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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hughes, G.W. (1998) God of Compassion 


Stare at the palm of your hand and reflect on your interconnectedness! It can take you back to the origin of the species, to all those who nurtured you, to those who toiled to grow the food which has nourished you, to the earth which mothers the plants and animals which sustain you, to the sun without which nothing could grow! 'No man is an island.' 23

My name is Donald: 1 am a unique manifestation of God!" '

If we identify ourselves by our differences, we cling to those differences with all the power of our instinct for self-preservation, the strongest of all our instincts. In our struggle to be different, we oppress, exploit and even eliminate any who threaten what we deem to be our very existence. This process leads to the disintegration of society and to the reign of individualism. Violence increases, mutual trust perishes, and we become separated from one another, locked into the prison of our own self-interest.

As we separate ourselves from others and destroy, or ignore their wellbeing in our pursuit of our individual interest, we become separated from our very self, for we can only find that self insofar as we live in unity, recognising the other, whoever the other may be, as we recognise ourselves. That is why the greatest of all the commandments is 'To love the Lord, our God, with all our heart and soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves'. 25

Does the news that God's Kingdom is open to all delight or distress us? If it distresses us, why? Perhaps we would prefer a more selective Kingdom, including, of course, ourselves. We are touching on the differences between God's thinking and our own. We prefer an exclusive Kingdom for us and those like us; God welcomes everyone, including the people we can't stand. It has been said that 'We are as near to God as we are to the person we like least.'


for you....

Do this in my memory'This means far more than celebrating formal eucharistic liturgies. It is an invitation to become Eucharist, to allow the self-giving of God to be expressed in all our thinking and acting, in all our relationships, as individuals, as Church and as nation. This is to be the characteristic of the people of the Covenant, as it was the characteristic of Jesus's life. 'I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.'

In his autobiography, the religious broadcaster, Gerald Priestland, describes having tea with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop asked him if he did not, as a Quaker, feel deprived of the Eucharist. Gerald Priestland replied that, as a Quaker, he believed that every meal was a Eucharist. 'Whereupon,' he said, 'the Archbishop looked at his petit-four with greater respect.1



Jones, T. (2005)The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life 

I'd say there was one word that summed up my religious life: obligation.

1 had been taught that the way to connect with God on a daily basis is to have a 30-minute "quiet time." That is, you should sit down with your Bible open, read it a little, and then lay a bunch of stuff on God, making sure to mention how excellent he is before running through the list of all the things you need.

1 found this style of personal devotion to be a pretty shallow well, and it wasn't long before 1 was doing it only every other day; then once a week, and then, well, never. Taking the place of my 30~minute quiet time, however, were hours and hours of that great reli- gious tradition: guilt. Here was the equation: God is out there + God wants to hear from me + I'm not talking = failure by me.

After about 10 years of this, and hearing this same pattern corroborated by many people who were also trying to listen for God in their lives, something occurred to me: People have been trying to follow God for thousands of years, Christians for the last two thousand. Maybe somewhere along the line some of them had come up with ways of connecting with God that could help people like me.


All can it use the same kind of spiritual exercises, but one suits this person, and another that. Different devotions are suited also to the seasons, some being best for the festivals, and otbers for ordinary days. Wefind some helpful in temptations, others in peace and quietness. Some things we like to consider when we are sad, and others when we are full of joy in the Lord.

Thomas it Kempis


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wright, N. (2003) The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God) 

What is more, the developments in his view of what ' resurrection' meant, developments from within the Jewish view but going to places where no Jew had gone before, indicate that he thought he knew something more about what resurrection was, something for which his tradition had not prepared him. Resurrection was now happening in two stages (first Jesus, then all his people); resurrection as a metaphor meant, not the restoration of Israel (though that comes in alongside in Romans 11), but the moral restoration of human beings; resurrection meant, not the victory of Israel over her enemies, but the Gentile mission in which all would be equal on the basis of faith; resurrection was not resuscitation, but transformation into a non-corruptible body. And the only explanation for these modifications is that they originated in what Paul believed had happened to Jesus himself.

