Wednesday, 21 March 2012

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

'Deeper than Marx's claim that workers "have nothing to lose but their chains" is the Christian promise that we have "nothing to lose but our sin." Nothing that is truly human is lost in redemption. Death in baptism is to  self, not of self. He came that we "may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10) and that your "joy may be full" (John 16:24).'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.112.

THE INCARNATION

'Unless the incarnation involves the whole person, that which is replaced or left out does not become part of the salvation package.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.109.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

MARRIAGE

'Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question - how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.'
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.94. 

TEN MYTHS ABOUT SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS

'...ten myths that have emerged from common sexual and relationship scripts. (We are, however, not personally contesting or endorsing these myths). We can them myths not so much because they're categorically untrue. We call them myths because the empirical data from surveys and interviews suggests they aren't true most of the time. In other words, these ten myths may be believed by many emerging-adult men and women, but the evidence supporting them just isn't there.' (p.242)
  1. 'Long term exclusivity is a fiction.' 'When we ask our students in class how long half of all marriages last, they fumble around for a response, guessing five years, or seven, or 10 tops. Their minds, of course, are focused on the average time-until-divorce. But the answer, which never occurs to them is a lifetime.' (p.242)
  2. 'The introduction of sex is necessary in order to sustain a fledgling or struggling relationship.' 'Most relationships fail, and the sooner relationships become sexual, the greater their odds of failure.' (p.243).
  3. 'The sexual double standard is inherently wrong and must be resisted by any means.' 'The double standard in sex is real and quite durable, and there's only effective way to resist it - and that is for women to attempt to feel and think and pursue sex like men.' (p.244).
  4. 'Boys will be boys. That is, men can't be expected to abide by sexual terms that women may wish to set.' 'The reality, however, is that this scenario is not fixed. Men will live up to - or down to - the expectations placed upon them.' (p.244)
  5.  'It doesn't matter what other people do sexually; you make your own decisions.' 'Other people's sexual choices matter. Collectively they function as a powerful constraint on our own behaviour.' (p.245).
  6. 'Porn won't affect your relationships' '...porn's effect on the wider sexual market and its norms affect most Americans under 50, whether they're married or not.' (p.246).
  7. 'Everyone else is having more sex than you are.' '...the average numbers of sexual partners emerging adults have are not as high as many imagine.' (p.247).
  8. 'Sex need not mean anything.' 'This myth might not be a myth for you if you own a set of XY chromosomes. But if you're an XX, the odds are against it.' (p.247).
  9. 'Marriage can always wait.' 'Many lose sight of the fact - or more commonly, realize too late - that there is a marriage market out there, just like there's a sexual market. It's a pool that does not grow deeper and more impressive with age.' (p.249).
  10. 'Moving in together is definitely a step toward marriage.' '...cohabitation is still about uncertainty and risk management for both men and women.' (p.250)
 Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, Premarital Sex in America, p.242-250.

SEX & RELATIONSHIPS

'Her dialogue around sex and relationships is filled with common normative claims, and repeated one cliche after another. In a  few short sentences, we detect several norms:
  • If you don't follow your heart, you'll always wonder what might have been.
  • Men tend to move on in relationships. If women don't, they'll eventually get hurt.
  • What matters most is you. A relationship can only augment the self.
  • Sexual relationships just happen, and they run their course in due time.
  • Youth shouldn't be wasted. It's the best time to try on new experiences and relationships.'
Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, Premarital Sex in America, p.211.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

DESIRE

'There is something I have noticed about desire, that it opens the eyes and strikes them blind at the same time.'
Jane Smiley, 'The Age of Grief' in The Age of Grief, p.151.

SUFFERING

'I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no-one arrives much later. I don't think it is years themselves, or the disintegration of the body. Most of our bodies are better taken care of and better-looking than ever. What it is, is what we know, now that in spite of ourselves we have stopped to think about it. It is not only that we know that love ends, children are stolen, parents die feeling that their lives have been meaningless. It is not only that, by this time, a lot of acquaintances and friends have died and all the others are getting ready to sooner or later. It is more that the barriers between the circumstances of oneself and the rest of the world have broken down, after all - after all that schooling, after all that care. Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me. But when you are thirty-three, or thirty-five, the cup must come around, cannot pass from you, and it is the same cup that every mortal drinks from.' 
Jane Smiley, 'The Age of Grief' in The Age of Grief, p.132.

