Thursday, March 6, 2008


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like all other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:9-14; James 4:6b-10 - all NIV)

The desire to procure and accumulate securities and assets is one of the fundamental impulses in human experience. Fulfilment and satisfaction are sought by progressively 1 increasing our ability to control and manipulate our ~ environment. Success comes to those who learn quickly how to stack the cards in their own favour. This acquisition of power is manifested in a great variety of ways in different cultures, individuals and groups.

In his proclamation of the kingdom of God Jesus exposed the futility and deception of seeking fulfilment in this way. 'What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his lifer Jesus taught that the blessedness of God is to be found in 'poverty of spirit'. When we begin to appreciate our finitude ~- we become liberated from the paralysis of self-concern. Jesus lived in total reliance upon God, demonstrating the freedom which comes from recognising our ultimate dependence upon the one who made us in his image. When our lives are dominated by the desire to become secure through the attainment of assets, we live in bondage to powers which destroy and distort life rather than those that lead to fulfilment and satisfaction. It does not matter if it is money or property, position or privilege, qualifications or expertise. All these things, useful in themselves, become forces of destructIon when seen as ends m themselves. To live in total abandonment to God and his kingdom is to begin to experience authentic human life - life as it is meant to be. One of the primary characteristics of 'spiritual poverty' is the freedom to live our lives for others. Liberated from the oppressive bondage of self-centredness, we become free to discover the presence of God in the life of others. No longer concerned to establish our own worthiness we become free to confess our failures and experience God's forgiveness. No longer threatened by others and their abilities we are free to love our nelghbours, and even our enemies.

Jesus knew the freedom of 'blessed destitution’. He calls us to live our lives in constant recognition of our 'littleness' and our 'powerlessness', and thereby discover the way to authentic human existence.

The poor are the people who have to put up with violence and injustice without being able to defend themselves. The poor are all the people who have to exist on the very fringe of death, with nothing to live from and nothing to live for. But in Jesus’ message the poor are surely all of us too, since we have nothing to offer the coming God except the burden of our guilt and the rags of our exile - like the Prodigal Son.

Jurgen Moltmann, The Power of the Powerless

What does Jesus mean by 'poor in spirit'? In Luke's account it is simply 'you poor. What kind of poverty is he talking about? If you have a lot of money, you'll probab)y say spiritual poverty. If you have little or no money, you'll probably say physical poverty. The rich will thank God for Matthew; the poor will thank God for Luke. Both will say, 'He blessed me!' Well, then, who really did get the blessing? Chances are, neither one. For it is exactly this attitude of self-praise and self- justification and self-satisfaction that robs men of a sense of great need for the kingdom and its blessings. When one says, 'I don't need to be poor in things; I'm poor in spirit,' and another says, 'I don't need to be poor in spirit; I'm poor in things,' both are justifying themselves as they are, and are saying in unison, 'I don't need'. With that cry on his lips, no man can repent.

Clarence Jordan, The Sermon on the Mount

Authentic abandonment or poverty in spirit realises that God is not 'out there'. God is 'with us', inviting us to work actively as co-creators, totally dedicating our lives to accomplish the divine plan in that part of history entrusted to us by the span of our life. This invitation requests merely the giving of ourselves. We are totally at the service of our Maker who has inaugurated the plan. We are to submit to its ethic in our life and proclaim it to our world. This kind of abandonment finds us freely choosing to live under the authority of this power of God within us to accomplish God's purposes in our society. In this way we become poor in spirit, anointed with God's favour. We can bring good news to the poor of our world. . . Realising our own needs and our powerlessness, we respond in God's power to care about other powerless brothers and sisters whom we see in need. As God has seen us in need and not left us helpless, so we too exist, by our nature, to respond in care to those we see in need.

Michael Crosby, The Spirituality of the Beatitudes

Privation is the lot of the disciples in every sphere of their lives. They are 'poor. They have no security, no possessions to call their own, not even a foot of earth to call their home, no earthly society to claim their absolute allegiance. Nay more, they have no spiritual power, experience or knowledge to afford them consolation or security. For his sake they have , lost all. In following him they lost even their own selves, and everything that could make them rich. Now they are poor - so inexperienced, so stupid, that they have no other hope but him who called them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

May God create in us a true poverty of spirit so that we may be fully at God's disposal, free from the ambitions, options, power, and prestige of this world which make us feel so poor and little by comparison. Such people our Lord calls. blessed. May we be liberated from that stilling and overwhelmIng sense of poverty that destroys personhood, and may we be freed from the contemporary illusions of life and death. May we then find resurrection life in the midst of what appears to be certain death, and the riches of our Lord's grace to the little ones in the midst of what appears to be hopeless poverty.

Gene Beerens, in Sojourners Magazine

In poverty of spirit man learns to accept himself as someone who does not belong to himself. It is not a virtue which man 'acquires'; as such it could easily turn into a personal possession that would challenge our authentic poverty. Man , truly 'possesses' this radical poverty only when he forgets himself and looks the other way. . . To be able to surrender oneself and become 'poor' is, in biblical theology, to be with God, to find one's hidden nature in God; in short, it is 'heaven'. .. To become a man as Christ did is to practise poverty of spirit, to obediently accept our innate poverty as human beings.

Johannes Baptist Metz, Poverty of Spirit

Liberate me, Father, from my self-centredness. Help me to see clearly the futility of trying to establish myself as worthy j before you. Help me to see others as people to love, rather than people to compete with, envy, or criticise. Grant to me I the freedom which comes from knowing that you come to me ~
in my frailty and fallenness.