There is thus no suggestion in this passage that he is intending to explain the resurrection body within the framework of 'astral immortality'. As we saw when discussing Daniel 12 and Wisdom 3, this concept will in any case not work for those Jewish texts that, like Paul here, see the future beyond death in two steps or stages. Nor does Paul suppose that there is a 'soul' which corresponds, in its material make-up, to the stars; if that had been his intention, he would hardly have spoken in verses 44-6 of the present body as the 'soulish' one, the soma psychikon. Nor is the problem he faces the same as the one Plato and Cicero dealt with in their exposition of 'astral immortality'. They were eager to escape the prison-house of the body; but for Paul the problem was not the body itself, but sin and death which had taken up residence in it, producing corruption, dishonour and weakness. Being human is good; being an embodied human is good; what is bad is being a rebellious human, a decaying human, a human dishonoured through bodily sin and bodily death. What Paul desires, to take his terminology at face value, is not to let the soul fly free to a supposed astral home, but to stop the 'soul', the psyche, from being the animating principle for the body. Precisely because the soul is not, for him, the immortal fiery substance it is for Plato, he sees that the true solution to the human plight is to replace the ,soul' as the animating principle of the body with the 'spirit' - or rather, the Spirit. And that takes us into the next section.


The point is not, in other words, that the new humanity will exist in a place called 'heaven'. Rather, it will originate there, where Jesus himself currently is in his own risen and life-giving body; and it will transform. the life of those who are presently located on earth and earthy in character (ek ges choikos, verse 47). The whole argument runs in the opposite direction not only to Philo but to all kinds of Platonism ancient and modem. The point is not to escape from earth and find oneself at last in heaven, but to let the present 'heavenly' life change the present earthly reality. Heaven and earth, after all, are the twin partners in the creation which, at the heart of the passage Paul has in mind throughout this chapter, the creator had declared to be 'very good'.

1 co 15 355

The creator wil therefore make a new world, and new bodies, properto the new age to the new age. From one point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are the redeemed, remade versions of the old ones; that is the emphasis of Romans 8. From another point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are 'stored up in heaven'. We should not play these off against one another; the latter phrase means, among other things, that they are safe in the mind, plan and intention of the creator God. Though Paul does not refer to the tree of life in Genesis 3, his controlling narrative is constantly pointing to the way in which the creator finally brings his human, image-bearing creatures, and indeed the entire cosmos, through the impasse of the fall, of the thorns and thistles and the whirling, flashing sword, to taste at last the gift of life in all its fullness, a new bodily life in a new world where the rule of heaven is brought at last to earth. 373

For many centuries it has been assumed in western Christendom that the ultimate point of being a Christian was to 'go to heaven when you die'. Though one tradition (that of Rome, different in this respect from both Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism) inserted a time-lag into the process ('purgatory') for all except the utterly holy, the picture still remained: a place called 'heaven', where god and the angels lived, into which god's people would be admitted either immediately upon death or at some stage thereafter.` This picture was hugely reinforced in the medieval and renaissance periods by such masterpieces as the writings of Dante on the one hand and the paintings of Michelangelo on the other. 417

1 Peter 1.3-9

to a modem western reader, seems straightforward enough. The soul (psyche, verse 9) is what is saved, and this salvation will take place in heaven (verse 4). But there are three signs that this, though 'obvious' to many today, is not at all what the author intended.