PARENTING

'There is no subsequent achievement that parent wants of child with more ardor than the accomplishment of eight hours at a stretch, during the night.'
Jane Smiley, 'The Age of Grief' in The Age of Grief: A novella and stories of love, marriage and friendship, p.112.

FEELINGS

'...a friend made the completely shocking suggestion that my feelings needn't always get the last word in my head; that I could tell a feeling - fear, anxiety, some sort of obsession - that for the next fifteeen minutes, I wasn't going to pay it any heed. After a quarter of an hour, I could go back to the feeling if I wanted to, or I could choose to ignore it for another fifteen minutes. I still live by quarter hours.
This distancing myself from a feeling for fifteen minutes is possibly the most sanity-making practice anyone has ever offered me. It has short-circuited my spirals of hideous emotion more times than I can count...no anxiety for the next nine hundred seconds; maybe I will check for my driver's licence or go online to see if my bank account has been hacked at 3:32, but not now.'
Lauren F Winner, Still, p.88.

PRAYER

'Without prayer, the life of the Christian dies.'
Catherine Doherty in Lauren F Winner, Still, p.67.

MARRIAGE

'If you are afraid of loneliness, don't marry.'
Anton Chekhov in Lauren F Winner, Still, p.57.

MARRIAGE

'I have a friend, also recently divorced, who explains to me that the loneliness he experienced in his marriage was more devastating than anything he has experienced since. "Lying in bed at night next to someone you once promised to love and knowing there is no way to bridge the gulf between," he says. "That is the most crushing loneliness of all.'
Lauren F Winner, Still, p.57.

BOOKS

'I am one of those overeducated library types who might be expected to look down her nose at self-help books - but the whole bookstore is a self-help section to me. When something needs to be fixed, when I need something to change, my first and abiding instinct is to read. I think I can read myself to a solution. Or least an evasion.'
Lauren F Winner, Still, p.23.

DOUBT

'...in those same moments of strained belief, of not knowing where or if God is, is has also seemed that the Christian story keeps explaining who and where I am, better than any other story I know. On the days when I think I have a fighting chance of redemption, at change, I understand it to be those words and these rituals and these people who will change me. Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith. And yet I continue to live in a world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wander. Amd yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.'
Lauren F Winner, Still, p.xiv.  

CONVERSION

'What happens in conversion - at least, what happened in mine - is that a person concludes the truth is in Jesus.'
Lauren F Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, p.xiii.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

DEPENDENCE

'The wisest of counsellors have pointed out three general steps in maturity: 1) the dependence of infancy; 2) the independence of adolescence; and 3) the creative dependence of mature love, when one is able to take the risk of allowing a dependence to develop with control of or by another.
There seems to be some dynamic in us all that resists ever needing, or being in any way dependent on, another. It is the cause of much of our loneliness, and our shallow and inadequate friendships. The neurotic urge to control other people - spouses, children, employees, friends - has led therapists to make a technical term of the word "control."'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.91.  

THEOLOGY

'Athanasius' tenacity is asking the biblical question, "How can one be saved?" kept all theological speculation tied to the essential act of God in Christ.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.89.

THE TRINITY

'A careful persusal of the scriptural references to each of the persons of the Trinity reveals no theologically precise definition, but there is a clear and consistent affirmation that the unity of the Father, the Son and the Spirit does not deny their distinctiveness. The teaching concerning the Trinity does not proceed from philosophical concerns but from the saving experieces of God's actions as recorded in scripture.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.75.

WORSHIP

'Worship is the way humans resolve the question of identity.'
C FitzSimmmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.69.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

TEMPTATION

'God highly prizes those quiet warriors who battle with sin even when it hurts. Though they might not get much media coverage, they are heroes of the faith. But even heroes can get tired. And sometimes heroes even say things that seem less than heroic.

"This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning." (Psalm 73:12-14)

Why does everyone else seem to have it easier? While everyone else goes about normal life, I fight a war every minute. When do I get a break?

