NT Wright on the Authority of Scripture. Prepare to have your perspective enriched. Oh my goodness, yes.
This quotation from Thomas A Kempis was on Oremus.org today. Wonderful:
Love is a mighty power, a great and complete good; Love alone lightens every burden, and makes the rough places smooth. It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders all bitterness sweet and acceptable. The love of Jesus is noble, and inspires us to great deeds; it moves us always to desire perfection. Love aspires to high things, and is held back by nothing base. Love longs to be free, a stranger to every worldly desire, lest its inner vision become dimmed, and lest worldly self-interest hinder it or ill-fortune cast it down. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth; for love is born of God, and can rest only in God above all created things.
Love flies, runs, leaps for joy; it is free and unrestrained. Love gives all for all, resting in One who is highest above all things, from whom every good flows and proceeds. Love does not regard the gifts, but turns to the Giver of all good gifts. Love knows no limits, but ardently transcends all bounds. Love feels no burden, takes no account of toil, attempts things beyond its strength; love sees nothing as impossible, for it feels able to achieve all things. Love therefore does great things; it is strange and effective; while he who lacks love faints and fails.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that I do enjoy many bands and songs that people find cliche. I think this is just the way it is and I will accept it. That said, I’ve been really enjoying One Republic lately.
There’s a song that they play called “Secrets.” The opening lines are as follows:
I need another story
Something to get off my chest
My life gets kinda boring
Need something that I can confess
Till all my sleeves are stained red
From all the truth that I’ve said…
I’m gonna give all my secrets away.
One of the definitions of the word confess that I don’t often consider is this:
” to admit or grant to be true; concede”
As I’ve listened to this song several times and thought about the opening lines through the lens of confession defined as such it’s started to sink in that One Republic is really after a dialog about a key part of humanity: that of narrative.
Story is a deep seated part of human nature. We all crave participation in meaningful narratives. As lead singer Ryan Tedder implies, “life gets kinda boring” without the intersection of story, truth, and something to confess.
I find that within mainstream American (US) culture there are many narratives that compete for our attention. Stories of nationalistic endeavor, stories of acquiring comfort and security, stories of finding ourselves in misguided ideals of freedom, and many others that seek to be the narrative in which we participate.
The unifying notion of these American narratives–as I see it–is the emphasis on the self or extensions of ourselves (friends, family, those who are inside.) I seek the American dream that me and mine might rest easy, I seek the glory of America so that I might feel secure, I seek myself in the “freedom” of this society so that I am bound by as little as possible. There’s much to be found in these things. We all desire security, we all desire rest, we all desire freedom. However, the question I submit that must be asked is:
Does the current of stories swirling around us grant unto us that which we desire?
My answer to this is simply, no. As I thought about these things I noted a deep flaw in the manner in these stories we are told/tell ourselves. In orienting themselves towards the self and therein self-sufficiency they fail to address the essentially vulnerable position of being human. We are needy beings, but we are issued stories of self-reliance. We are deeply in need of community, but we are issued stories of individualism. Our lives require form to find true freedom, but we are issued stories of freedom and freewill devoid of the clarifying questions of “Freedom for what?” and “Freedom from what?”
Yet again, I turn to One Republic for back up. The image of truth and blood blended as one is an extremely poignant one for our purposes.
“…sleeves turned red…truth that I’ve said…”
Blood in the Judeo-Christian tradition symbolizes life and quite rightly One Republic has merged life and truth together. The idea of confessing something that is true, something that is costly, and ultimately something that cannot be separated from the core of our existence (our need/our life) is what must frame the way we look at the narratives with which we are faced. We all “need another story” to meet us in our vulnerability.
Fortunately, if we honestly allow the deconstruction of the distorted stories we have been told, we are able to receive such a story. These key parts of humanity (narrative, vulnerability/need, and truth) are given their place in the narrative in which we all dwell. Over and against the perspectives of American stories (myths if you will) is the fact that the narrative we are all enmeshed in is one that is not of our own making.
