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Month: September 2015

Who Has Believed Our Report?

  “Who Has Believed Our Report?” (Isaiah 51:3) On the list of things that might discourage us, we can scratch these off: 1. That no one believes. The implied answer to Isaiah’s question is “no one.” When the Messiah appeared, no one got him right – including his own disciples and family. The only reason anyone believed is the Father drew their heart. (John 6:44) Small numbers are not to scandalize us. 2. That our circumstances are unpromising. God’s promises have always gone forward amidst unpromising circumstances — from Abraham, to Jesus, to Paul, to today. We are the early Church to someone. Stop complaining about the decline of the West and take up some useful work. Darkness is a great time…

Mea Maxima Culpa

The laziest students, once their lack of accomplishment catches up with them, are often the first to blame a conspiracy of circumstances that made them a victim – like the one who seldom cracked a textbook because it was “so boring” to read, or who could not be troubled to attend class on time, or take a single lecture note, later blaming racism for difficulty finding a good job. I am reminded of having received a pained look, at two different times and places, from two of my best professors – Martin Marty and D. Elton Trueblood. They asked me what I had been doing, and I responded with reasons for what I had not been doing. And there was…

Saint Values

Gregory of Nanzianzus (330 – 389 A.D.) was a temperamental saint — melancholy and reclusive, yet right up there with Luther on the short list of great theologians with a great sense of humor. He laughs at those things that make God laugh (Psalm 2). His Oration 33 (380 A.D.) — is especially rich in “nothing new under the sun” perspectives.  He, struggled, as we do, with the announcement, “oh no! (or yippee! — as the case may be), the Church’s numbers are declining”, as though something tragically unusual has happened.  Gregory provides a view through a wider lens. Throughout most of his life, Arian heretics vastly outnumbered the Orthodox – the Emperor was Arian, as well as most of the bishops.…

Be Still

“Idle hands cannot do the Devil’s work!” says concussion-addled Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), frustrated manager and owner of Fawlty Towers, (“The Germans” episode), after his zeal to do good nearly destroyed his hotel and landed him in the hospital. Everywhere I hear – “all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” There are times when that is true, when silence amounts to cowardly complicity. Paul says that God’s death sentence falls not only on those who do wickedness but those who stand by and approve with their silence. (Romans 1:32) But there are also times when stillness furnishes the most powerful resistance. Our challenge is to know what time it is. We cannot transmit…

Knowing What We Don’t Know

Aristotle says that the need to know is a basic human need, yet it remains with me largely unfulfilled in things that matter. Over and over runs the refrain throughout Ecclesiastes “you don’t know”, “we don’t know”, “no man knows.” It is good to unknow things that aren’t so. We want to know in order to control, in order to certainly extract happiness from this temporal life. That power eludes us despite self-help promises otherwise. Among those things we do not know are: “Whatever has happened” (7:24) What is happening (8:17) “What will happen next” (3:22; 6:11; 6:14) What disasters lie ahead (8:6 – 7; 11:1 – 5) What happens after death (3:20) “The meaning of anything” (8:1) Life or…