“You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” (Malachi 3:13-15)

So, a few words to fighters...
First, if you think a little fatigue takes you off God’s ‘highly honored’ list, you are wrong. Fatigue means you have been in battle, and it makes you kin to people like Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). Be encouraged; you are not alone. There is an army of fatigued strugglers who walk among us. Ask around, tell your story and you will meet some of them.
Second, all those folks who act as if life is fine? No troubles? Prosperity galore? Those folks don’t exist. Behind every happy person is a sad person. Behind every human being’s persona is a combination of good, bad and really hard. You would definitely not want to be the “prosperous” people who are referenced in these passages.
Third, the battle is worth it. Your Father knows every second of your battle. The challenge is that you need eyes that see past today and see something bigger than your immediate struggle. That is a message that your Father gives you. The beauty of your struggle, in which you fight by faith, is that it has eternal implications (1 Pet.1:6). Its beauty will some day be apparent for all of us to savor.
Fourth, you, perhaps more than anyone else, can have confidence that you are a child of God (Heb.12:4-6).'
Edward T Welch, 'Fighting Sin Is Tiring'. Available at: http://www.ccef.org/blog/fighting-sin-tiring 

Friday, 9 March 2012

PREACHING

'Preachers lead whenever they help others bridge the gap between their aspirations and their reality. Doing so will mean challenging their ideas and helping them see beyond their shallow goals. It will mean pacing the challenge to keep them moving forward with discouraging them. It will mean keeping the focus on the issue until people accept responsibility for it and begin to change. Preachers lead whenever they help others bridge the gap between their understanding of God and God's claims in their lives. Preachers are equipped to do that only as they are open to God's work in their own lives and have seen their own values, attituudes, and behaviours challenged and changed by the Word of God.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.139.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

LOVE

'The flight from any responsible "incarnational" love is characteristic of the literature of romantic love. Hardly a single example of romance in married love exists in all of the Western romantic love tradition. Lovers scarcely know each other and are more in love with love than with each other. Death always intervenes before there is any significant chance for two people to know each other as they really are. Death, therefore, obscures the need for self-giving kind of love (agape) to supplement and save this romantic love (eros) from its essential preoccupation with self and its idealized projections. The end or destiny of romantic love as a religion is always death, either of the love or of the lovers. Thus death obscures for its adherents the essential self-centredness and flight that is characteristic of romantic love. All seems to end in daggers, poison, or mutual suicide. The twentieth century has a rather sentimental version of the fatal end: marriage. (Oh how we danced the night we were wed..."Romantic love can last only until marriage.'
C FitzSimmons Allsion, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.63.

LOVE

'Concrete situations of diapers, debts, divorce, or listening to and being with someone in depression and despair is the test of real love...All of us are tempted to audit life rather than participate fully and be tested by it.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.38.

HERESY

'Each heresy in its own way encourages some flaw in our human nature.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.23.

THEOLOGY

'Bismarck once observed that "war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals." Theology likewise is too serious a matter to be left to the scholars. We cannot do without generals or scholars, but each one of us must do our own contending and our own believing.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.21.

TRUTH,

'The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about "what is true for me" is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary sympton of death.'
Lesslie Newbiggin in C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, p.20.

HERESY

'Trying to communicate this important material to students led me to ask the question, "What happens to someone who follows heretical teachings?" It became quickly and readily apparent how cruel heretical teachings are and how prevalent the heresies are in contemporary times. Victims of these teachings have been encouraged either to escape the world and their basic humanity into some form of flight and death or to use religion to undergird and isolate further their own self-centred self from the need to be loved and to love.
We are susceptable to herertical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence nad escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworrthy tendencies of the human heart. It is astonishing how little attention has been given to these two aspects of heresy: its cruelty and its pandering to sin.'
C FitzSimmons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy, p.17

PREACHING

'Preaching is a call to faith.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.111.  

PREACHING

'The kind of preaching to which laypeople are exposed in large measure determines the vision or image of God they carry around in their heads, and that vision determines how they live. If they see God as an arbitary dictator or as a spoilsport, they live in fear and guilt. Their vision of God is central to their lives because that vision provides the worldview that controls them. It shapes the way they both interpret and respond to everything going on around them.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.107.