Christian faith proclaims the truth that we did not make God, but rather that He made us. That our choosing of Him is a response to His choosing of us. We play parts in the show whose outcome is ultimately not written by the performers (despite our shockingly welcomed artistic license with the production.)
In order for us to find the reality of the world in which we are given fullness of life (things not boring), truth (something to confess), and meaning (another story) we are forced to turn the American stories we’re given on their heads. Instead of starting with ourselves we necessarily need to start with God. The bible doesn’t pussy-foot around with this subject.
The stories we live can and do intersect with the sweeping narrative of God’s work on our behalf. In fact this is where they begin.
In Scripture we find a narrative driven by the in-breaking work of the One who created all things. The biblical witness is that of a God who would not abandon His creation. It’s the story a God who in love pursued us in our need unto the point of becoming one with our brokenness and dying at the hands of those He had given life. In so doing His life became ours in Christ.
The cross of Christ answers our need for redemption and a participatory story containing it. One beyond that of any we could create on our own behalf. It is our real life that starts in the midst of the symbol of our greatest vulnerability.
The point was never that we could be secure enough to be alone, free enough to define ourselves, or American enough to belong. The point has been all along that we’ve been welcomed into the security of being vulnerable, the freedom to relinquish ourselves to God, and welcomed as part of a needy and redeemed Kingdom of “paupers, simpletons, and rogues.”
The Holy Spirit calls us into a story wherein we’re given real life as we–along with One Republic–live in the vulnerability of “giving all of our secrets away.” Foremost of which is our need for redemption.
High five, One Republic. Nailed it.
PS: Paupers, simpletons, and rogues is from a Rich Mullins’ song called “surely God is with us.”
This came up on my facebook feed this morning. Thought I’d pass it along:
Melito of Sardis, a 2nd-century preacher, gives us this from a sermon on the Resurrection of Christ:
“The Lord clothed Himself with humanity,
and with suffering on behalf of the suffering one,
and bound on behalf of the one constrained,
and judged on behalf of the one convicted,
and buried on behalf of the one entombed,
rose from the dead and cried out aloud:
‘Who takes issue with me? Let him come and stand before me.
I set free the condemned.
I gave life to the dead.
I raise up the entombed.
Who will contradict me?’
‘It is I,’ says the Christ,
‘I am He who destroys death
and triumphs over the enemy,
and crushes Hades
and binds the strong man,
and bears humanity off to the heavenly heights’
‘It is I,’ says the Christ.
‘So come all families of people,
adulterated with sin,
and receive forgiveness of sins.
For I am your freedom.
I am the Passover of salvation.
I am the lamb slaughtered for you.
I am your ransom.
I am your life.
I am your light.
I am your salvation
I am your resurrection.
I am your King.
I shall raise you up by my right hand,
I will lead you to the heights of heaven,
There shall I show you the everlasting Father.’”
I drew up a list of books that over the years have resulted in massive shaping influences on my life. I am not the same–in the best way–after having read these. Have at ’em. Let me know what you think as you push through (assuming you do read them at all.) They are in no particular order aside from most recently read first.
1) Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle
2) After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by NT Wright
3) Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life by Jack Levison
4) God has a Dream by Desmond Tutu
5) Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
6) Miracles by CS Lewis
7) Faith of the Outsider by Frank Spina
8) Silmarillion by JRR Tolkein
9) The Brothers K by David James Duncan
10) The Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton
11) Finally Comes the Poet by Walter Brueggeman
12) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
13) The Violence of Love by Oscar Romero
14) The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Preach it Father Robert. Preach it.
This post is a bit longer than most – I suppose that since I am heading off for a month of vacation I felt a bit verbose.
One of the things I have been struck by in the conversations about General Convention and the Episcopal Church is the energy we spend on what we think about being the Body rather than what we do that makes us the Body. I would argue that the works of justice that we advocate for are part of our life as the Body. I would also argue that a firmness in doctrine is also required to bind us together as the Body. Neither justice nor the quest to articulate our relationship to the Triune God are indifferent matters. We seem eager to create ghettos – to carve out homogeneous and pure bodies within the Body who are doing it just right with our own…
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