Transfigured Love

“I must learn in this life to accept the fact that hunger and restlessness are part of what I am made for.  To love God is not to acquire the biggest and best gratification of all but to have my whole experience of love transfigured.

Instead of the manic struggle to fill the gap in my heart, which leads to the exploitation and domination others and of my whole world, I acknowledge that I am never going to feel cosily at one with myself, all desires gratified; my longing opens out on to the horizon of the infinite God….

….[I can] however, walk with Jesus Christ in the risky territory of this world, trusting his gift and not my effort, to keep me faithful.  And instead of the urge to fill the gap in my heart, that gap becomes the way in which God’s love comes alive in me:  I start wanting what God wants, I come to share his will to give himself.

And so I begin to see other human beings in the light of God, to love them a bit more as he does, to long for their good as if it were mine.  This, says Augustine, is how the passion for justice grows out of love for God:  I stop taking it for granted that how I define what’s good for me sets the agenda for everyone else, and I learn to see that there is no good for me that doesn’t involve good for others.”

[italics mine]

Rowan William, on St. Augustine of Hippo, in ‘Luminaries: Twenty Lives that illuminate the Christian way’ pg. 17-18

Luminaries

One Step Enough for Me

I am reading John Henry Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which is to say, as intellectually stimulating as it is and as he is, this Anglican turned Catholic turned recently canonized Saint, is very demanding (thanks Tony)!!!

Newman

Anyway, I came across a poem he had read after following up on another thing, and came across a poem he wrote whilst sick and away from home.  In the current Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe, we can easily feel overwhelmed and disorientated.  But the language of the poem, though old fashioned does convey a truth about God’s providential care that we will do well to remember; namely that while we can never know the fullness of the How’s and the Why’s, we are nevertheless called to trust God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if not for the first time, then for the umpteenth time and in deeper, personal ways, daily.

Notice the lines in the first stanza: Keep Thou my feet; I do not see, The distant scene; one step enough for me!

Continue reading

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

One of my great joys is reading Blaise Pascal’s writings (1623-1662). He made huge contributions to the sciences of the 17th c., as a pioneer, especially in what we now call computers – he was a very smart young man.

After his premature death aged just 39, a collection of his thoughts and writings were printed in what is called Pensees, and they amount to a brilliant apologetic defense of Christianity.

He is most famous I guess for what we call ‘Pascal’s Wager’ – the argument that on the balance of probability, it is better and wiser to choose Christian faith in God than not.

He has many brilliant insights into human nature, and one of his most famous thoughts perfectly sums up the core of his argument, especially apt during this enforced slowing down of our way of life:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Pascal

Continue reading

The Spirituality of Preaching

At a 2009 Baptist World Alliance Conference in Holland, David Coffey delivered a paper called ‘Truth on Fire’ and offered 7 dimensions that any budding preacher must integrate; serving also as a reminder to experienced preachers of what is important.

The warning he offers, serves as the rubric for seeing what the 7 dimensions are trying to accomplish, and it comes from Bishop Quayle, who said, “It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher.”  Indeed.

I was inspired to write this partly in response to the oft repeated calls that preaching has had its day.  I disagree.  Bad, shallow, weak, irrelevant preaching has had its day!  But preaching proper is Gospel food for the starving soul.  Even those who didn’t know they were hungry realise they were starving when they hear good preaching!  Or to change the metaphor, you may be able to take the horse to water, but apparently, according to the proverb, you can’t make it drink!  I disagree.  Good preaching is not only the food we need, but the salt.  If you put salt into the horses food, it will drink!

Preaching should feed the willing hungry, and drive the hesitant or unwilling to the water of life – which is Jesus himself.

Dimension 1:  The preacher must be secure in their identity in Christ.  Everyone has a worth before God even before the do anything for God.  Coffey offers the ABCD of church life:  A for Attendance figures; B for Building and Maintenance; C for Cash flow which sustains ministry; D for Discipleship.  It is the preacher/minister who must, first and foremost, who is the prime practitioner in the congregation for what it means to be a life-long learner in the school of discipleship.  In this sense, D comes way before ABC.  Thus the main task of the preaching is to conform to God’s purposes in producing Christ-like disciples in the congregation, which he describes as painstaking and agonising.  

Continue reading

Storm Centres of History: Cairo

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause for Thought recently, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:  Storm-centres of history.

Today, we will go to Cairo, Egypt.

Each place I’ve chosen will be a place I have been to, either as a tourist or a missionary.

Each place is self-evidently interesting for the paradigm-shifting upheaval, the change and new course for humanity that they set.

All of them speak about the great themes of our existence:  justice, truth, freedom, good and evil, etc. and the enduring ability of human beings, bearing the image of God, to experience and endure great trials.

I was a missionary living in Cairo between 2005-07.  I learnt a little Arabic, and slowly grew into the strange new world of Egyptian culture.

Continue reading

Storm Centres of History: Geneva & Reformation

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause for Thought recently, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:  Storm-centres of history.

Today, we will go to Geneva.

Geneva is a beautiful city.  I don’t know if that was the case half a millennia ago, but back in the mid-16th century, it was a religious storm-centre that changed Europe and the world forever.

John Calvin (1509-64) was a shy, French intellectual; a 2nd generation Protestant Reformer. He was a lamb who would become a lion. 

This was about reforming what was deformed in Church and cultural life.

Calvin (the lamb) himself wanted to retire to a life of private study and theological writing.  He set out for Strasbourg but a French War diverted him to Geneva.

Continue reading

Storm Centres of History: Versailles, Revolution and Enlightenment

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause for Thought recently, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:  Storm-centres of history.

Today, we will go to the Palace of Versailles, Paris.

The place that speaks of kingship, revolution and Enlightenment.

Louis XIV’s reign set the events in motion that culminated in the paradigm shifting events that led to the execution of Louis XVI, and spawned the French Revolution of the late 18th century and the Modern period we know as the Enlightenment.

Continue reading