Saturday, April 19, 2014

Luka

"Luka" is a song by the artist Suzanne Vega who recorded it in 1986. It was number three on the Billboard charts in 1987. It is a haunting song that speaks of a young person caught in the cycle of domestic violence. It is about love, hate, secrets, distrust, loyalty, and fear. The song and the video that accompanied it have a powerful effect on our emotions. Art often has this ability.
Luka
My name is Luka
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you 
Yes, I think you've seen me before
If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight
Just don't ask me what it was
Just don't ask me what it was
Just don't ask me what it was 
I think it's 'cause I'm clumsy
I try not to talk too loud
Maybe it's because I'm crazy
I try not to act too proud 
They only hit until you cry
After that you don't ask why
You just don't argue anymore
You just don't argue anymore
You just don't argue anymore 
Yes, I think I'm okay
I walked into the door again
If you ask that's what I'll say
And it's not your business anyway 
I guess I'd like to be alone
With nothing broken, nothing thrown
Just don't ask me how I am
Just don't ask me how I am
Just don't ask me how I am 
My name is Luka
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes, I think you've seen me before 
If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight
Just don't ask me what it was
Just don't ask me what it was
Just don't ask me what it was 
They only hit until you cry
After that you don't ask why
You just don't argue anymore
You just don't argue anymore
You just don't argue anymore 
Words and lyrics by Suzanne Vega; Published by © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.; 1986

Friday, April 18, 2014

Entrusted with a Commission

This blog post will be of particular interest to those who are pastors and those who aspire to be pastors. There is much confusion about the role of a pastor and indeed the role of the church in this present time. These words by Donald Bloesch1 are encouraging, humbling, inspiring, and terrifying. These words are worthy of being read at pastoral ordination services.
Our position is that the pastor is an authority figure and a servant figure at the same time. He has been placed in his role by Christ himself through the inward calling of the Holy Spirit, though the congregation must recognize and ratify what Christ has done. The pastor must not lord it over the congregation but be an example of patience and humility. He must give guidance and direction when necessary. He is a resource person to be sure, but even more he is a spiritual director and confessor. He must not be detached from his people but must identify himself with their trials and sufferings. He must intercede for them daily in prayer . . . . He must seek to please God above all and not his congregation, but he must place no unnecessary stumbling blocks before his people that might prevent them from accepting and following the Gospel. He will be willing to share authority with gifted laypersons of the congregation, who are also priests, but he will not abdicate authority by simply parroting the prejudices of his people. His aim is not to help people adjust to their social and cultural environment but to direct them to God so that they will then be inspired to change their environment. He will see his role as a shepherd rather than fellow seeker, since he has been entrusted with a commission to make known the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:17,18). At the same time he will also see himself as a servant who will subordinate himself to his people in their requests and desires, who will make himself continually available to his people as an ambassador of Christ and an agent of reconciliation. Such a pastor will inspire those in his care also to be priests, to be intercessors and witnesses to the truth at home and at work. He will welcome reproof from his fellow Christians so long as it is done in charity and is based on Scripture. A church directed by such a pastor will indeed be a holy priesthood where all share in some way in the priestly and kingly and prophetic ministry of Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be in evidence not only in the pulpit but in Sunday school classes, youth groups, and prayer and Bible study groups. The laity will be the missionary arm of the church, for it is through their outreach in the community that the spiritually lost will hear the good news and will be brought into the worship and life of the church.
Donald Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, p. 122, 123.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_G._Bloesch

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Intensity of Prayer

The true work of a contemplative nun is praying. I had never appreciated the power and intensity of prayer until I prayed with nuns.
On the surface, praying seems easy. Knit your eyebrows in concentrations, mutter a few words, and then get on with your day. It’s not like that in a convent. Think of the hardest job you could do—mining comes to my mind—and then imagine doing that in silence and in a dress.
Every day the sisters descended into the Pit of the Soul, picked at the seam of despair, sadness, tragedy, death, sickness, grief, destruction, and poverty, loaded it all onto a cart marked “For God,” and hauled it up from the depths of concern to the surface of mercy, where they cleaned it and polished it. It was heavy, laborious work.
- Jane Christmas, And Then There Were Nuns (Greystone, 2013).1

1 Quoted at the blog of John G. Stackhouse Jr.; http://www.johnstackhouse.com/2014/04/07/the-hard-work-of-prayer/

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spiritual Exercise

Spiritual exercise for today. Read 1 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 11:21-30, and Philippians 2:5-11 (they are quoted here in the New Living Translation) and then consider these questions. "To what am I entitled?" "In what can I boast?" "What privileges am I willing to give up?"
1 Corinthians 9:11
Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? 
2 Corinthians 11:21-30
But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
"To what am I entitled?" "In what can I boast?" "What privileges am I willing to give up?"

