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Easing you toward love

[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

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

The nave is the central part of the church from the main front to the chancel. It’s the part where the laity sit, and in great Gothic churches it’s sometimes separated from the choir and clergy by a screen. It takes its name from the Latin navis, meaning “ship,” one reason being that the vaulted roof looks rather like an inverted keel. A more interesting reason is that the church itself is thought of as a ship or Noah’s ark. It’s a resemblance worth thinking about.

In one as in the other, just about everything imaginable is aboard, the clean and the unclean both. They are all piled in together helter-skelter, the predators and the prey, the wild and the tame, the sleek and beautiful ones and the ones that are ugly as sin. There are sly young foxes and impossible old cows. There are the catty and the piggish and the peacock-proud. There are hawks and there are doves. Some are wise as owls, some silly as geese; some meek as lambs and others ravening wolves. There are times when they all cackle and grunt and roar and sing together, and there are times when you could hear a pin drop. Most of them have no clear idea just where they’re supposed to be heading or how they’re supposed to get there or what they’ll find if and when they finally do, but they figure the people in charge must know and in the meanwhile sit back on their haunches and try to enjoy the ride.

It’s not all enjoyable. There’s backbiting just like everywhere else. There’s a pecking order. There’s jostling at the trough. There’s growling and grousing, bitching and whining. There are dogs in the manger and old goats and black widows. It’s a regular menagerie in there, and sometimes it smells to high heaven like one.

But even at its worst, there’s at least one thing that makes it bearable within, and that is the storm without-the wild winds and terrible waves and in all the watery waste, no help in sight.

And if there is never clear sailing, there is at least shelter from the blast, a sense of somehow heading in the right direction in spite of everything, a ship to keep afloat, and, like a beacon in the dark, the hope of finding safe harbor at last.

— Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words

Art isn’t art until it’s experienced by another.

— Walter Wangerin Jr. as quoted by Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

The darkness knows neither the light nor itself; only the light knows itself and the darkness also. None but God hates evil and understands it.

— George MacDonald (as quoted by C.S. Lewis in George MacDonald)

Gospel pot-rattlers

Robert Farrar Capon commenting on Luke 12:41-43:

But it is the third of these clerical requirements that strikes me as the most telling: preachers are stewards whom the Lord has “set over his household servants to provide them with food at the proper time.” After all the years the church has suffered under forceful preachers and winning orators, under compelling pulpiteers and clerical bigmouths with egos to match, how nice to hear that Jesus expects preachers in their congregations to be nothing more than faithful household cooks. Not gourmet chefs, not banquet managers, not caterers to thousands, just Gospel pot-rattlers who can turn out a decent, nourishing meal once a week. And not even a whole meal, perhaps; only the right food at the proper time. On most Sundays, maybe all it has to be is meat, pasta, and a vegetable. Not every sermon needs to be prefaced by a cocktail hour full of the homiletical equivalent of Vienna sausages and bacon-wrapped wrapped water chestnuts; nor need nourishing preaching always be dramatically concluded with a dessert of flambeed sentiment and soufleed prose. The preacher has only to deliver food, not flash; Gospel, not uplift. And the preacher’s congregational family doesn’t even have to like it. If it’s good food at the right time, they can bellyache all they want: as long as they get enough death and resurrection, some day they may even realize they’ve been well fed.

The Parables of Grace

An unnatural mother means one who doesn’t behave the way mothers are supposed to behave, and a natural affection is the kind of affection that’s right on the mark, unlike the other kinds that make respectable flesh crawl just to think about them. When somebody does or is asked to do something abominable, you can say that it is against nature because nature is not abominable. Natural foods, natural colors, natural flavors, the natural look, and so on are currently the advertising industry’s highest endorsement. The idea of Mother Nature represents the same view of things-nature as nurturing, pure, beneficent, on the side of the good.

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve took nature with them when they fell. You’ve only to look at the sea in a November gale. You’ve only to consider the staggering indifference of disease, or the field at Antietam, or a cook boiling a lobster, or the statistics on child abuse. You’ve only to remember your own darkest dreams.

But the dream of Eden is planted deep in all of us too. A parade of goldenrod by the road’s edge. The arc of a baseball through the summer sky. The way a potter’s hand cradles the clay. They all cry aloud of the might-have-been of things, and the may-be-still.

— Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words