canon sense

"every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Month: December, 2013

Graham Greene on Time

Reflecting on the persecuted church in Southern Mexico in his classic novel The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene writes that when the church goes missing, so goes the sense of time (p. 100). The church offers a sense of time that the world needs.  The world on its own terms does not respect time.

Time limits us. It reminds us that we live a day at a time.

The church does not take for granted the rising and setting sun, but instead sees it as a symbol of grace. It sees it as a sign of its creatureliness, and thus serves as a sign of a Creator. The church sees the world and sees a theatre for God’s glory. God sees the world and sees a world of human limitations.  Yet the limited world of time and space are the very things God delights in.  He does not despise our creaturely existence, but watches over it, sings over it, and even enters into it.

The Parables We Need: Hypocrites, Racism, Church Size, and Penis Size

From Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, Page 215,

“I wish I could have been a fly on the wall that moment when Papaw was recovering there in Clark County Hospital. He had worked there as a maintenance man for years. Now he was the one needing repair, a repair that he would outlive for a while until it would finally catch him ten or so years after. But at the moment his heart was older than his body. It was tired and wanted to quit early on him. When Papaw saw the man who lived across the street, you remember, he saw only a preacher, a hypocrite.  When Papaw saw dark-skinnned men, he saw only “niggers,” good ones and bad ones. That’s why it must have been something for Papaw that day when a stranger came to visit him amid the tubes and monitors that were chained to his arms. That someone? A black chaplain. Who knew, deep into his middle years, that such a man would sit with Papaw and ask him about Jesus? Oh, the marvelous return to old and ancient things, to those Eden things, that Jesus intends to see us into again. What a shrewd move on Jesus’ part to see men so differently from Papaw and to put in front of Papaw this different vision. It is like the kind of parable Jesus told in which a Samaritan is the good rescuer of a Jew in need. Jesus rementors our sight. Scales fall from our eyes. Human, we see and are known.

Eyes with scales left on cause men to see in comparisons. We compare biceps and bulges, paychecks and professional titles, and we tally points scored whether with siblings, sport, business, or our prowess with women. Some men compare penis size, other men compare church size — there is little difference between these games. Both are false measures and are of the same genre of self-misdirection. So Jesus calls men to places where glad-handing does not work and advancement in the company has no merit. Jesus looks grown men in the eye and tells them that caring for children and those equally dependent and overlooked will make us great (Luke 9:46-48).”

Advent and Afflictions

Nestled between what some might call metaphysical speculation, the Westminster Confession of Faith has an insightfully sensitive paragraph on the relationship between God and our experience with sin and temptation.   The tone is pastoral and very cautiously avoids the theological pitfalls of many. It reads:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

Whether because of our sin or because of God’s mysterious hand whereby he lets us feel his absence that we might long for his presence, our afflictions, say the Westminster Divines, are underwritten by a God who calls us his children. As Advent is upon we are reminded that God is not only “God with us”, but also “God for us”.    Not just present, but active. His commitment to be God with-and-for-us  is manifested most climatically in the incarnate life of his Son.   God the Son takes the humble act of adding our humanity to his divinity. He enters our pain, misery, and darkness and brings comfort, life and light.  His holiness and faithfulness rub against our sinfulness and apostasy and he works our salvation from within our humanity.

Through his Son’s humanity we are made sons and daughters and our humanity is restored. And because we are his children, loved in the Son for the sake of the Son, his love is not abstract or general, but it is personal and involved with the very details of our lives.  The Father chastens us, contradicts us, and we feel it.  It hurts, but it is love. It is what good fathers do.  His hand in our afflictions are not arbitrary or random, but intentional. Dare we say it, he afflicts us in Christ. In Christ we are afflicted with a Fatherly hand that he might raise us to a more close and constant dependence upon Himself.