Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blessed Imagination!

Look at the delight on this child's face in a picture sent me today by a friend. What a blessed imagination little children have--no matter when or where, involving no matter what or whom!

Even inanimate things come to life in their presence, given that imagination. They make things live that are not living, and thus open our eyes to wonders we only pass by. They actually engage things we gaze on regularly, but end up merely storing on film. One wonders how the little girl might have engaged the famous angry infant captured in marble while in a fit of rage by the famous Norwegian sculptor Vigeland in Oslo?

Dance on, little one! Things we adults might deem foolish are full of possibilities for little ones like you with eyes to see. Encourage us by your spontaneity to risk ourselves the foolishness of engaging life in all its forms. Who knows how many around us might then be freed up in their own imaginations?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Glowing Ardor

The stunning picture is of the south sanctuary windows in my son Peter's church in Winnetka, Illinois (credits to Scott Edwards). What moves me in this Epiphany season of light is the ardor of it, strong rays reflecting rich tones of varied colors on the places where believers gather weekly to worship.

Something in the blending of the colors, every hue contributing to the whole but none dominating, defines the way Christ's body is. Widely diverse in personality, background, and experience, believers gather, as the earliest Christians did, "all together in one place" (Acts 2:1).

The picture also speaks of the prevenience of God, the Lord of life and light, ever present in his sanctuary--even when noone else is. Invoking him as we always do does not mean inviting him to come there--for he is already present. It is he that invokes our presence. Ours is simply to acknowledge him and receive the blessings he alone can supply.

One thing more I see and sense here. A real peril, one might name it. What if all we seek in God's house is the glory of being thus illumined and blessed ourselves? Is that all there is to worship? Can we be said to have been illumined by God in his house if on leaving the sanctuary we fail to share the light we received there with loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and yes, even our enemies?

God, whose purpose is to kindle, now ignite us with your fire.
While the world awaits your burning, with your passion us inspire.
Overcome our sinful calmness, move us with redemptive shame.
Baptize with your fiery Spirit, crown our lives with tongues of flame.

God, who still a sword delivers rather than a placid peace,
with your sharpened word disturb us, from complacency release!
Save us now from satisfaction, when we privately are free,
yet are undisturbed in spirit by our neighbor's misery.

God, who in your holy Gospel wills that all should truly live,
make us sense our share of failure, our tranquility forgive.
Teach us courage as we struggle in all liberating strife.
Lift the smallness of our vision by your own abundant life.

Elton Trueblood (1900-1993, alt)
The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook, No. 284

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Don't Just Do Something! Stand There!

The massive peaceful rebellion in Egypt has me wondering if the familiar aphorism, "Don't just stand there, do something!" has spooked us into activity-driven lives bereft of character. The Egyptian people, of course, did something. Yet the key to their action, powerful as it was, emerged from their character as a people--their weariness with despotism and their hunger for freedom.

Ought that be a lesson to us, frenetic as we have become in American social, political, and religious life? Questions of character, one often feels, are being trumped by half-truths spewed out to succeed, to gain advantage and power--often under the guise of defending character!

Were I to be stripped of all my activities for a day--or you, for that matter--what would others see in us just standing there? Is there more to us than our personal accomplishments or the programs and activities that consume our time and social life?

Sometimes it takes crises in our lives to wake us up to who we are created and called to be. Might what is now happening in Egypt represent a call to the renewal of our own character as Christians?

If so, as I believe it does, we would each do well to ponder what it means for us as believers, individually and communally, to be more intently--as John Weborg has put it in his thoughtful book--both, "Alive in Christ" and "Alert to Life" (Covenant Publications, 1985).

Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison!