“Transformation occurs only in the liturgy and not in the world, there bread and wine remain hoarded, but not offered, concentrated and not broken, maldistributed and not shared. The Eucharist becomes a freak, a contradiction of social reality, instead of a pointer to how reality should be reshaped. If we then go back to read the early Christian Fathers we find how far we have come from their understanding. St. John Chrysostom draws the closest connection between the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and his real presence in the poor and oppressed. We need to recover this connection between the Sacraments and the structures of the world, and to take seriously the social and political consequences of being one body in Christ.”—Kenneth Leech, Prayer and Prophecy, 238. (via letlovemeetlove)
In our American arena of privileges and endless possibilities, our reckless obsession with individual choice, we have made our own preferences the fullest measure of our spiritual obedience. Any impediment to pleasure is now an experience of suffering. We live in a candy store of options, all of them geared to satisfy our cravings for entertainment, inspiration, novelty, exhilaration; to deny us our cravings is inexcusable.
No wonder we can’t remain in a church. Who can ever please all the people all the time? And what about other Christian practices? We call them “disciplines” for a reason. Ancient Christian practices were never about pleasure; they were about transforming us, helping us make that long transition from being children tossed in the wind to being ammas and abbas trained in ways of holiness. God likes us to see us happy, indeed. But there is more. Even dutiful boredom has its place in the rhythms of a mature Christian life. Or it used to.
The historical development of Lent corresponded to the construction of a Christian culture and thus the redemption of cultural life. It formed part of the message that upon entering the faith, the individual entered into an alternative way of existing in the world in which time was understood differently. The patterns of one’s existence now corresponded to a new narrative about the history of the world as one of creation and redemption in and through Jesus Christ. This is the link between the fasting and prayer that catechumens engaged in prior to undergoing baptism, confirmation, and first Eucharist and the incorporation of those practices into a Lenten season as part of the movement toward Easter.
As a cultural practice, then, Lent concerns the ongoing mission of the churches. Sometimes pastors or priests will talk about Lent as part of an individual’s ongoing conversion, because the person enters a prolonged period of heightened spiritual awareness in which acts of repentance and acts of mercy form the preparation for Easter celebration. While this may personalize Lent, the global culture that it communicates relates more to cosmic salvation and the mission to bring all of life under the authority of Christ. It may be that the importance of Lent resides in its reminder of the continuing mission to transform culture by the creation of new cultural forms of life that attest to the arrival of a new race of people.
So far, the earliest known prayer to the Virgin Mary is known as “Beneath thy compassion” (Greek: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν). The earliest text of this hymn was found in a Christmas liturgy of the third century. It is written in Greek and dates to approximately 250 A.D.
In 1917, the John Rylands Library in Manchester acquired a large panel of Egyptian papyrus including the 18 cm by 9.4 cm fragment shown at left, containing the text of this prayer in Greek.
C.H. Roberts published this document in 1938. His colleague E. Lobel, with whom he collaborated in editing the Oxyrhynchus papyri, basing his arguments on paleographic analysis, argued that the text could not possibly be older than the third century, and most probably was written between 250 and 300. This hymn thus precedes the “Hail Mary“ in Christian prayer by several centuries.
On the papyrus: .ΠΟ ΕΥCΠΑ ΚΑΤΑΦΕ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕΤ ΙΚΕCΙΑCΜΗΠΑ ΕΙΔΗCΕΜΠΕΡΙCTAC AΛΛΕΚΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ …ΡΥCΑΙΗΜΑC MONH …HEΥΛΟΓ
In English: Beneath your compassion we take refuge, Theotokos! Our prayers, do not despise in necessities, but from danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed one.
Interestingly, the hymn calls Mary Theotokos (“she who gave birth to God”) two centuries before the Nestorian heresy arose. By the fourth century, the term was already popular in the area of Alexandria (St. Alexander of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Serapion of Thmuis, Didymus the Blind), and also in Arabia (Titus of Bostra), in Palestine (Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Cyril of Jerusalem), Cappadocia (St. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, Severian of Gabala.)
The term Theotokos may be encountered during the previous century as well in the work of the Alexandrian school. According to the testimony of the ecclesiastical historian Socrates (Hist. Eccl. VII, 32 – PG 67, 812 B), Origen used it in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. This commentary is unfortunately now lost, but Origen’s disciple, Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, also used the term Theotokos around the year 250 in an extant epistle to Paul of Samosata. It is interesting to note that the term did not remain a mere theological concept, but was actively and popularly used in public services of prayer.
Of course this hymn is familiar to Orthodox Christians, who still sing it at the end of nearly every Vespers (evening prayer) service during the fasting season of Lent. It is also found prominently in the liturgies of the Oriental churches and in Roman Catholic worship.
