“The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech.
“Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing. But this stillness before God’s Word will exert its influence upon the whole day. If we have learned to be silent before the Word, we shall also learn to manage our silence and our speech during the day.” Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 79
So much kingdom longing in many of the most beautiful songs, this one came back sharply to my memory in a dream last night. In days gone by I loved the song but thought it was bad theology. It’s only post NT Wright that I realize how close to reality this view of the kingdom is.
The song was written to their wives and the title is “Ruby Jean & Billie Lee”
(lyrics and music by James Seals & Dash Crofts, 1973)
From the albums DIAMOND GIRL (1973)
Oh Billie Lee, it’s destiny that we meet again, here on this earthly plain.
I’ll see all the worlds with you, but you’ll have to help me through.
You are the straight and narrow path, and I’m the wayfayer.
Oh Billie Lee, we shall be free in the years to come, to help build the Promised Land.
We’ll go where the day springs run, forever and live as one.
He is the object of our longing, and we’re His creation.
We’ll have children (Lua), of the Kingdom (Joshua).
They won’t be torn by war, nor will they
Kill or hate, or hestitate, to love. Justice.
In 2009 Mike Todd offered a reflection on one of the more prominent conversations at the Leadership Summit. Were these two godly men really hearing each other?
I think Mike is right that we have a language issue here. I recall first reflecting on this about 2002 when I wrote, “Leaving the church to find the church.” It was a strange journey, but one that got me asking an entirely new set of questions.
As for the rest, this is the same conversation again, still a good one – the church exists in this material world as both an organization and an organism, as both Spirit and structure. We need both, but one is more primary, and the dynamic of institutionalization always pulls us away from Spirit and toward structure. We have to know when to applaud, when to resist, when to subvert, and when to buy dynamite.
Ultimately, the church must be an alternative society, this point emphasized by the likes of William Stringfellow in the last generation and Hauerwas and crew more recently. To the extent we fail at this task, we are a human organization and not an expression of the kingdom. Mike closes with this quote from African theologian Emmanuel Katongole: Read the rest of this entry »
“According to St. Ignatius, great principles must be embodied in the circumstances of place, time and people. In his own way, John XXIII adopted this attitude with regard to the government of the church, when he repeated the motto, ‘See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.’ John XXIII saw all things, the maximum dimension, but he chose to correct a few, the minimum dimension. You can have large projects and implement them by means of a few of the smallest things. Or you can use weak means that are more effective than strong ones, as Paul also said in his First Letter to the Corinthians.”
Interview with Pope Francis
Last Sunday I spoke from John 17 with this focus. We are called to be both IN and not OF the world. We are sent into the world as Jesus was sent: vulnerable, compassionate, and working for healing and justice.
But I couldn’t help feeling when I was finished that I had not QUITE hit the mark.
The connotation, if not the exegesis, of the “not of the world” phrase has generally been taken to imply holiness, a moral code. That’s wide of the mark, and results in the “Christ against culture” stance of separation.
Instead, I suspect our being “not of the world” is the mirror image of the call to justice and to be shalom-makers. Being “not of the world” means bringing a kingdom culture, it’s the sermon on the mount. It begins with the fruit of the Spirit, but the circles grow wider and wider to encompass social and then civic agendas.
What do you think?
“I’ll never forget the first time Paul Sparks gave me a tour of Zoe Livable Church. He showed me community gardens, coffee shops, a bakery, a holistic health center, nonprofit offices, an intentional community, murals galore, and an expansive library. He told me about Zoe members organizing farmer’s markets, block parties, and yarn-bombings. I was astonished by the hundreds of buildings, dozens of acres, and 6,000 residents within the purview of the church.
“Most impressive about the scene is that Zoe’s membership tallies about 25 in total.
“The campus, of course, is not a church campus at all. Nor is any of it “theirs.” It’s downtown Tacoma, a brick-laden, three-quarter-square-mile quiltwork of splendid theaters, postwar offices, colorful antique stores, and drab parking lots, all steeply sloping some 300 feet toward Commencement Bay.”
“Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls,” is the title edited by Gary Moon and David Benner. The subtitle is “a guide to Christian approaches and practices.” The book is published by IVP Academic and looks quite excellent. Chapter listing is as follows:
Part I The Seven Major Traditions of Christian Spirituality
1. Sp Direction and Christian Soul Care – D Benner and G Moon
2. Sp Direction in the Orthodox Christian Tradition – E. Gregory Rogers
3. Sp Direction in the Roman Catholic Tradition – G Barrette
4. Sp Direction in the Episcopal Tradition – G Temple
5. Sp Direction in the Reformed Tradition – B Johnson
6. Sp Direction in the Wesleyan-Holiness Tradition – W Tracy
7. Sp Direction in the Social Justice Tradition – J Gladson
8. Sp Direction in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Tradition – O McMahan
Part II The Three Major Voices of Soul Care
9. Sp Direction and Psychotherapy: Conceptual Issues – L Sperry
10. Sp Direction and Psychotherapy: Ethical Issues – S Tan
11. Sp Direction and Pastoral Counselling – I Galindo
12. Three Voices, One Song: Perspectives on the Care of persons from a Spiritual Director and Pastoral Counsellor – T Tisdale, C Doehring and V Lorraine-Poirier Read the rest of this entry »
There is a community of the spirit,
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.
Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.
Open your hands,
if you want to be held.
Sit down in this circle.
Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd’s love filling you.
At night, your beloved wanders.
Don’t accept consolations.
Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.
You moan, “She left me.” He left me.”
Twenty more will come.
Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.
* * * * * *
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend,
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend.
Speaking in 2007, Sharon Parks describes the experience of “shipwreck” in the lives of young adults, those times when young adults experience something unexpected or disappointing. She writes, “These experiences often became the context in which big questions emerged in powerful ways.” She explains that technology has made life transitions harder than they used to be. Digital devices and social networking, “… can contribute to heightened productivity and a greater connection to the global community; yet [to an] increasing sense of loneliness and isolation that leads to many mental and physical health risks.”
“God does not, in fact, need the churches..
But the churches need God.”
It was 2009, and I was reflecting on some of the silliness that passes for typical church life here in the West, and I remembered a discussion of the Holy Fool. I also recalled an article by Franciscan Richard Rohr by the same title, and I found it in an old issue of Sojourner’s magazine.
One thing led to another..memories of Don Quixote, a book by Henri Nouwen (“Clowning in Rome”), and a collection of pieces by William Stringfellow (“The Idea of Society as a Circus“). As you can imagine, this stuff plays with your mind. I was ready to go out and rent a clown suit for my graduation. I’ve since been threatened with death by persons close to me, so maybe I’ll wear the suit while preaching one day instead.
But this to say — it’s an important idea. This idea of Jesus as the Holy Fool, preaching an upside down kingdom to a culture that was all about getting it right, has huge appeal in these days in the death knell of modernity, much less Christendom. The clown doesn’t care that she is on the margins – knowing that this is the place that offers the only real perspective. It’s only those who have nothing to lose who can see clearly. Moreover, by default she doesn’t have to take seriously all the things we take so seriously. She knows it is all comedy anyway. We are but a breath, and our small kingdoms will all vanish away.
Considering all this, I’m reminded of some great movies, great books and great saints. Picture St. Francis stripping naked on the streets of Assisi, before the Bishop, his family, and the citizens of Assisi. Picture the broken figure of Robin Williams in the Fisher King, running away from the illusory fiery knight, yet understanding that it is all about love. Picture Patch Adams, the doctor in training, with his bulbous nose and floppy feet. Forest Gump comes to mind, as does the egocentric TV journalist in Bruce Almighty. All these figures confront the denial, the hubris, that is so much of what western culture.. and the church.. became.
“A few days after [William Stringfellow] died, I was sitting in his study and spotted a magazine ad recently cut out and placed by the telephone. It read, “NEED ACROBATIC PEOPLE FOR RIDING ACT – for 1985 Season – Good Opportunity. Send resume and photos to Circus Vargas, North Hollywood, California.” It seems Bill was contemplating a second vocation.” Excerpt from Jim Wallis, “Keeper of the Word.”