FAITH

'If there is any subject in the Bible about which preachers must not be vague or abstract, it is the subject of faith. For the biblical writers, faith is not a theoretical question. It met them and it meets us in the middle of life in the world. Faith is the door to the presence of God (Heb.11:6). Faith is the means by which we appropriate God's grace for salvation (Eph.2:8-9). Faith is the root of the Christian life (Rom.5:1). Faith unleashes power to serve God (Matt.17:20). In short, faith is at the core of the Christian life. Preaching is a call to faith, and it must be clear. Without faith we cannot please God (Heb.11:6). Without faith a relationship with God is not possible. Faith is essential to Christian spirituality.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.104.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

BOOKS

'Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books...None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we certainly shall increase it, amd weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can only be done by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People are no cleverer then than we are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.'
CS Lewis, 'Introduction' in St.Athanasius, On the Incarnation, p.4.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

SEX

'The pattern suggests that plenty of college students think  that they don't have sex as much as other people do and aren't as comfortable with uncommited sex as other people are, but generally don't wish to appear so. In other words, many college students are more sexually conservative than they prefer to let on. They're afraid to appear prudish, which strikes many as a social kiss of death.
The results of pluralistic ignorance about others' sex lives, however, can "lead one or both sexual partners to act according to the perceived norm rather than to their own convictions." In other words, sex becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: "The more students believe sexual activity is occuring, the more sexual activity occurs." In a study of over 700 undergraduates, researchers noted that men who considerably overestimated the sexual activity of their male peers were also 11 times more likely to have had sexual intercourse in the last month that were those who underestimated men's sexual activity.'
Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, Premarital Sex in America, p.119.

Monday, 5 March 2012

CLASS

'The English working class is, I think, uniquely disinherited, and the most important ways in which it is disinherited are the more crippling because they are largely hidden from us. We are fairly well aware of how little the worst off have had in the way of independent material resources throughout the past two centuries of history: until recently scarcely any savings to speak of, not much in the way of valuable chattels, and for the most part no financial stake in their own home. But there are other sorts of capital to which they have also had little or no access - social, cultural and spiritual. And it is because the rest of us are so uneasily conscious of this other poverty without being able or willing fully to articulate it that our attitude towards "them" oscillates between pity and disdain. Above all, it is difficult to show or feel respect towards people who are so embarrassingly impoverished.
We are often told that deference has disappeared from modern Britain. Yet the adulation of the rich and famous is surely as fulsome as ever. In hotels, restaurants and aircraft - the sites of modern luxury - the new upper crust is fawned on as egregiously as old money in its Edwardian heyday. All that has happned is that the composition of the upper class has changed, as it has done roughly once a century since the Norman Conquest. The pop stars and IT tycoons are the equivalent of the upwardly mobile mercants and lawyers of Tudor times and the cottonocracy and beerage of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What has almost disappeared is deference to the lower classes. Throughout the two world wars and the decades following both of them, the lower classes were widely revered for their courage in battle and their stoicism in peace. Values such as solidarity, thrift, cleanliness and self-discipline were regularly identified as characteristsics of them.
That is no longer the case. By a remarkable shift in public discourse, the middle classes have come to regard most of those virtues as characteristic of their own behaviour, indeed as largely confined to themselves. For the ultimate deprivation that the English working class has suffered - in fact the consequence of all the other deprivations - is the deprivation of respect.'
Ferdinand Mount, Mind the Gap, p.120.  

POST-MODERNISM

'The term postmodernism  has become a real trash can for whatever many of us think we do not like or want to face.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.80.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

PREACHING

'...let the preacher remember this and preach to us not just as men and women of the world but as children, too, who are often much more simple-hearted than he supposes, and much hungrier for, and ready to believe in, and already in contact with, more magic and mysterty than most of the time even we are entirely aware of ourselves. "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. 18:3), Jesus says, and he is not just being sentimental as he says it. Let the preacher stretch our imagination and train our credulity and make our jaws drop because the sad joke of it is that if he does not, then of all people he is almost the only one left who does not. Scientists speak of intelligent life among the stars, of how at the speed of light there is no time, of consciousness as more than just as epiphenomenon of the physical brain. Doctors speak seriously about life after death, and not just the mystic anymore but the housewife, the stockbroker, the high-school senior speak about an inner world where reality becomes transparent to a reality deeper still. The joke of it is that often it is the preacher who is the one who holds back, prudent, cautious, hopelessly mature and wise to the last when no less than Saint Paul tells him to be a fool for Christ's sake, no less than Christ tells him to be a child for his own and the kingdom's sake.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.97.

