Lately I’ve been stumbling across a bunch of quotes from other people who say things insightfully or poignantly… more than me, at any rate. I’ve been jotting them down, and have added some of the shorter ones to the selection of random quotes in my sidebar (sorry, RSS readers — take note of it when you click through to comment), but several are too long for that. So what the heck — here’s the collection from the past couple of weeks.
As biblical scholarship is in decline, and as church leaders become more versed in television news than in New Testament Greek, we understand the church better, not by simply studying it, but by studying what it has eaten to become it. And when we begin to see the connections, we begin to understand ourselves and sit alone with a conviction that many of the issues we are taking “stands” on are not biblical issues but cultural issues that will not last into eternity.
— Donald Miller, in his foreword to Paul Louis Metzger’s Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church, which Darryl Dash was talking about yesterday. In the introduction, Metzer quotes an article that describes Christian romance literature by saying, “think bodice-rippers, light on the ripping.” It’s the substantive stuff that makes this look like a good read though (see DD’s post).
The dread of being open to the ideas of others generally comes from our hidden insecurity about our own convictions. We fear that we may be ‘converted’ — or perverted — by a pernicious doctrine. On the other hand, if we are mature and objective in our open-mindedness, we might find that viewing things from a basically different perspective — that of our adversary — we discover our own truth in a new light and are able to understand our own ideal more realistically…
— Thomas Merton. I saw a Seinfeld rerun the other day where the standup portion was making much the same point concerning homophobia… but I like Merton’s version better. Why are we so afraid of other ideas? “Being blown and tossed about by every wind of doctrine” is not a description of listening to other ideas, it’s a description of running wholesale after every new and contradictory idea… or, perhaps, the latest bestselling how-to church-growth book.
We are not a Community because of physically living close to each other (although some do) but because we live close to our chosen way of living, which unites us at a heart level. As a monastic Community, we are consecrated to God in our way for living and the vows – of availability and vulnerability – are taken seriously.
— hightlighted by Glenn from the Northumbria Community Website. This one resonates at the moment as I consider being a member of a dispersed community as well as a nearby one… I have some very precious journeymates at a distance and they’ve never been in the same room together. And some I’ve never met in person.
“The task of prophetic imagination is to bring to public expression those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there..”
“Isaiah gives his people a remarkable gift. He gives them back their faith by rearticulating the old story. He gives them the linguistic capacity to confront despair rather than be surrounded by it. And he creates new standing ground outside the dominant consciousness upon which new humanness is possible.”
“The dominant consciousness must be radically criticized and the dominant community must be finally dismantled. The purpose of an alternative community with an alternative consciousness is for the sake of that criticism and dismantling.”
— Walter Brueggemann. I love the way this ties into some themes I’ve had recently, and it makes much sense of part of my own path. This giving voice to the hopes and longings of the people is a powerful metaphor, and it fits the role of a prophet charged with speaking words that are not his own, that are larger than himself. It’s the battling of consciousnesses that gets the prophet in trouble, mediating a crossfire. Guaranteed, he’s going to get hit.
Spirituality I define as becoming conscious of and intentional about our relationship to God. I say conscious of because I firmly maintain that we are all already in a relationship with God and we have been so since our very beginning, whether we know that or not, believe that or not. Spirituality is about becoming conscious of that relationship. I say intentional because I see spirituality as being about paying attention to that relationship, being intentional about deepening that relationship and letting that relationship grow. Just as human relationships grow and deepen through spending time in them and paying attention to them, so also our relationship with God grows in this same way.
— Dr. Marcus J. Borg. This is spiritual formation, and needs a much more a conscious engagement than breezing into a church service and out again at the end… with or without a crisis moment at the altar. Being “conscious” once a week doesn’t seem all that life-giving to me…
Worship is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.
— Alexander Schmemann. This one is printed inside the liturgy at St. Benedict’s Table, and now and then it grabs my imagination about what worship is. The vantage point of which he speaks is the antithesis of a worship gathering cloistered away in secret, huddling away for fear of the Romans and the pollution of the culture which surrounds is, preaching about how to ferret it out and kill it as it invades your home and your life. Worship is fundamentally not to take us out of the world for a little while, but to equip us to better inhabit it.
The people of God gather regularly restlessly in the liturgy, in a safe space where the ‘mother tongue’ of trust is spoken. The liturgy is always the same. The kids always wonder why we do it one more time. Nonetheless one senses in this gathering a readiness and an expectation. There is a roll of drums, a blast of trumpets, waiting for the choir. And then they sing. They sing and people stand, stretching their necks to see. It is all choreographed, and yet there is an excitement about the music. There is a smattering of applause. Then the bold ones dance. The meeting is moved into awe and amazement and gratitude.
What has happened is that a dangerous new song is being sung. Exiles take music seriously and they sing dangerously.
Everyone sings. It is a new song, commissioned just for this meeting, never heard until now, and it grabs Israel in exile. It grabs all of creation. Everybody joins the song: the sea, the coastland, the desert, the cities, the villages. They all sing a new reality.
This is what they sing about: The Lord is on the move!
— Walter Brueggemann, in “Disciplines of Readiness” (Paper for the Theology and Worship Unit of the Presbyterian Church, 1989). Exiles, dispersed communities, worship, the singing of a new song or writing of a new reality (or consciousness)… perhaps these quotes are all interconnected somehow…
During the last year or so, I have come to appreciate the “worldliness” of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a homo religiosus but a man, pure and simple, just as Jesus became man… It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman, a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one… This is what I mean by worldliness — taking life in one’s stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness… How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world?
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here we arrive again at a conception of a worldly Christianity, wherein we are present as a dispersed community among the world — a world whose ideas we do not fear, but whose stories we listen to with care. We are conscious of our own spirituality in the midst of those who share it or who lack it, seeking to unite the consciousnesses of the two groups. Here we do not take note of passing cultural issues, we only speak of the eternal ones — whether with words or with the actions of friendship. In both, we seek to connect the hopes and yearnings of people with the promise of God… as a friend would do, not with a strong lasso to bind them forcefully and confrontationally, but slowly, weaving one thread at a time.
And in case you’re wondering — I was just grabbing quotes and stuck them all together… I didn’t realize that they may be related until I made note of it at the point I did while compiling the commentary I added for the post. And, if you must know, this is the way it works when you are tasked with (or can’t help) weaving people’s stories together — their hopes, yearnings, observations. And when you’ve got it threaded together, it begins to take shape, becoming part of a new story, one already being woven together with various pieces from Coffeeshop Poets.