When I turn from the path which you have called me to walk, confront me with my poverty and the futility of my strivings.
When I try to achieve my goals by an illegitimate use of power or position;
when I put someone down or question their worthiness;
when I seek security anywhere but in your care;
show me the blessedness of my destitution, and give me the courage to live precariously, trusting only in you.

A Benediction

Go forward into life with confidence in one thing alone - the blessedness which comes to those who abandon themselves in the presence of God. Accept your 'spiritual poverty' as a gift from God and rejoice in the freedom of destitution.

Still Waters Deep Waters, ed. Rowland Croucher, chapter 38.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Where there is no vision, the people perish.

And the Lord answered me: 'Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.'

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, 'Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.'... They said to one another, 'Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild beast has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.'

But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'

(Proverbs 29: 18, KJV; Habakkuk 2: 2-3, RSV; Genesis 37: 5-7, 19-20, RSV; Matthew 1: 20-21, RSV)

'Here comes this dreamer.' Joseph is remembered in the biblical story as a dreamer and interpreter of dreams. He sees what others cannot yet see and pictures what others cannot yet imagine. In his dreaming he is the bearer of a divine vision; the vision of God's new future which is about to break into the history of Israel and transform it.

In something like this sense, Christians are called to be dreamers, people captured and captivated by the vision of the new creation which God is working in history. We are bearers of the dream of the kingdom which was incarnate in Jesus and which has been reflected and refracted, forgotten and recovered, in all the generations since. Until now, in our time, we become visionaries of God's justice and mercy, seers of God's love and peace.

But the dream is threatening. The dreamer dangerous. Joseph's brothers react angrily to his dream of the sheaves (and the stars, the sun and the moon!). They want to be rid of him and his troublesome visions. 'Come let us kill him,' they say.

The revelation of God always meets with resistance. For the dream of God's coming future inevitably challenges the finitude and fallibility of our present realities and complacencies. It happened to Jesus, whose coming into the world was announced by the angel to that other Joseph in another dream. Jesus, God's self-revelation, his dream incarnate, precipitated the same violent reaction.

'Come, let us kill him before his dream undoes the world as we know it and control it.' Every disciple thereafter who has sought to become a secondary bearer of the vision of Christ has found the same: to be a dreamer after God's heart means to take up a cross.

'And we shall see what shall become of his dreams.' There is irony in these last words of the brothers. They were determined that Joseph's dream would come to nothing and so leave their world unchallenged and untouched. But their very actions against him became the impetus that set in motion that long journey which took Joseph to Egypt and to power; power which, years later, put him in a position to supply food and shelter to his family now in desperate need. The sheaves did come and bow down. The vision was fulfilled. God's revelation reaches its goal even -- indeed especially -- through the cross.

But how strangely. Never for a moment did the young (and arrogant!)

dreamer suspect the tortuous dance his dream would lead him. The rejection of his family, the faked death, the horrible pit, the slave auction, refugee status in Egypt, poverty, false accusation, sexual harassment, prison, the threat of execution, years of hard labour. All this lay between the dream and its fulfilment. And only in the treading out of that journey did the vision prove its power.

So it was with Jesus. Announced in the initial dream as 'saviour of his people', he had to make that long journey from Nazareth to Calvary before the vision declared itself finally, bursting forth on resurrection morning in unquenchable light and irrepressible life.

Vision, conflict, sacrifice, fulfilment. These are the dynamics of revelation in the world. And they are the dynamics we will discover when we venture to take up the dream, the dream of God's grace and truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; Be thou my best thought in the day and the night, Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Ancient Irish

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -- Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 'God's Grandeur'

When we are open we find that the depths of ourselves are revealed to us. God presents us with ourselves, and then, as we work with him to understand and grow, he draws us closer to himself. Dreams and the understanding of them seem to be one way in which God pours out his love upon us and helps us become what we are capable of becoming.

Morton Kelsey, Dreams: A Way to Listen to God

Of course, the great change that has overtaken the theology of sleep is that the ancients believed dreams to be premonitory of the unborn future, whereas we moderns regard them rather as uprisings from the half-buried past. But this difference of interpretation does not at all affect Christianity's main contention that God can be with us even in our dreams. We are too apt to think that our dreams come to us by 'mere chance, that there is no rhyme or reason about them; yet such a notion is quite as much opposed by the modern Freudians as by the ancient soothsayers. Again, we think that we have no control over our dreams, and it is indeed true that we have no direct control over them -- we cannot, as we lie awake, decide what we are going to dream about after we go to sleep. Never theless, we can be certain that the power which controls our dreams is the same power that controls our life as a whole. If we have surrendered our hearts to God in the sunlight, he will be with us no less during the hours of darkness.

John Baillie, Christian Devotion

The characteristic way of a prophet in Israel is that of poetry and lyric. The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost noth ing. The same royal consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger... It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king [i.e. the powers of the status quo] wants to urge as the only thinkable one.

Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

The notion of revelation describes the condition... by which I mean that something profoundly convulsive and disturbing suddenly becomes visible and audible with in describable definiteness and exactness. One hears -- one does not seek; one takes -- one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightning, inevitably without hesitation -- I have never had any choice about it.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Revelation means the moment in our history through which we know ourselves to be known from beginning to end, in which we are apprehended by the knower: it means the self-disclosing of that eternal knower. Revela tion means the moment in which we are surprised by the knowledge of someone there in the darkness and void of human life; it means the self-disclosure of light in our darkness. Revelation is the moment in which we find our judging selves to be judged not by ourselves or our neigh bours, but by one who knows the final secrets of the heart; revelation means the self-disclosure of the judge. Revela tion means that we find ourselves to be valued rather than valuing and that all our values are transvaluated by the activity of a universal valuer.

When a price is put upon our heads, which is not our price, when the unfairness of all the fair prices we have placed on things is shown up; when the great riches of God reduce our wealth to poverty, that is revelation. When we find out that we are no longer thinking him, but that he first thought us, that is revelation.

H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation

A Christianity which does not resist the cross of reality, but rather takes it up, communicates to society the power of the spirit -- the spirit which, in the midst of tempta tions, ruptured relationships, pain and absurdity, gives the miracle of endurance and continuance; the spirit of hope where there was nothing to hope for, the spirit of him who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Romans 4: 17f). Faith which stands the test of love, verities the presence of this spirit. There is no other spirit in which the present social reality can be brought into relationship with the absolute, with God. Without this spirit, the 'fury of disappearing' con fronts humanity.

Jurgen Moltmann, Hope and Planning

O Lord, for the power and persistence and glory of your vision, given through the ages to prophets, seers, dreamers and visionaries, we give you thanks. For those moments when something of that same great vision has dawned, bold and vivid, upon our own hearts, we are grateful. We pray now that the power of your revelation, present in our history in Jesus Christ, may revitalise our stale customs, challenge and transform our unjust politics and create anew our tired and self-centred religion.

Forgive us the dullness of mind that blurs the sharp freshness of your dream, and the timidity of heart that would rather play safe with the familiar than risk the adventure of a new path. Forgive the inertia of self-interest that beats against the movement of your spirit because it asks for the taking up of a cross in the journey of faith. Forgive us for the times when we confuse the petty dreams of our own imagination with the great vision of the new creation in Jesus Christ.

Reveal yourself to us again, 0 God. Show us your glory. Revive that vision without which we perish. Let the reality of your kingdom, manifest in the words and deeds and destiny of Jesus, break in upon us and upon our world, judging, healing, reconciling and restoring. Grant us courage not merely to see that vision, nor merely to celebrate it in word and song, but to live it out in the great and small moments of our daily lives. And to your name be all honour and glory and power, now and forever. Amen.

A Benediction

Let us go out from our customs and our habits and learn to hope from the Bible. Let us go out and cross the frontiers so that we may infect life with hope. Let us ignore the barriers, and look only to the one who breaks them down. He is risen. Jesus is risen indeed. Blessed be the Lord for ever and ever.

Jurgen Moltmann, The Power of the Powerless

Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, (Albatross/Lion) chapter 52.

Monday, February 11, 2008


(Helmut Thielicke)

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go free, for nothing... But if the slave plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go free,' then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl;and he shall serve him for life.'

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.'

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' They answered him, 'We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, "You will be made free"?' Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.'

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

(Exodus 21: 2, 5-6; Luke 4: 16-19; John 8: 31-36; 2 Corinthians 3:17 -- all RSV)

Most Sunday afternoons before I was married, our living room was the scene of a theological battle. My father was an amateur theologian and my fiance was a theological student, but they were seldom in agreement. The conflict ranged far and wide throughout the scriptures and beyond, but in the end it usually focussed on one major point of contention: Is liberty the basic component of the Christian gospel or is love?

My father contended that liberty must have priority for it is impossible for love to flourish unless it is free. Love cannot be forced or manipulated. It cannot truly be love unless it is love freely given. Even God does not force his love upon a resisting person.

On the other hand, my fiance argued that love must take first place for it is only out of an attitude of love that liberty can be'granted. As long as there is self-interest or suspicion or rivalry, we will try to force people to our own ends. When we truly love people we are willing to grant them freedom. After all, is it not the proof of God's prior love for us that he allows the freedom to accept him or reject him?

It was a circular argument, a bit like the chicken and the egg. Each quality is dependent on the other. In fact, they must be coexistent if they are to exist in any absolute sense. Love is the atmosphere in which true liberty exists, while liberty creates and increases the opportunity for love. Paul tells us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. His presence liberates us from the human bonds which enslave us. He is reflecting the manifesto of Jesus in Luke 4: 18. Does this mean that where there is no liberty, the Spirit of the Lord is not present? That could be a sobering thought. But Paul also tells us that the Spirit of the Lord produces certain qualities in our lives and the foremost of these is love. Love, liberty and the presence of the Holy Spirit seem to go together.

This kind of thinking worries some people. Surely without a code of law, human weakness will run riot and the Christian's life will collapse into chaos.

Yet love is not wishywashy. It is tough. Our love restricts our liberty and prevents it from bursting out into selfish licence. If we love our Christian brothers and sisters we will not try to force them into our mould as though we alone had access to the Spirit of God. We will care enough for them to set them free to work out God's plan for them, whatever that may be.

Love will not allow us to exercise our liberty in such a way as to harm another, even it if means we have to make sacrifices ourselves. Love will not allow us to be judgmental or divisive. We are not free from our brothers and sisters, but free for them. In the same way we are not free from the world, but we are free for the world.

Our love for our Lord releases us into his service. When we bow the knee to him he does not take our freedom from us, but he wills us to be free. We show our love by surrendering to his will and in that surrender we gain a freedom we had never dreamed of.

As always, the truth lies in paradox. The old illustration in the book of Exodus expresses it all. No-one is more free than a voluntary slave. Yet even there Jesus has the last word. We may see ourselves as slaves, but God sees us as his children -- free children in his household.

Everything depends not on our merely reacting, but rather upon our learning to undergo that transformation of vision that took place in the eyes of Jesus when he looked at his enemies, upon seeing in the functionaries and fanatical ideologists the hidden brothers and sisters of our Lord, for whom he died and whom he bought with a great price.

If we allow him to give us that vision we shall experience a miracle: will become inwardly free from the other's oppression and our witness will gain in authority. Nothing like this ever happens anywhere else in the world with its law of retaliation. It happens only where Jesus Christ rules and calls us to the freedom of those who love.

Helmut Thielicke, The Freedom of the Christian Man

If freedom is truth in action and if Jesus Christ and God are one, then freedom in the [fie of any Christian must be simply God in action. God in action, freeing the human mind from the need to follow the herd, from the need to despise, from the need to prejudge, from the need to love inadequately... God in action on behalf of our release from all that binds us, from all that makes us stupid, insensitive; from all that makes us mimics, erratic halfdoers, living only on the surface and in the margins of life.

Eugenia Price, Where God Offers Freedom

The commandment 'love your enemies' has always constituted a certain offence to the ordinary human mind. In the first place, how can anybody command me to love? Is not love a spontaneous act which occurs of itself quite independent of any external pressure? So how can I be enjoined to love, of all people, my enemies?...

When Jesus prayed for them and thus broke through to love for his enemies, this was not based upon an act of will that led to victory over himself. It was rather the result of a new way of seeing, a real act of seeing... He saw through and beyond the functions they were then performing against him and recognised in them the real human design that God intended, namely children of his Father in heaven and thus his brothers.

Helmut Thielicke, The Freedom of the Christian Man

Why then, doesn't Jesus Christ free Christians to disagree in love, to shun prejudice, to be sensitive, to share the sheer joy of knowing God? Why is it then that the one common indictment against us by the rest of the world is, that we tend to huddle in our parlours in self-righteous intensity over the God who said he came to set men free to live their lives in his strength and his love and his balance?

Eugenia Price, Where God Offers Freedom

Four tests of freedom:

1. Are you overly concerned about what others think of you?

2. Are you willing to become involved in the world's problems?

3. Are you primarily interested in others for what they can do for you?

4. Are you concerned about who is going to get the credit?

Howard Keeley

Freedom is a gift which God gives his people when they accept his love for them in Jesus Christ.

The authentic mark of the Christian style of life is that we live in God's freedom and transmit it to others. Yet we find ourselves living all too often not as free persons but as slaves. We fear to live freely because it means risking rejection, ridicule, the loss of others' love. We pretend, posture, cover up and live dishonestly. It is tragic that so many of us who have talked about God's unconditional love in Christ still continue to live closed lives before friends and fellow Christians.

Bruce Larson, Setting Men Free

A Christian is the most free lord of all and subject to none. A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.

Martin Luther

Pledge taken by the members of the non-violence movement led by Dr Martin Luther King:

1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

2. Remember always that the non-violent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.

3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.

4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.

5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all might be free.

6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.

8. Refrain from violence of fist, tongue or heart.

9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.

Martin Luther King

When you most belong to him, you most belong to yourself. Lowest at his feet you stand straightest before everything else. Bound to him you walk the earth free. Fearing him you are afraid of nothing else. You bow to him, but you do not bow to anything else. You are God's freeman, for you are God's slave. The strongest persons are those most surrendered to God; the weakest persons are those most surrendered to themselves.

E. Stanley Jones

I love, I love my Master, I will not go out free,

For he is my redeemer; he paid the price for me.

I would not leave his service, it is so sweet and blest;

And in the weariest moments he gives the truest rest.

My Master shed his life-blood my vassal life to win,

And save me from the bondage of tyrant self and sin.

He chose me for his service and gave me power to choose

That blessed perfect freedom which 1 shall never lose.

Frances Ridley Havergal

Lord God, whom we freely choose to love and serve, we are astonished that you should choose not only to accept our service, but also to grant us total freedom as your sons and daughters. Help us to live in that freedom with love as our aim.

Teach us that freedom is not something to be grasped for ourselves, but something to be given freely to others. Since you do not bind burdens upon us, teach us not to bind burdens on others. Instead let us share the ministry of Jesus -- proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and liberty for the oppressed. Let the year of Jubilee begin!

A Benediction

May God, whose freedom is absolute and whose nature is love, teach us to show the world the freedom of the children of God. May the love of Jesus motivate our actions, and his mind control our thoughts. May the Holy Spirit find liberty in us so that his will may be done in our lives as it is in heaven. Amen.

Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys (Albatross/Lion), chapter 48

Sunday, February 3, 2008


They did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.

Jesus said to them, 'My food is doing the will of him who sent me, and finishing the work he has given me. Don't you say, "Four months more and then comes the harvest"? But I tell you to open your eyes and look at the fields -- they are gleaming white, all ready for the harvest!'

This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 'Follow me!' Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them... When Peter saw him he asked, 'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.' Because of this, the rumour spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'

He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall be my witnesses.'

(Luke 2: 50, RSV; John 4: 34-35, Phillips; John 10: 6, RSV; John 21: 17b-23, NIV; Acts 1: 7-8, RSV)

There were many times when Jesus' followers misunderstood him. Worse, there is evidence that they developed their own beliefs, theories and practices around their misunderstanding. Then they dignified their errors by claiming that they were acting by his word and with his authority and blessing.

Such phenomena have blighted the church in every period of history, including the present. We are probably all guilty of it to some extent.