THE GOSPEL

'And as for the king of the kingdom himself, whoever would recognize him? He has no form or comeliness. His clothes are what he picked up at a rummage sale. He hasn't shaved for weeks. He smells of mortality. We have romanticized his ragggedness so long that we catch the echoes only of the way it must have scandalized his time in the horrified question of the Baptists's disciples, "Are you he who is to come?" (Matt. 11:13); in Pilate's "Are you the king of the Jews?" (Matt. 27:11) you with pants that don't fit and a split lip; in the black comedy of the sign they nailed over his head where the joke was written put in three languages so nobody would miss the laugh.
But the whole point of the fairy tale of the Gospel is, of course, that he is the king in spite of everything. The frog turns out to be the prince, the ugly duckling the swan, the little gray man who asks for bread the great magician with the power of life and death in his hands, and though the steadfast tin soldier falls into the flames, his love turns out to be fireproof. There is no less danger and darkness in the Gospel than there is in the Brothers Grimm, but beyond and above all there is the joy of it, the tale of a light breaking into the world that not even the darkness can overcome.
That is the Gospel, this meeting of darkness and light and the final victory of light. That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, the one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still. To preach the Gospel in its original power and mystery is to claim in whatever way the preacher finds possible to claim it that once upon a time is this time, now, and here is the dark wood that the light gleams at the heart of like a jewel, and the ones who are to live happily every after are...all who labor and are heavy laden, the poor naked wretches wheresoever they may be.'  
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.90.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

CHRISTIANS

'The good news breaks into a world where the news has been so bad for so long that when it is good nobody hears it much except for a few. And who are the few that hear it? They are the ones who labor and are heavy-laden like everybody else but who, unlike everyone else, know that they labor and are heavy-laden. They are the last people you might expect to hear it, themselves the bad jokes and stooges and scarecrows of the world, the tax collectors and whores and misfits. They are the poor people, the broken people, the ones who in terms of the world's wisdom are children and madmen and fools. They have cut themselves shaving. Rich or poor, successes or failures as the world counts it, they are the ones who are willing to believe in miracles because they know it will take a miracle to fill the empty place inside them where grace and peace belong with grace and peace.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.70.

GOD'S GRACE

'People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. They are prepared to go on breaking their backs plowing the same old field until the cows come home without seeing, until they stub their toes on it, that there is a treasure buried in that field rich enough to buy Texas. They are preapred for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for a hour's work as for a day's. They are preapred for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of the newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at the First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb...'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.70.

GOD'S GRACE

'God is the comic shepherd who gets more of a kick out of the lost sheep once he finds it again than out of the ninety and nine who had the good sense not to get lost in the first place. God is the eccentric host who, when the country-club crowd all turn out to have other things more important to do than come live it up with him, goes out into the skid rows and soup kitchens and charity wards and brings home a freak show. The man with no legs who sells shoelaces at the corner. The old woman in the moth-eaten fur coat who makes her daily rounds of the garbage cans. The old wino with his pint in a brown paper bag. The pusher, the whore, the village idiot who stands at the blinker light waving his hands as the cars go by. They are seated at the damask-laid table in the great hall. The candles are all lit and the champagne glasses filled. At a sign from the host, the musicians in their gallery strike up "Amazing Grace." If you have to explain it, don't bother.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.66.

THE CROSS

'"A stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23), Paul writes, because it is truth. The folly of preaching Christ crucified, preaching the king who looks like a tramp, the prince of peace who looks like the prince of fools, the lamb of God who ends up like something hung up at the butcher's.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.60.

GOD'S GRACE

'Bored to death by his comforters and scratching his boils and facing the undertaker's unpaid bill for the multiple funeral of his children and the entire household staff, how could Job possibly forsee that his bloodshot eyes would indeed behold, and by no means as a stranger, the one who laid the foundations of the earth and at whose work the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who could have predicted that God would choose not Esau, the honest and reliable, but Jacob, the trickster and heel, that he would put the finger on Noah, who hit the bottle, or on Moses, who was trying to beat the rap in Midian for braining a man in Eygpt and said if it weren't for the honor of the thing he'd just as soon let Aaron go back and face the music, or the prophets, who were a ragged lot, mad as hatters most of them and dragging their heels to a man when they were called to hit the sawdust trail? Who can have foretold that out of the sordid affair between David and Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, Solomon would be born with his high IQ and his passion for ecclesiastical architecture and that out of Solomon would be born a whole line of apostate kings ending finally in a king the likes of whom nobody could possibly have foretold except maybe Second Isaiah, who saw at least that it wasn't his beaux yeux that would draw men to him or by the power of his heavy artillery that he would king it over them.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.57.

