Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rebuilding the Church

A recent post on John Michael Talbot's blog hit home. I am increasingly concerned about the "commercialization" of Christianity. I long for the day that our message and image in the public eye will no longer be characterized by our seemingly incessant greed for money, fame and influence; but rather our love, devotion and passion for Jesus and people. JMT writes:

Luke 19:45-48

My house is meant for a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. v. 46

The Jews had externalized and commercialized even their place of prayer, so they had come to externalize and politicize God’s peace. They had missed the internal, so God would never give them the external.


Ironically, God will give external graces if we first seek the internal ones. "Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides." But we must also have a detachment from the external before we can find the internal. "You cannot give yourself to God and to money. What man thinks is important, God holds in con­tempt." Or, "If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower." Yet he goes on to say there is no one who has given these things up "who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as much - and persecution besides - and in the age to come, everlasting life."Without internal prayer we can never have lasting peace. We cannot have real prayer with such a gross commercialization of spirituality.


And what about today? Never before has there been such an overflowing torrent of Jesus "junk." Today we must return to a reverential use of our houses of prayer. It is fine to have books available as a ministry and service to the people of God, but commercialization in God’s name will surely bring down God’s wrath!Is our present abundance God’s gracing of externals because we have sought only the internal? Are we truly detached and poor in spirit? Or have we simply set up an abundance of money changers’ tables in the house of the Lord? We cannot have peace until we pray, and we cannot pray without overturning these money changers' tables within our own hearts and souls, as well as within our local house of prayer.

by John Michael Talbot

Here is a link to John Michael Talbot's blog:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Love louder than Thunder

When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings;
the bottom drops out of my soul.

And from the center of my cellar,
louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.

New eyes awaken.

I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.

Thomas Merton. [Selection from] "Psalm" in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1977: 220-221.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Clean Heart

"The fruit of silence is prayer

The fruit of prayer is faith

The fruit of faith is love

The fruit of love is service

The fruit of service is peace."

- Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Right Use of Knowledge

I was reminded of the following description of the right use of knowledge by a colleague, Dr. Mara Crabtree, this morning. It is always good and prudent to examine our motives in all that we do.

"There are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it; and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use" (St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Power of Small Things

I have been considering Thérèse de Lisieux's (1873-1897) theology of doing the smallest of things with great love and devotion unto God, as a possible foundational construct in a renewed theology of "redemptive work". It strikes me that the beginning of this exploration must start with the ultimate purpose of all action: love. Thomas Merton puts it as follows:

"We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I mean loving ourselves properly? I mean, first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others."

How will our perception and practice of work changes when our first and ultimate motive is love?

Picture: Martin Creed, Work No. 567: Small Things.

Small Things with Great Love

Friday, November 09, 2007

Brown's New Book on Hermeneutics

Roger Ebertz, a Christian Philosopher at the University of Dubuque recently published an inspiring and erudite article in the Christian Scholar's Review on the call for Christian scholarship to be Biblically grounded and engaged. Ebertz suggests that Christian scholars should extend the traditional worldview analysis methodology of research, an approach that has mostly become normative amongst Christian scholars, to include a central Biblical hermeneutical component. For Ebertz, Christian scholars carry a double duty in that they should not only be competent in the particular demands of their academic disciplines, but also in appropriate methods of Biblical hermeneutics that fit their field of enquiry. Ebertz's proposal is rooted in the conviction that Christian scholars operate within three defining contexts: (a) a specific social and cultural situation, (b) an academic field governed by specific research agendas and methodologies, and (c) a particular faith tradition. His proposal consists of an integrated research approach where these three contexts work together in the pursuit of truth: "The Christian scholar, then, seeks both to interpret her subject matter and to understand the Bible as it speaks to her and to her work as a scholar in the light of historical situation, her community of scholarship and her community faith. Thus the Christian scholar's hermeneutical task is complex. And yet she aims at the unity of understanding that affirms the sovereignty of one Lord."

Christian scholars looking at the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures often make interpreting mistakes because they do not consider the historical and cultural distance between themselves and the authors and audiences of those texts. Biblical hermeneutical methodology assists the serious interpreter of the Bible in reading these texts in an integrative, reflective, analytical, and yet still devotional manner. These models of interpretation are drawn from the conviction that what is needed is a multi-disciplinary approach to reading the Scriptures that keeps in mind at minimum the literary, social, cultural, historical and theological dimensions of the text and its people. Unfortunately, most Christian scholars have not been exposed to contemporary hermeneutical methodology and may not know where to start. This is where Jeanine Brown's new book on Biblical hermeneutics can be of great assistance.

Jeannine Brown's basic introduction to the discipline of hermeneutics offers a clear and practical interpretative model that highlights the communicative nature of the text of the Christian Scriptures. By rooting this communicative model in the theological concept of the incarnation, Brown bridges the world of systemic theology and Biblical studies and by doing so, makes a significant contribution to the various current theories and debates on the nature of the text and the discipline of interpretation. Brown's inspiring and clear approach makes complex theories of interpretation simple while at the same time communicating the wonder and power of the "Divine breath" of inspiration in the text of the Holy Scriptures.

Brown's book is divided into two parts: the first part lays a thorough theoretical foundation on the communicative nature of Scripture, whilst the second part offers practical guidelines for those desiring to read and understand Scripture as God's ever-present communicative act. Brown does not steer away from contentious or difficult issues in discussing the art of interpretation, but translates them for the reader into simple and palatable concepts, whilst pointing the way towards erudite and practical interpretative strategies. The book does suffer at times from an absence of in-depth discussions on the recent developments in socio-rhetorical and semiotic readings of Scripture, but makes up for this lack in its well structured treatment on the quest to derive meaning from a communicative reading of the text.

"Scripture as Communication" is a highly accessible book that lay readers, students, ministers and scholars alike will find to be rich in interpretive theory yet practical in its application. Brown's book makes an important and timely contribution in our common quest to understand and apply the message of Scripture to our own research.

It is my growing conviction that a clearer understanding of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures holds the promise of a resurgence of moral and values-based approaches to leadership today. Only when our understanding and practice of leadership is utterly informed and fueled by the Word of God will we have the kind of Christian leadership that will change the world. Jeanine Brown's inspiring book is a good place to start in our common quest for the recovery of authentic Christian scholarly leadership.