After Peter had renewed his confession of love for Jesus, as they walked together by the Sea of Galilee, Peter became curious about what Jesus had in store for others. He enquired about John. Jesus replied, 'If John lives on until I come again, what business is that of yours?' That was the fact. But it didn't take long for the simple, direct word of Jesus to be woven into a theory about the second coming. The rumour spread that John would not die before Jesus came!

So when John was knocking ninety, speculation intensified and the air was filled with anticipation of an imminent Parousia! Some left their crops unsown and unreaped. Some deserted their families and neglected their houses. So the Gospel writer felt it was high time to set the record straight. 'Jesus did not say that John would not die,' he insisted. 'He said only that if John lives on until I come, what business is that of yours?'

Such beliefs are held sincerely. That makes them all the more damaging. Apartheid is held by many sincere people as a divinely ordained order of society. This kind of thing usually happens when law is exalted above love, doctrine above relationships, and orthodoxy is mistaken for faith.

Christianity is not about speculation and theory. It is about loving relationship, obedience and real life.

The main reason we 'go off on such a tangent' is that it avoids the real and costly demands of discipleship. Sure, it is done unconsciously. It is a way of avoiding the 'follow me' demand. We take a word of Jesus, and rationalise it for our own comfort or prestige. Historically this has led to crusades, inquisitions and the proliferation of cults. Each claims the authority of the divine word.

But Jesus relentlessly brings us back to the issue, as he did with Peter. When the first disciples wanted to speculate about the time for the kingdom to come he said bluntly, 'It isn't for you to worry about times and seasons. These are set by the Father's authority. Here's the real issue -- you are to be witnesses to me. Here, first, then beyond. And now!'

We must not build on what Jesus didn't say. We know what he did say, both to Peter and to us: that is -- 'Follow me'!

Happy are the simple followers of Jesus Christ who have been overcome by his grace, and are able to sing the praises of the all-sufficient grace of Christ with humbleness of heart. Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.

Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them, the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

If we were willing to learn the meaning of real discipleship -- and actually become disciples, the church in the West would be transformed, and the resultant impact on society would be staggering.

David Watson

History is a distillation of rumour.

Thomas Carlyle, History of the French Revolution

Rumour is a pipe/ Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures/ And of so easy and so plain a stop/ That the blunt monster with uncounted heads/ The still-discordant wavering multitude/ Can play upon it.

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Lord, when I confess you as the truth, I become painfully aware that there are mechanisms within my being which are there for my protection. They protect me from emotional overload. But I have learnt, ever since I was little, to use them for self-protection. I can shut off unpleasant and demanding thoughts, I can rationalise my own actions and words, I can even convince myself that what I think, believe and do is your will and command. If I were totally honest and open, I would have to admit that many of them are self-justification for my own will. I don't always read your word deeply and honestly enough, I put words into your mouth, I argue from your silences.

I don't do this to be evasive or dishonest. At least, not consciously or deliberately. It happens because, like Peter, I am too afraid to face up to what Jesus is really saying to me.

It's more comfortable to develop theories -- even theologies -- which enable me to spiritualise your demands. It eases my conscience when I commit myself to doing something which is good -- but which is often a substitute for the best.

The words of yours I most need to hear are clear. They are not veiled in mystery. They are really too clear for my comfort.

But, like you did to Peter and to the rest of your followers, you relentlessly bring me back to the central issue. One by one you knock away the props of my excuses and rationalisations until it is again just you and me facing each other. No theories, no institutions, no programs, no techniques, no excuses and no bypaths open -- nothing in between. And it is then that I am compelled to hear your two most disquieting words -- 'Follow me'. I can no longer say, 'Lord, what about him? or her?' That's none of my business. I must follow. Please help me to be honest and faithful in my following.

And above all, remind me that following you also means being with you. And you in me. Following you means being in your presence, with your companionship, drawing on your strength.

May it be so today -- in all my tasks and responsibilities, small or large. Amen.

A Benediction

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in all goodness so that you may do his will. And may he make of us what he would have us be through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21 -- NEB

Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains, Deep Valleys (Albatross/Lion), chapter 46

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Moses... came to Horeb, the mountain of God... God ... said, '...the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo... And the Lord showed him all the land.

The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall... tell the people of Israel: You have seen... how I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself.'

The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain.

Jesus took [them] and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun.

A cloud... overshadowed them... And a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my son, my chosen... listen to him.'

God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

He said to them, 'Follow me'.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains.

(Exodus 3:1 and 5; Deuteronomy 34: 1; Exodus 19: 3; Ezekiel 11: 23; Matthew 17: 1-2; Luke 9: 35; Acts 2: 36; Hebrews 12: 1-2; Matthew 4: 19; Isaiah 2:2 -- all RSV)

One of the recreations of urban dwellers is to go for a long drive into the country, or to the mountains. Do you find, as I do, that it is restful for the eyes to have an occasional long view, instead of the shorter, limited view of suburbia? We need these times to break away from the routine of family life, of business life, of church life, and to take a long view, an overview of our total lifestyle. Have my priorities of time been wisely allotted? Have I made enough time for communication with my spouse, my children, my parents -- my Lord? Was that distur bance in my life so cataclysmic or, when viewed from the mountains, is it possible that God was shaking my earth just slightly so he could have more of my attention?