PREACHING

'...it is our hopelessness that brings us to church of a Sunday, and any preacher who, whatever else he speaks, does not speak to that hopelessness might as well save his breath.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.55.

HUMANKIND

'...the tragedy of the human condition, which is to live in a world where again and again God is not present, at least not in the way and to the degree that man needs him.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.53.

JESUS

'Jesus shares with us the darkness of what it is to be without God as well as showing forth the glory of what it is to be with God.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.42.

PREACHING

'If he does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not. As much as anything else, it is their experience of the absence of God that has brought them there in search of his presence, and if the preacher does not speak of that and to that, then he becomes like the captain of a ship who is the only one aboard who either does not know that the waves are twenty foot high and the decks awash or will not face up to it so that anything else he tries to say by way of hope and comfort and empowering becomes suspect on the basis of that one crucial ignorance or disingenuousness or cowardice or reluctance to speak in love any truths but the ones that people love to hear.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.40.

PREACHING

'...the miracle they are waiting for is that he will not just say that God is present, because they have heard it said before, and it has made no great and lasting difference to them, will not just speak the word of joy, hope, comedy, because they have heard it spoken before too and have spoken it among themsleves, but that he will somehow make it real to them.They wait for him to make God real to them through the sacrament of words...'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.40.

PREACHING

'There are all kind of pressures on the preacher, both from within and without, to be all kinds of other things and to speak all kinds of other words. To speak the truth with love is to run the risk of speaking only the truths that people love to hear you speak, and the preacher's temptation, among others, is to deal with those problems only to which there is, however complex and hard to arrive at, a solution. The pressure on the preacher is to be topical and contemporary, to speak out like the prophets against injustice and unrighteousness, and it is right that he should do so, crucial even, and if he does not goad to righteous he fails both God and man. But he must remember the ones he is speaking to who beneath all the clothes they wear are poor, bare, forked animals who labor and are heavy laden under the burden of their own lives let alone of the world's tragic life.
There is the one who can't stop thinking about suicide. The one who experiences his own sexuality as a guilt of which he can never be absolved. The one whose fear of death is only a screen behind which lies hsi deeper fear of life. The one who is in a way crippled by her own beauty because it has meant that she has never had to be loving or human to be loved but only beautiful. And the angry one. The lonely one. For the preacher to be relevant to the staggering problems of history is to risk being irrelevent to the staggering problems of the ones who sit their listening out of their own histories. To deal with the problems to which there is a possible solution can be a way of avoiding the problems to which humanly speaking there is no solution. When Lazarus lay dead, for instance, he did not offer any solution. He only wept. Then the other things he said and did. But first he simply let his tears be his word.'
Frederiick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.34.

PREACHING

'....stripping us naked is part of what preaching is all about...'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.31.

BEAUTY

'Every person has one particular time in his life when he is more beautiful than he is ever going to be again. For some it is at seven, for others at seventeen or seventy...'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.29.

PREACHING

'The preacher pulls the little cord that turns on the lectern light and deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher. Two minutes from now he may have lost his listeners completely to their own thoughts, but at this minute he has them in the palm of his hand. The silence in the shabby church is deafening because everybody is listening to it. Everybody is listening, including himself. Everybody knows the kind of things he has told them before and not told them, but who knows what this time, out of the silence, he will tell them?
Let him tell them the truth.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.23.

PREACHING

'...the preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit with his sermon in his hand. He hikes his black robe up at the knee so he will not trip over it on the way up. His mouth is a little dry. He has cut himself shaving. He feels as if he has swallowed an anchor. If it weren't for the honor of the thing, he would just as soon be somewhere else.
In the front pews the old ladies turn up their hearing aids, and a young lady slips her six year old a Lifesaver and a Magic Marker. A college sopomore home for vacation, who is there because he was dragged there, slumps forward with his chin in his hand. The vice-president of  bank who twice that week has seriously considered suicide places his hymnal in the rack. A pregnant girl feels the life stir inside her. A high-school math tecaher, who for twenty years has managed to keep his homosexuality a secret for the most part even from himself, creases his order of service and tucks it under his knee.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.22.

