Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bonhoeffer, God, Failure, and Responsible Action

"I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all times of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are turned to good account, and that it is no harder for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds. I believe that God is no timeless fate, but that he waits for and answers sincere prayers and responsible actions."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a letter written the day after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life. From Letters and Papers from Prison.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Preachers ply their trade with buffoonery..."

"Christ did not say to His first congregation:
'Go preach idle nonsense to the world,'
but gave to them a sound foundation.

"And that alone resounded from their lips,
so that, in their warfare to ignite the faith,
they used the Gospel as their shield and lance.

"Now preachers ply their trade with buffoonery and jokes,
their cowls inflating if they get a laugh,
and the people ask for nothing more."

[Dante, Paradiso XXIX:109-117]

Quoted in, How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher

Sunday, May 03, 2015

"When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness"

Emotional exhaustion; physically tired. I didn't expect it to take so much out of me, but it did. I have done it over and over for nearly 24 years, but it still surprises me when I walk away drained to the bone.

It's not bad - don't get me wrong. I have tried very hard to handle the Word of a jealous God to his people and simultaneously be faithful to it, to Him, and to them. And sometimes it takes the energy out of whatever reserves I thought I had. I never seem to sleep well the night before. Sometimes what the Word has to say is full of hope and joy, and sometimes I talk to people who are walking in darkness and pain. In either case, and every case in between,  my mind, body, and heart are left wrung out.

But it is for the good of the church, and of the people of God. At least I tell myself that. Maybe I missed the boat and everyone in the room walked away thinking, "That was nice. What's for lunch?" and I walked away ready for a nap. Maybe a life was stirred by my inevitably inadequate attempt to talk about the One True God and bring people to the foot of the cross or the threshold of an empty tomb. By the grace of God, may it be.

I do it over and over, like mowing my lawn or shoveling my driveway in the middle of a blizzard. There always seems to be a reason to do it again, a need that rises to the surface like a stubborn weed. Or maybe the weekly repetition has caused my words to sound like the ticking of the clock on the wall. It's there, and we know it's there, we just don't hear it anymore. But I tick on. Pastors keep keeping time according to the rhythms and motions of God's kingdom in a realm that listens to different clocks and follows flashier time pieces.

Nonetheless, the Word of God is sharper than any other tool we can use, and by the work of the Spirit of God, makes its way into the deepest recesses of the human soul. Deeper than we can even see within ourselves.

So, I will fitfully sleep, awake grumpy that I tossed and turned too much, but I will get up and go at it again. It is more important than some other, sleep-friendly substitute, and it is what I was called to do. So the fire burns and my bones quake, anticipating the next week.