Think of some mountain-top experiences from scripture -- Abraham, called to give his son, but the Lord's promise, 'I will provide'; Moses, terrified at being called to a new responsibility and the Lord's promise, 'I will be with you'; Jesus, on Mount Hermon, on the way to probable death, experiencing transfiguration and being affirmed by his Father that the way. of the cross was the way that led to glory; the disciples on Mount Olivet who were assured by the ascending Christ of his power through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We are called to follow the steps of the Master up whatever mountain he has chosen for us. A man climbed a mountain as far as he could, then he marked the place, and returned, exhausted. On bewailing his misfortune a wise listener reminded him that each climber who makes a path and leaves markers makes it easier for the next people to go further.

May we each faithfully climb our particular mountain, making paths for others to follow which will lead them to higher peaks. Then may we have compassion on those who are hemmed in by the valleys of spiritual shortsightedness, limited by boulders of self-centredness, trapped by the forest of an unforgiving spirit. May we be empowered by the spirit of unconditional love, taking to others the message of a new view of life, seen from the mountain of the Lord.

Christ of the upward way My guide divine, Where thou hast set thy feet May I place mine; And move and march wherever thou hast trod, Keeping face forward up the hill of God.

Walter John Mathams

When you begin to pray aright you are on an ascending path. It will carry you to even greater heights, but as you climb you will become increasingly aware of your own littleness and of the immensity of the prospect. You will see your surroundings in relation to a higher heaven and a more distant horizon: mountains of difficulty will sink to molehills, ways will appear where no way declared itself and the sources of many streams be revealed.

Hugh Redwood, Practical Prayer

If one wants to climb mountains one must have a good base camp, a place where there are shelter and provisions, where one may receive nurture and rest before one ven tures forth again to seek another summit. Successful mountain climbers know that they must spend at least as much time, if not more, in tending to their base camp as they actually do in climbing mountains, for their survival is dependent upon their seeing to it that their base camp is sturdily constructed and well stocked.

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

I have often felt that my life was rather akin to mountaineering, with a clear goal to reach the highest peak. There may be a fairly long journey to reach the foothills before the real climb can be started. On the way up, the goal is often hidden from view by clouds, or by lesser peaks, but the original sight of the summit keeps us pressing on, despite weariness and even discouragement.

As I went down from the present peak into the valley between the mountains, I was often shadowed by the very peak I was enjoying. This I interpreted in a sense of failure and this often led to despair... I see now I was wrong... The going down was merely an initial moving forward towards the next higher ground.

Helen Roseveare, Give Me This Mountain

There is a path of service in which I would lead you where the grass is green, the pastures verdant. No foot has preceded you there. It is virgin territory. You shall walk with me because there is none other gone before to mark the way.

0 my child, you have crossed a bridge. Reach not back. Move on ahead and press into the fullness of all I have prepared for you. It is the blossoming of that which long ago was planted and for many years has been nurtured. It is waiting for you to step forward and receive.

As I have told you so often, keep your heart fixed on me. Only thus will you have the needed stamina to keep your own soul from falling into discouragement. Only by my power will you be able to stand. Focus on my footsteps.

Frances Roberts, On the Highroads of Surrender

How do you spot a miracle? Just look for a mountain. Look for a problem or a difficulty, because often the first way God reaches us is in a moment of pain.

Trouble never leaves you where it found you. It changes you, permanently. It either makes you bitter and tough and hard and cold and angry, or it'll turn you into a soft, gentle, compassionate, understanding, generous human being.

You know, if you've got a problem, I predict it's the beginning of a miracle, because what is the reason for mountains that God lets us run into? Some mountains are there to block us so that we won't run madly ahead and get ourselves in trouble. If a mountain is there to keep us from going into enemy territory, then the mountain indeed has been turned into a miracle.

Robert Schuller, Living Positively

She perceived that no-one who finds herself up on the slopes of the Kingdom of Love can possibly dogmatise about what is seen there, because it is only then that she comprehends how small a part of the glorious whole she sees. All she can do is to gasp with wonder, awe and thanksgiving, and to long with all her heart to go higher and to see and understand more. Paradoxical as it may seem, as she gazed out on dazzling vistas, so glorious that she could not look at them steadily or grasp their magnificent sweep, she often thought that the prayer which best expressed her heart's desire was that of the blind man, 'Lord, that I might receive my sight! Help me to open myself to more light. Help me to a fuller understanding'.

Hannah Hurnard, Hind's Feet on High Places, an allegory of a girl, formerly crippled, now walking on the High Mountains

Enlarge thou me in love, that with the inward palate of my heart I may taste how sweet it is to love, and to be dissolved and, as it were, to bathe myself in thy love.

Let me be possessed by love, mounting above myself, through excessive fervour and admiration.

Let me sing the song of love, let me follow thee, my beloved, on high; let my soul spend itself in thy praise, rejoicing through love.

Let me love thee more than myself, nor love myself but for thee; and in thee all that truly love thee, as the law of love commandeth, shining out from thyself.

Thomas a Kempis

Lord, forgive me for being blinded so often by the pressures of this world. Open my eyes so that I can see the mountain path up which you are calling me. Help me to keep my eyes on the risen Christ who knows the way I take and will never leave me comfortless. Thank you for your knowledge of me, of my gifts, of my dreams and for the way in which you incorporate them into your greater plans for your kingdom. Lord, I want to keep my eyes on the glistening peaks of your perfect will and your perfect love. I give myself to you again, for you to use on the mountains or in the valleys, as a guide or as a rescuer, as a sweeper of the paths or keeper of the rest-houses.

I praise you, Lord. I stretch out to reach you -- and find that you are there, ready to hold my hand. I praise and worship you.

A Benediction

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen.

Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, chapter 45

Thursday, January 24, 2008


All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.