Friday, 2 March 2012

PREACHING

'...to preach the Gospel is not just to tell the truth, but to tell the truth in love, and to tell the truth in love means to tell it with concern not only for the truth that is being told but with concern also for the people it is being told to...The preacher must always try to feel what it is like to live inside the skins of the people he is preaching to, to hear the truth as they hear it. That is not as hard as it sounds because, of course, he is himself a hearer of truth as well as a teller of truth, and his listens out of the same emptiness as they do for a truth to fill him and make him true.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.8.

THE GOSPEL

'The Gospel is bad news before it is good news. It is the news that man is a sinner, to use the old word, that he is evil in the imagination of the heart, that when he looks in the mirror all in a lather what he sees is at least eight parts chicken, phony, slob. That is the tragedy. But it is also the news that he is loved anway, cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for. That is the comedy. And yet, so what? So what if even in his sin the slob is loved and forgiven when the very mark and substance of his sin and slobbery is that he keeps turning down the love and forgiveness because he either doesn't believe them or doesn't want them or just doesn't give a damn? In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen to him just as in fairy tales extraordinary things happen.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.7.  

PREACHING

'...if preachers or lecturers are to say anything that really matters to anyone including themselves, they must say it not just to the public part of us that considers interesting thoughts about the Gospel and how to preach it, but to the private, inner part too, to the part of us all where our dreams come from, both our good dreams and our bad dreams, the inner part where thoughts mean less than images, elucidation less than evocation, where our concern is less with how the Gospel is to be preached than with what the Gospel is and what it is to us. They must address themselves to the fullness of who we are and to the emptiness too, the emptiness where grace and peace belong but mostly are not, because terrible as well as wonderful things have happened to us all.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p.4.

GOD'S MERCY

'...whereas God is merciful, we are none of us very good at showing mercy on ourselves.'
Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale, p.2.

PREACHING

'When you step before an audience, tell the truth. Do not make up fairy tales about the Christian life. People are listening, and they may hear and take seriously what you say. Do not promise more than the gospel promises: The gospel of Jesus Christ promises deliverance from spiritual death and hell. The gospel promises eternal life with the eternal God. The gospel promiese God's enpowering presence in our lives. But the gospel does not promise that if we live a certain way, certain results are 100 percent guaranteed. A woman being batterted by her deacon- or elder-husband should not be told that if she is submissive, she will have a wonderful fullfilling marriage. Here marriage is a torment, and she may end up in a coffin if her husband's violence escalates.  
In your preaching, do not gloss over the problems women face in bad marriages. Do not dismiss the struggle of single mothers, the stress and hassle of work world, the painful obligations posed by aging parents. Do not ignore or trivialise women's realities. When you do, you may help push them towards disillusionment with the church and with the gospel.'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women, p.77.

PREACHING

'...a preacher can do only three things with an idea: explain it, prove it, and apply it. Turned around, these are the three funcional questions budding preachers are taught to ask in sermon preparation: What does the text mean? Is it true? So what?'
Alice P Mathews, Preaching That Speaks to Women,  p.73.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

CLASS

'It is indeed possible for a middle-class person to traverse the entire length of a blameless life without seriously engaging with a current member of the lower classes (although he or she may well meet plenty of upward acheivers from modest origins). In some senses, the bottom class in England is more socially isolated than ever before in history. The exceptional visitations from the middle classes in a therapeutic role - as doctor or social worker or divorce lawyer - only serve to emphasise that isolation.'
Ferdinand Mount, Mind the Gap, p.100.

RICHES

'Only in the past half-century, first in the United States and then more recently in Western Europe and the old "white Commonwealth", have prosperity and security been so entrenched and widespread as to make the pursuit of an interesting life available, not just to the artist and the aristocrat, but to the overwhelming majority of the upper and middle classes.'
Ferdinand Mount, Mind the Gap: The New Class Divide in Britain, p.97.