'The full, horrifying, exhilarating truth is that if you actually look at the tenets of Christianity they tell you that good behaviour is only the baseline, the launching pad, the sine qua non. The point at which Christianity takes off and begins to glow is when it does become counter-intuitive and downright troublesome in worldly terms. There are some very disturbing, subversive instructions there: 'Sell all thou hast and give to the poor...turn the other cheek...judge not, that ye shall not be judged...blessed are the meek...lay not treasures on earth...consider the lilies of the field....'
These are not sensible injunctions, fit for a Lord Chesterfield letter or a newspaper leader column. They sit uneasily in a society convinced that decent people are those who own property and are constantly busy, getting and spending. They sound odd in a time when every group bristles with awareness of its "rights" and is determined to stand on the and sue for compensation at the slightest, even accidental, tap to its cheek.
They sit uneasily too, with the tough landlording policies over the years of the Church Commissioners in England, with the arrogant obduracy of feuding clerics in the great cathedrals, with the wealth of the Vatican, with the argument against priestly celibacy which focuses on the "natural right" to a married life, with the snobberies and snarlings of different layers of Catholic and Anglo-Catholic spokesmen, and with the fact that more and more clergymen are joining trade unions and speaking with a blush of their "security" and "career structures."'
'If one thing unties crystal-gazers, huckster TV evangelists and High Church heritage-aesthetes, it is the elevation of religious feeling above dull plodding religious duty. If you bristle with mistrust at the self-indulgence of Glastonbury wire-twisters, you should extend that mistrust to emotional revival meetings where you are urged to"Let Jesus be your friend" and to "bear witness' to Jesus on stage - but never told that when the meeting is over you should go home and be nicer to your family, not to mention your enemies at the office.'
Libby Purves, Holy Smoke: Religion and Roots: A Personal Memoir, p.183.
'Jesus taught his disciples sound doctrine. Yet throughout the Gospels we consistently observe Jesus teaching theology in the midst of the pysch ward. He took his disciples into the hospital, as it were, sat them down in the emergency room; and confronted them with the ghastly sights, grieved sounds, and rank aromas of actual human people in their diseases, their wrestling with demons, their disputes, their poverty, and their loss of spouses. He brought them near to ethnic prejudices, injustices, anxieties, and traumas, not to mention the joys, pleasures, delights, and longings of ordinary human beings. Disciples learned about God in the context of the bodily life situations that actually exist in the world, the sensory ramifications of an under-the-sun reality.'
'I've carried the subtle idea around with me that growing in knowledge will mean that I get to depend less and control more. But Jesus indicates the opposite, and this challenges the way we do theology and Bible study. To know God truly, we have to know that we are not him. In a word, Jesus teaches us that humility is the dominant quality of becoming like a child in order to see the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3-4).'
'Lazarus raised was a sign that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. The blind man given sight was the sign that Jesus is the light of the world. The people fed was a sign that Jesus is the bread of life. As a result, every dying person, every blind person, and every hungry person has been shown that something more powerful than death, disease, and hunger exists.'
'While our first step should always include making sure things have been made clear, most of us know from our own lives that often it is not a lack of clarity that troubles us. Often we already know the right thing to do, and still we choose otherwise. So why do leaders, parents, spouses, and friends often assume that if we just arrange the quotes the right way, or just say the verses enough times or loud enough, that such a change will immediately start to happen?
The Bible simply does not teach us that if we say the right words, right things will follow. Jesus taught us that the self-centred heart is tamed not by human will but by God's intervention. No one was more plain, reasonable, and clear than Jesus, and they crucified him. Somewhere along the way, those of us gifted with words will receive a painful reminder that it is Jesus and not our explanations that can change a heart. Words aren't string. People aren't puppets. Eloquent speech isn't magic...
Jesus instead will often invite us to the more powerful way of quiet, prayer, and time. In this regard, Job's friends got it right when they sat silent with him in the ashes. The damage began when they spoke. Jesus will sit in the ashes on the broken porches of our lives and teach us how trust him more than our multiplied words.'
'The Devil wants you to think that your ministry is particularly difficult. He wants you to think you have been singled out for unique suffering. He wants you to begin to believe that your ministry situation, location, and relationships are definitely more difficult than what others face. He wants you to buy into the lie that while you're suffering, they're thriving; while you're being questioned, they're being respected; and while your work is hard, their work is easy. He wants you to carry around the burden that somehow, someway, you've been singled out.'
'The fact of the matter is that we will never figure God out. He will never do all the things that we were expecting. He will never stay on our agenda page. He will never be comfortably predictable. If we rest in God's care only when we understand just what he's doing, there will be many times and places where we won't rest in his care.'
'Our spiritual inability to remain with a people in a place as a family through thick and thin when not everything is how we prefer it or want it becomes apparent. We do not believe we need to stay in a place in which our feelings and needs are incompletely met. After we've left church after church, or job after job, or relationship after relationship, we still haven't yet learned to ask if some spiritual skill might be lacking in us, that maybe all of these churches, jobs, and people acting imperfectly aren't alone in their need of help. We too might need some.'
'I've noticed that when one is not concerned with being somewhere else, she tends to notice where she is. In such an environment, daily moments naturally becomes what one talks about at night. For example, the granddaughter's smile down at the A&P becomes a fifteen-minutes story that draws everyone into belly laughter. The smile was important enough to notice and the story valuable enough to tell. The laughter, the story, and the smile each form a sufficient agenda for conversation. I found this attention to the mundane lacking. I wanted "real" conversation about "real" life. I wanted us to talk about things that mattered, things that make a difference. Now I'm beginning to reflect more on those feelings. When did it happen that to talk about what one lives is not enough for real conversation? When did it happen that a granddaughter's smile is not substantial enough to speak of?'
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and ministry as a Human Being, p.62.