First, the 'salvation' is 'to be revealed in the last time' (verse 5). This sounds more like the picture in Colossians 3 or 1 John 3: at present, the heavenly dimension is unseen, but one day it will be unveiled?' If salvation consisted simply of going off to the heavenly dimension and staying there while earth went on its way to destruction, the writer could not have put it like this. The reward of faith and perseverance will be unveiled, not when the recently departed arrive in a disembodied heaven, but 'at the revelation of Jesus the Messiah' (verse 7). This language belongs much more naturally with the idea of 'heaven' as the place where the creator's future purposes are stored up, 'kept safe' (verse 4) until they can be unveiled in the promised new world, than with the dualism which seeks to escape from earth and to arrive, safely disembodied, in 'heaven'.

Powerful, perhaps; but of course frequently misunderstood. The picture of
the heavenly city in the last two chapters of Revelation has often been inter-
preted through the lens of later western piety, imagining that this is simply
the 'heaven' to which Christians will go after their deaths. But that view is
not simply somewhat deficient; it is failing to read the text. In Revelation 21
(and elsewhere; this vision dominates the whole book, not just the ending)
the heavenly city comes down from heaven to earth. That is what the narra-
tive is all about. As Christopher Rowland has insisted, the end of Revelation
offers an ultimate rejection of a detached, other-worldly spirituality in
favour of an integrated vision of new creation in which 'heaven' and 'earth',
the twin halves of created reality are at last united. Always intended for one -
another, they are by this means to be remade, and to become the place where living god will dwell among his people for ever. 470

What matters is the soul, not the body. The latter is cheerfully left behind, not wanted on the final voyage. Here we have truly turned a corner, losing sight of virtually all the texts we have studied in this chapter, never mind the New Testament. We are back once more in the world of ancient Platonism.


The central argument of this Part of the book is now complete. The future hope of the early Christians is focused, in a thoroughly Jewish way, on resurrection; but it has been redefined beyond anything that ' at Judaism had said, or indeed would say later.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Yaconelli, M. (2006) Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence 

Ignatius of Loyola referred to contemplation as "seeing God in all things." Brother Lawrence called it "the pure loving gaze that finds God everywhere." jean Pierre de Causade defined contemplation as "the sacrament of the present moment." Teresa of Avila referred to this experience as "Awareness absorbed and amazed."

My favorite description comes from Walter Burghardt, who said contemplation is "a long loving look at the real." pp24

Even though it often goes unnoticed or unnamed, 1 believe contemplation is a common experience in the lives of Christians. It's the experience of being vulnerable to God in the present moment. It's an openness to reality, a gratitude for what is, a receptiveness to the Source of life. Thomas Merton refers to contemplation as "spiritual wonder," and suggests that it is, in some sense, the "experience" of Christian belief." One thing is certain: contemplation is a grace. It's not an experience we can force or achieve. It's a gift when we discover we've been open and present to our lives and the life of God. Although we can't "make" ourselves contemplative, there are ways in which we can become more available to contemplation in our lives and in our relationships with youth.

For what moment am 1 most grateful ?

For what moment am 1 least grateful?

These two questions, prayerfully invited, help us to identify moments of consolation and desolation. Consolation is a classical term used over the centuries by praying Christians to identify moments when we are more open to God, ourselves, and others. These are moments of connection, moments when we feel more alive, more transparent to God, and more loving toward other people. Desolation refers to the opposite experience - disconnection, depletion, alienation, a sense of being blocked to the presence of God, others, or ourselves. By paying attention to these two moments in our lives, we become more aware of the revelatory nature of our experience. Sometimes we notice patterns or occasions when we are in the flow of God's love; other times we see moments when we seem to be caught up in our own wounds and blindness.


Liturgy for Discernment

(Silence, a song, lighting of a candle ... some ritual that helps us recognize the presence of God.)

(Checking-in. Attending to one another. "How are you?")

(Attending to God through prayer, either Lectio Divina or the Awareness Examen.)

(Sharing with one another what we've noticed during the prayer.)

(Touching on our call or mission. The group answers the following question: "Given what we've heard and shared, what is God's call to us?")

(Out of listening, we do our work. We look at our business items.)

(Closing prayer. Offering ourselves/efforts to God.)


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