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lemonade

Previously, I wrote that "enchantment is the opposite of entitlement." These words of Chris Rice tell of enchantment. He is enchanted with life, lemonade, and love.
Lemonade
(Listen to it here
So go ahead and ask her
For happy ever after
'Cause nobody knows what's coming
So why not take a chance on loving?
Come on, pour the glass and tempt me
Either half-full or half-empty, yeah
'Cause if it all comes down to flavor
The glass is tippin' in my favor 
Life gave me lemonade
And I can't imagine why
Born on a sunny day
Beneath a tangerine sky
I live life without pretending
I'm a sucker for happy endings
Thanks for the lemonade
Thanks for the lemonade 
Now take your time to answer me
For the beauty of romancing
Is to calm your trembling hand with mine
While beggin' love to fill your eyes
I can hardly breathe while waitin'
To find out what your heart is saying
And as we're swirlin' in this flavor
The world is tilting in our favor 
Life gave me lemonade
And I can't imagine why
Born on a sunny day
Beneath a tangerine sky
I live life without pretending
I'm a sucker for happy endings
Thanks for the lemonade
Thanks for the lemonade 
I've got it made, rest in the shade
And hold my love while God above
Stirs with a spoon, we share the moon
Smile at the bees, more sugar please
He really loves us after all
We're gonna need another straw
We're gonna need another straw 
'Cause life gave me lemonade
And I can't imagine why
Born on a sunny day
Beneath a tangerine sky
Life gave me lemonade
And I can't imagine why
Born on a sunny day
Beneath a tangerine sky
I live life without pretending
I'm a sucker for happy endings
Thanks for the lemonade
Thanks for the lemonade 
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Thanks for the lemonade
Thanks for the lemonade 
Songwriter: RICE, CHRISTOPHER M.; Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Those of us born here in Canada have been given lemonade. We have already won the global lottery: born in one of the richest countries on the planet, a place with extensive freedoms, a situation in which we can make choices about our destiny, and a position that allows us the blessing of helping others. So, "Come on, pour the glass and tempt me Either half-full or half-empty, yeah 'Cause if it all comes down to flavor The glass is tippin' in my favor." Like all lottery winners, I now must make the difficult choices of how I will use the tremendous resources available to me. "'Cause life gave me lemonade And I can't imagine why."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Grace Changes Us

Another quote from Flannery O'Conner is instructive in her understanding of life.
There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling about in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe that we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion.1
O'Conner knew of suffering; she was diagnosed with Lupus when she was 26 years old and died from complications of the disease at 39 years of age. Her novels tell stories of people who are changed by difficult circumstances in life.
However grotesque the setting, she tried to portray her characters as they might be touched by divine grace. This ruled out a sentimental understanding of the stories' violence, as of her own illness. O'Connor wrote: "Grace changes us and change is painful."2


1 Flannery O'Conner in a letter to Betty Hester, September 6, 1955. http://theamericanreader.com/6-september-1955-flannery-oconnor/
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flannery_O'Connor

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Laws of the Flesh and the Physical

In 1955, Flannery O'Conner1 said, "Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul."2 I wonder what she would say about the whole world today. 2014 is a time in which we are "post-everything." Many have given up on the Catholic Church, given up on Evangelicalism, given up on the Emergent Church, given up on logic, given up on science, given up on truth, given up on God. We go through the motions, looking like we are alive but the distinction between life and non-life is blurred. Consciousness is seen as a by-product of chemical and electrical processes. Is it any wonder the concept of zombies is enjoying a resurgence?

O'Conner shared her theological perspective on the laws of the flesh and the physical in a letter to her friend Betty Hester:
For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws.3
Starting in July of 1955, O'Conner wrote a number of letters to Hester, a woman to whom she became a spiritual mentor. O'Conner was Hester's confirmation sponsor in the Catholic Church, continued to engage her in theological dialogue, and tried to sustain her friend's faith. When Hester later left the church in 1961, professing agnosticism, O'Conner is said to have been deeply disappointed.4



1 Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was an American writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. Her pen name was Flannery O'Conner.
2 Flannery O'Conner in a letter to Betty Hester, September 6, 1955. http://theamericanreader.com/6-september-1955-flannery-oconnor/
3 Ibid.
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Hester