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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

At the end of his speech to the host, Jesus specifically ties this condemnation of bookkeeping to the resurrection. “You will be happy [makdrios],” he tells his host in verse 14, “precisely because these losers and deadbeats you invite won’t be able to repay you.” He says, in other words, that happiness can never come in until the bookkeeping stops, until the hand that clutches at the dance goes dead and lets the dance happen freely. And he says that the place where that happy consequence will burst upon us is at the resurrection (en tg anastdsei) of the just (dikaion). And the just, please note, are not stuffy, righteous types with yard-long lists of good works, but simply all the forgiven sinners of the world who live by faith – who just trust Jesus and laugh out loud at the layoff of all the accountants.

And the unjust? Well, the unjust are all the forgiven sinners of the world who, stupidly, live by unfaith – who are going to insist on showing up at the resurrection with all their record books, as if it were an IRS audit. The unjust are the idiots who are going to try to talk Jesus into checking his bookkeeping against theirs. And do you know what Jesus is going to say to them – what, for example, he will say to his host if he comes to the resurrection with such a request? I think he will say, “Just forget it, Arthur. I suppose we have those books around here somewhere, and if you’re really determined to stand in front of my great white throne and make an ass of yourself, I guess they can be opened (Rev. 20:12). Frankly, though, nobody up here pays any attention to them. What will happen will be that while you’re busy reading and weeping over everything in those books, I will go and open my other book (Rev. 20:12, again), the book of life – the book that has in it the names of everybody I ever drew to myself by dying and rising. And when I open that book, I’m going to read out to the whole universe every last word that’s written there. And you know what that’s going to be? It’s going to be just Arthur. Nothing else. None of your bad deeds, because I erased them all. And none of your good deeds, because I didn’t count them, I just enjoyed them. So what I’ll read out, Arthur, will be just Arthur! real loud. And my Father will smile and say, `Hey, Arthur! You’re just the way I pictured you!’ And the universe will giggle and say, `That’s some Arthur you’ve got there!’ But me, I’ll just wink at you and say, `Arthur, c’mon up here and plunk yourself down by my great white throne and let’s you and me have a good long practice laugh before this parry gets so loud we can’t even hear how much fan we’re having.”‘

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

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Jamie and I are blessed with two wonderful neighbors, Tommy and Becky. When they built their home, sweet Becky wrote scripture verses on every 2 x 4 she could find. You can’t see them anymore now that the house is finished, and of course they don’t work as charms or anything weird like that; Bible verses on the studs don’t do anything magical. Still, every sacred word that Becky wrote on every sacred plank of wood was a reminder to her that it was not her house, but God’s.

The Christian’s calling, in part, is to proclaim God’s dominion in every corner of the world—in every corner of our hearts, too. It isn’t that we’re fighting a battle in which we must win ground from the forces of evil; the ground is already won. Satan is just an outlaw. And we have the pleasure of declaring God’s Kingdom with love, service, and peace in our homes and communities. When you pray, dedicate your home, your yard, your bonus room and dishwasher and bicycle and garden to the King. As surely as you dedicate your heart to him, dedicate your front porch. Daily pledge every atom of every tool at your disposal to his good pleasure. It’s all sacred anyway if old Wendell is right (and I think he is). I wonder if the Holy Spirit is rambling around in the temple of my heart, scribbling promises on every exposed bit of lumber, declaring my sacredness so that I will remember that I belong to him. And maybe when I’m old and I cross paths with some weary traveler, they’ll sense a rightness, a pleasantness of place, and will experience a peace that they cannot understand or explain.

— Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

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Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— Book of Common Prayer (1928)

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“When you give a luncheon or a dinner [deipnon, supper],” Jesus says to the Pharisee, “don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, because they’ll just reciprocate your invitation. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed [makdrios, happy] because they don’t have any way of paying you back. Rather, everything will be repaid to you in the resurrection [anastdsei] of the just [dikaion].”

There are a number of ways of interpreting this passage; most of them, frankly, you can keep. If, for example, you take it as advice on how to run your social life, it is simply a formula for ruining an evening. Guests chosen only because they won’t invite you to their house in return are less than likely to be scintillating dinner company. Alternatively, if you take it simply as an instance of oriental hyperbole – that is, if you interpret it as nothing more than a “don’t forget the handicapped,” phrased in the form of “don’t waste your time on the healthy” – you reduce it to an unnecessarily complicated version of an ethical commonplace.

But as I take this text, I see in it yet another major theme poking its nose into the interpretative tent. Watch. Jesus has already been critical of the following items taken from everybody’s list of Favorite Things To Be: Being First, Being Found, Being Big, Being Important, and Being Alive. Now however, he castigates the one item that holds all these futilities together and gives them power over us, namely, Being a Bookkeeper. The human race is positively addicted to keeping records and remembering scores. What we call our “life” is, for the most part, simply ply the juggling of accounts in our heads. And yet, if God has announced anything in Jesus, it is that he, for one, has pensioned off the bookkeeping department permanently.

It is bookkeeping, therefore – our enslavement to it and God’s rejection of it – that seems to me to be the burden of the closing lines of this parable of the Chief Seats. Jesus warns his host not to consult any records he has kept on people: not the Friend/Foe ledger, not the Rich/ Poor volume – and none of the other books either; not Nice/Nasty, Winners/Losers, or even Good/Bad. And he warns him because, as far as God is concerned, that way of doing business is over. It may be our sacred conviction that the only way to keep God happy, the stars in their courses, our children safe, our psyches adjusted, and our neighbors reasonable is to be ready, at every moment, to have the books we have kept on ourselves and others audited. But that is not God’s conviction because he has taken away the handwriting that was against us (Col. 2:14). In Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has declared that he isn’t the least interested in examining anybody’s books ever again, not even his own: he’s nailed them all to the cross.

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

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A Religious Observance can be a wedding, a christening, a Memorial Day service, a bar mitzvah, or anything like that you might be apt to think of. There are lots of things going on at them. There are lots of things you can learn from them if you’re in a receptive state of mind. The word “observance” itself suggests what is perhaps the most important thing about them.

A couple are getting married. A child is being given a name. A war is being remembered and many deaths. A boy is coming of age.

It is life that is going on. It is always going on, and it is always precious. It is God that is going on. It is you who are there that is going on.

As Henry James advised writers, be one on whom nothing is lost.

OBSERVE!! There are few things as important, as religious, as that.

— Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words

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[T]he Lord can redeem your impulse for self-preservation by easing you toward love, which is never about self. But if you’re scared, there’s no rush. First you have to do something. You have to climb out from under the bushel and share your light with those around you. You have to believe that you’re precious to the King of Creation, and not just a waste of space.

You and I are anything but irrelevant. Don’t let the Enemy tell you any different. We holy fools all bear God’s image. We’re walking temples of the Spirit, the bashful bride of Christ, living stones in what is going to be a grand house, as holy and precious as anything else in the universe, if not more so. God is making us into a Kingdom, a lovely, peaceful one, lit by his love for us flowing toward one another. That’s the best gift you have to give.

— Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

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Our death, therefore, is the one “purse that will never wear out,” the true “treasure in heaven that will never decrease.” We are rich only in our mortality; everything else may safely be sold (Luke 12:33). For our death is the only thing the world cannot take away from us. The goods on which our heart now reposes can be removed from us, or we from them, in a night: the thief, the moth, and the changes and chances of this mortal life are always and everywhere one giant step ahead of us. But if we repose our hearts upon the faith that he works in our death, we cannot lose. The astonishing graciousness of grace is that it takes the one thing you and I will never lack – the one thing, furthermore, that no one will ever want to beg, borrow, or steal from us – and makes it the only thing any of us will ever need. It was, I think, precisely because cause the martyrs bore witness to this saving supremacy of death that they were the first saints commemorated by the church. Indeed, the days of their deaths were commonly referred to as their natales, their birthdays. It was one of the church’s happier insights. For as in our first birth into this world we did nothing and triumphed gloriously, so in the second birth of our death we need do even less to triumph more. By Jesus’ death in ours, and by our death in his, we have laughingly, uproariously, outrageously beaten the system. It is a piece of wildly Good News: what a shame we don’t let the world of losers hear it more often.

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

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