierced – died; withered paused, and then regathered
out of enduring might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
making of the event a parable,
a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâche,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality
that in the slow grinding of
time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen,
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour,
we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike

The formatting of the original is slightly different but the blog publisher does not seem to like words that are out of line.  Each stanza has an indent that seems to add impact to the words.

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My weekend

This has been one of those weekends when I will be glad that my stint of being on call is over.  The cases that kept me occupied were bona fide emergencies and I don’t regret that I was called out to help.  but it disrupts the days – and nights.  Saturday, after getting a fitful sleep waiting to be called in the middle of the night, I was tired all day.  I probably would have been no more tired if the Dr in Emerg had called me at 2 am.  But he was kind and was able to handle the bleeding patient without my presence.

Last night I did go in around 11 PM.  A young girl playing had slipped and pushed her front teeth backwards so that she could no longer could close her teeth well and had lacerated her gums so badly that stitches were needed.  I got home around 12:30 this morning and then was wide awake.  I had to settle a bit, before crawling into bed half an hour later.  It wasn’t that I was upset, more on a sort of high that comes with doing a good thing and feeling pleased.

Then this morning, we were victims of the time change in Ontario.  Rachelle actually woke us up when she called at 7 our time thinking she had better catch us before we left for church.

Tonight my day wraps up reading Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet with the superintelligent group of women that I call  friends.  We have a good time together and it is good to read, study, talk and pray together.

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Filed under Day to Day, Dental, Reading

Read what he says.

The ideas that Jordon speaks about here keep popping back into my head.

I think these changes that make our communities better places are part of what we are called to as Christians, a huge part of how we are to influence our world to become safer more loving places to live.

Read what he says.  It is worth your time.

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