So Jesus said to those who believed in him, 'If you obey my teaching you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'

You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

If we obey God's commands, then we are sure that we know him. If someone says that he knows him, but does not obey his commands, such a person is a liar and there is no truth in him. But whoever obeys his word is the one whose love for God has really been made perfect. This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God: whoever says that he remains in union with God should live just as Jesus Christ did.

What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. Whoever obeys God's commands lives in union with God and God lives in union with him. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.

This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for our brothers! If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which showsitself in action.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit.

Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father. When that day comes, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, cast out devils in your name, and in your name perform miracles?' Then I will tell them to their face, 'I never knew you: out of my sight, you and your wicked ways!'

(Philippians 3: 10-11, GNB; John 8: 31-32, GNB; John 5: 39-40, NIV; 1 John 2: 3-6, GNB; 1 John 3: 23-24, GNB; 1 John 3: 16-18, GNB; Galatians 5: 22-25, RSV; Matthew 7: 21-23, NEB)

The business of knowing God, and it is after all our chief business, is not so easily practised as it is talked about. For many of us 'knowing God' consists of having given intellectual assent to Christ's claims to duty and having accepted the fact that Christ died for our sins. We then blithely go through the routine of life, say a few mumbled prayers -- perhaps even on a daily basis -- study the Bible a little and regularly attend the services of the church. We might even be involved in volunteer ministry. We might just feel serious enough about the whole thing to tithe. For some, 'knowing God' may even have led them to attend Bible college or seminary -- perhaps even to engage in 'full-time' Christian ministry. But is this what is really meant by 'knowing God'? 'Knowing God' goes far deeper.

We parrot the phrase 'having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ'. But do we really understand what we are talking about? Do we realise that those words refer to 'intimate, constant companionship'? It is a relationship very much like being in the presence of one's best friend all day long and constantly interrupting the work or the silence for conversation wherein you reveal the deepest longing, pains, fears, joys and sorrows that you've experienced. And it is two-way conversation. How often do we really listen to God? Do we study the Bible simply to have more and better Bible knowledge? Or, do we study the scriptures to hear and see and know the Person behind them?

And does our knowledge really change us in any way? Indeed, we may become more 'mystical', more 'spiritual', and 'free'. But how does our companionship with God change the way we act towards others? Do we love more deeply, with greater sensitivity, greater practicality? In God's name how have we loved? With greater mercy, compassion and generosity? Have we loved only with our tongues and not with food, clothing and shelter for the poor? Or, have we loved in action, only to let our razor tongues destroy another child of the Father?

How well do we know God? How well do we image Christ? It is to that extent, and no further, that true knowledge of God dwells in us.

For you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.

Augustine, The Confessions

Thy beloved is of that nature, that he will admit of no rival; but will have thy heart alone, and sit on his throne as king.

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, 'Do it', or once abstained because he said, 'Do not do it'. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not do anything he tells you.

George MacDonald, Anthology

[We]... would rather receive salvation from God than God [who is] our salvation.

George MacDonald, Anthology

And here again we ought to observe that we are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which... merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart.

John Calvin, Institutes

Only [God] himself is completely and utterly sufficient to fulfil the will and longing of our souls. Nothing else can. The soul, when it is restored by grace, is made wholly sufficient to comprehend him fully by love. He cannot be comprehended by our intellect or any other person's -- or any angel's for that matter. For both we and they are created things... to the intellect, God... is forever unknowable ... to love, he is completely knowable.

The Cloud of Unknowing

Lift up your heart to God with humble love: and mean God himself, and not what you get out of him.

The Cloud of Unknowing

A man may sink by such slow degrees that, long after he is a devil, he may go on being a good churchman or a good dissenter and thinking himself a good Christian.

George MacDonald, Anthology

[Each of us] should render our account to God. No third person dares venture to intrude upon this accounting between God and the individual... the most ruinous evasion of all is to be hidden in the crowd in an attempt to escape God's supervision of us as an individual.

Soren Kierkegaard

Behind every saint stands another saint... I never learnt anything myself by my own old nose.

Baron von Huegel

That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This is the reason why we have no ease of heart or soul, for we are seeking our rest in trivial things that cannot satisfy, and not seeking to know God, almighty, all-wise, all good. He is true rest. It is his will that we should know him, and his pleasure that we should rest in him. Nothing less will satisfy us.

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

He alone is able to make himself known as he really is. We seek in reasoning and in the sciences, as in a bad copy, for what we neglect to see in an excellent original... We leave him for trifles, and disdain to hold converse with our king, who is always present in us. It is too little to love God and know him by what books tell us, or by what we feel within, through a few worshipful ideas, or some inspiration. We must... lift ourselves above all that which we feel, to worship God and Jesus Christ... as they are in themselves.

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Come, 0 Fount of every blessing,

tune my heart to sing your grace;

streams of mercy never ceasing

call for songs of 1oudest praise.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger,

interposed his precious blood.

To your grace how great a debtor

I become in all I do;

let that grace now, like a fetter,

bind my wandering heart to you.

Prone to wander -- Lord, I feel it

prone to leave the God I love,

take my heart, Lord, take and seal it,

seal it in your courts above.

Robert Robinson

A Benediction

O Lord our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day; defend us in the same with your mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin; neither run into any kind of danger: but that all our doings may be ordered by your governance, to do always what is righteous in your sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


>From Rowland Croucher, ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys (Albatross/Lion), chapter 40

Friday, January 4, 2008


Do I make my plans like a worldly person, ready to say Yes and No at once? As surely as God is faithful our word... has not been Yes and No.

