July 25, 2014

A Few Thoughts from Friends

browsingBrowsing around last night, I found several thoughts too good not to share.

* * *

Michael Newnham at Phoenix Preacher “Things I Think”

  • America could completely collapse and even cease to exist and Jesus still might not be at the door. The Christian era has seen the collapse of a few empires.
  • Jesus prayed for unity and Paul pleaded that there be no division among us. You’d think we’d at least nod in their general direction.
  • Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between “peace that passes understanding” and “whistling in the graveyard.”

Matthew B. Redmond at Echoes and Stars — “10 Quotes from The God of the Mundane

  • In other words, we want to end war, hunger and poverty in our lifetime. But we do not posses the will to let someone merge in front of us in traffic, and do so with a smile.
  • Living quietly is a life so happy with the attention of God, that the attention of the world is not needed, and rarely enjoyed.

John Frye at Jesus Creed — “From the Shepherd’s Nook: Facing a New Year”

  • A diligent scholar who brings me into a wrestling match with the words, history, culture, etc. of a biblical book causes my heart to catch fire. Some of my family members still shoot me strange expressions when I do a sudden fist pump and shout, “Yeeaaaah!” When they realize I’m reading an exegetical commentary they appear ready to cart me off to a shrink.

Peter Marty at The Lutheran: “Loving Others on Our Knees”

  • Christian people pray. They love to pray, or at least they work toward feeling that love. Most of us find our spiritual lives gaining their best traction when we think about a world larger than the one we create through dallying over our reputation, latest wardrobe or hefty to-do list. We pray for the needs and circumstances that ripple through other peoples’ lives.
  • I once heard someone refer to intercessory prayer as “loving your neighbor on your knees.” That’s good. Never mind if your knees don’t bend well, or if your church lacks those fancy fold-down kneelers. You get the idea.

And, finally, this extended passage from Jim Shepard on Flannery O’Connor and her view of “epiphanies” at The Atlantic:

F OConnorWriters talk a lot about epiphanies—what O’Connor, in her Catholic tradition, called “grace”—in short stories. But I think we’re tyrannized by a misunderstanding of Joyce’s notion of the epiphany. That stories should toodle on their little track toward a moment where the characters understand something they didn’t understand before—and, at that moment, they’re transformed into better people.

You know: Suddenly Billy understood that his grandmother had always gone through a lot of difficult things, and he resolved he would never treat her that way again.

This kind of conversion notion is based on a very comforting idea—that if only we had sufficient information, we wouldn’t act badly. And that’s one of the great things about what The Misfit tells the Grandmother in the line I like so much. He’s not saying that a near-death experience would have turned her into a good woman. He’s saying it would take somebody threatening to shoot her every minute of her life.

In other words, these conversion experiences don’t stick—or they don’t stick for very long. Human beings have to be re-educated over and over and over again as we swim upstream against our own irrationalities.

(There’s a great line in Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane, where one of the protagonist’s enemies says to him: “You’re going to need more than one lesson, Mr. Kane, and you’re going to get more than one lesson.”)

Now, O’Connor really believes that we can flood, momentarily, with the kind of grace that epiphany is supposed to represent. But I think she also believes that we’re essentially sinners. She’s saying: Don’t think for a moment that because you’ve had a brief instant of illumination, and you suddenly see yourself with clarity, that you’re not going to transgress two days down the road.

Comments

  1. Alas, alas! Who would we vest with the authority to do the re-educating, if the Holy Ghost wasn’t already at it all the time? Which is something that O’Connor believed the Holy Ghost does: constant re-education. “The Lame Shall Enter First.”

  2. “Don’t think for a moment that because you’ve had a brief instant of illumination, and you suddenly see yourself with clarity, that you’re not going to transgress two days down the road.”

    There’s an epiphany right there!!! ;)

    But seriously, I couldn’t agree more with this. During worship service this last Sunday, we were singing a song basically telling God, “I live for You.” And I caught myself in mid-chorus, and changed the words to “Help me to live for You.” It captured where I was at the moment. Yes, sometimes I can indeed sing with great purpose, “I live for You.” But just as often, if I’m honest with myself, it’s “two days down the road” and I’m not really truly living FOR Him.

    I’m so thankful we serve a loving, merciful, gracious God!