Test me, Lord, probe me, scrutinise my heart and mind: Your love is always my study, and your constancy my companion.

I mimic the deaf in hearing nothing, I mimic the dumb in not saying a word, I mimic the one who, since he hears nothing gives no sharp answer in return.

I mean to sing to the Lord all my life, I mean to play to my God as long as I live. May these thoughts of mine give the Lord as much delight as he gives me.

Dear friends, if our consciences do not condemn us, we approach God with confidence, and we obtain from him whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his commands and doing the things that please him.

My heart exults, my mind rejoices and my body can dwell secure, knowing that you will not hand me over to Sheol and not put your friend within danger of the grave. Instead you will show me the path of life, the unbounded joy of living in your presence.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ whom we preached to you... was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

God is love and whoever continues to love keeps in union with God and God with him.

(2 Corinthians 1: 17-18, RSV; Psalm 26: 2-3, JB; Psalm 38: 13-14, JB; Psalm 104: 33-34, JB; 1 John 3: 21-22, Goodspeed; Psalm 16: 9-11, JB; 2 Corinthians 1: 19-20, RSV; 1 John 4: 16, Goodspeed)

It is prayer which alone makes good sense of the past, illumines the present and makes the future hopeful. In the first half of life we are immersed in doing. We test our strength and innocence against the flood of experience which comes upon us, even over us. We taste in order to become wise, we enter in so that we know, we seek in the hope of being found. There are so many possibilities presented to us that we hardly contain our impatience, an impatience which later surprises us, gives cause for regret. We don't call 'procure me possibility'; we hope only for sufficient time to buy up all the experience possible.

In the second half of life we emerge from this welter of sensation to find that our necessary immersion in the world has left scars upon us. There are some regrets, there is some emptiness and longing. We are not satisfied; whatever we were looking for, that was not it. Our successes have not filled us, though we own that they were worth the labour. Our failures have dimmed the bright image of ourselves we entertained. We look about us with a view both widened and restricted by our experience. The fine things we hear ourselves saying have no corresponding beauty within. We paint ourselves into a corner with the varnish of appearance, even as God troubles our hearts with truth.

Now is the time of emergence. God comforts us by leading us into prayer. Some old securities and certainties he renews with paradox. Pride and hardness of heart he commutes into vulnerability. The love which we dwelt upon but which was not within us he puts into hearts renewed in tenderness. The creation we largely ignored in pursuit of more glittering prizes he fills with grandeur. We were afraid of dying and he allowed it to touch us in failures and disappointments, and having fallen so far, he raises us to comfort and joy. He satisfies longing and makes it increase. The cry of wretchedness is the cry 'procure me possibility'. God knows the wretchedness, hears the cry, answers it in and by prayer. The life of prayer discovers true riches.

From the Christian point of view everything... should serve for edification.

The sort of learning which is not... edifying is precisely for that reason unchristian. Every thing that is Christian must bear some resemblance to the address which a physician makes beside the sick bed.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Salvation is humanly speaking the most impossible thing of all; but for God all things are possible. This is the fight of faith, which fights madly for possibility. For possibility is the only power to save. When one swoons, people shout for water, Eau-de-Cologne, Hoffman's Drops; but when one is about to despair the cry is, Procure me possibility, procure me possibility.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

We are free when we are living in a homeland, not when we are straying and breaking away. We are free when we are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within. We are free when we belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealised purpose.

D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

For only to faith is God alone of value, and God is God in that he desires nothing but faith... and just as faith is a trust which reaches out into the darkness, so God is the presence, affirmed in spite of every experience of his absence, of the one being who is worthy of faith, never disappoints, never fails, and deserves total reliance.

Gerhard Ebeling, Luther

It is from within us, deep down within us, that the new life proceeds and that means that anything which is not an expression of us will not be an expression of God either. In some sense the converse is also true. What is not an expression of God will not be a true expression of us.

Simon Tugwell, Reflections of the Beatitudes

If the soul loves God, its heart will not be turned in upon itself or preoccupied with its own pleasure and glory.

Rather, it will be intent upon giving honour and glory to God and upon giving him pleasure.

Francis Kelly Nemeck and Marie Theresa Coombs, The Spiritual Journey

We learn about sin only on the basis of the proclamation of grace and pardon.

Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity

He who is truly alive is free to die... the people who find death intolerable are those who have never been more than half alive... Death followed by resurrection, life through dying is the way things are. It is the principle of all existence. Hang on to what you have of life and you are lost. Let go, do the necessary dying and a fuller, richer quality of aliveness will be given to you.

John V. Taylor, Weep Not For Me

Being a child of yours, dear Father, is the best adulthood I've ever had! It's richer, by far than any combination of status, promotion, glittering things, beauty prizes and being 'special'. It gives me liberty to laugh at myself with enjoyment. Indeed, now I can grin and bear, laugh and be happy because you appreciate the joke and the joy better than I do. I am freed from envying the talent which others possess. I can say 'I don't know' without feeling the world reddening with embarrassment. 'Truth in the inward part' is what you give and it's wonderful, it's freedom! I see that I'm more ordinary than I thought and that others are deeper, more interesting, more loveable than I used to think. And the poor, dear God, the poor! I see them, more and more. For these wonders and for all the possibilities that he will yet draw from them, may God be praised!


A Benediction

On your head let there be humour,
In your breast let there be peace,
Out of your eyes much seeing,
Out of your words much ease.

Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys (Albatross/Lion 1991/1994) chapter 39