“Some readers may find it surprising to learn that a woman shortage blighted the ancient world, with about 130-140 men for every 100 women. This is so because many female infants were left to die of exposure and because of the mortal risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Yet both Christians and their critics observed a marked overrepresentation of women in the early churches, a fact the critics used to their advantage: “What respectable group caters to women?” Why, one wonders, did so many women find the churches appealing if women’s contributions were not valued? The answer is, simply, that the early churches did value women’s contributions. Not only did women show their strength in numbers, they did so in leadership positions as well.”—The Power and Presence of Women In The Earliest Churches (via azspot)
My problem was that I owned a Bible. And that Bible talks a lot about “church.” Some might find it odd, though, that when the Bible talks about church, it doesn’t talk so much about hymnals, pews, and pulpits; the Apostle Paul’s favorite word when talking about what church is and does is “reconciliation.”
Paul says crazy things like “God reconciled us to himself, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” and “He (Jesus) is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
In those fumbling, early days of the church the biggest issue in the church was the church. How are these Jews and Gentiles, people who are so fundamentally different from one another, going to get along?
Paul’s answer to the existential problems of race, religion, politics, and classism? Church!
The church is envisioned as the place — perhaps the only place — where those otherwise at odds find communion, common cause, and mutual love. It’s church where disparate interests, purposes, politics, and ideologies celebrate one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.
“Henry Chadwick, distinguished church historian and veteran observer of the ecumenical scene, is fond of remarking that the chief reason for Christian division today is division itself. Whatever may have been the issues initially leading to division, a division once established very quickly takes on a life of its own, as each side tries to justify its own role in the division. Differences that would not in themselves have been church-dividing are invested with new meaning, to the point of becoming symbols of division rather than examples of legitimate diversity. Signs of particular divine favor are discovered on each side, whether in supernatural portents or in the steadfastness of new confessors and martyrs. Competing ecclesial structures are erected. Anathemas are hurled. And even if the issues that led to the division are eventually resolved, the division itself - buttressed in these many ways - remains.”—
“This is the only definition of relevance the Church needs to care about – does our common life look like Christ’s? Is the pattern of our common life one that is relevant not to the world around us but imitates, with all our heart, and soul, and mind, the one who came among us to serve?”—The Irrelevance of Relevance
“God is not dead — nor is he an indifferent onlooker at what is going on in this world. One day He will make requisition for blood; He will call the oppressors to account. Justice may sleep, but it never dies. The individual, race, or nation which does wrong, which sets at defiance God’s great law… will be sure, sooner or later, to pay the penalty. We reap as we sow. With what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again.”—
Rev. Francis Grimké, “A Resemblance and a Contrast between the American Negro and the Children of Israel, in Egypt, or the Duty of the Negro to Contend Earnestly for His Rights Guaranteed under the Constitution,” 1902.
Rev. Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister in Washington, DC, at the turn of the 20th Century. Born to an enslaved mother, he went to Howard University and then Princeton Theological Seminary after emancipation. In the shadow of the failed Reconstruction, his preaching emphasized the providence and almighty power of God to justify and rescue African-Americans and redeem the racist America — and he helped to shape the form of black preaching as it came into its own.
An early accusation against the Christian movement is that they were cannibals, and, therefore, murderers. Athenagoras, an Alexandrian Christian writing towards the end of the 2nd century, directed a letter to the emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius…
“To me, the trouble with Creationism is that it suggests not only did God make the world He went on sort of anxiously fiddling with it; so, it’s not just a matter of God creating the world right at the start, but every so often God gives a little twitch to the mechanism; and that suggests to me that perhaps it wasn’t good enough to start with; and that’s not any great compliment to God.”—The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams (via ffirouzeh)
“Many young people have come here and worked with us, and they tell us after a while that they have learned a lot and are grateful to us, but they disagree with us on various matters – our pacifism, our opposition to the death penalty, our interest in small communities, and our opposition to the coercive power of the state. You people are impractical, they tell us, nice idealists, but not headed anywhere big and important. They are right. We are impractical, as one of us put it, as impractical as Calvary. There is no point in trying to make us into something we are not. We are not another Community Fund group, anxious to help people with some bread and butter and a cup of coffee or tea. We feed the hungry, yes; we try to shelter the homeless and give them clothes, if we have some, but there is a strong faith at work; we pray. If an outsider who comes to visit doesn’t pay attention to our praying and what that means, then he’ll miss the whole point of things. We are here to bear witness to our Lord. We are here to follow His lead. We are here to celebrate Him through these works of mercy. We are here, I repeat, to follow His lead – to oppose war and the murder of our fellow human beings, to reach out to all we see and meet.”—Dorothy Day (via sapphicsass)
“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.”—Tertullian, in a letter to his wife (via darkenedanddazzled)
“The Bible, the sacred text of the church of Jesus, is true, and is even authoritative for the people of God, but only in the sense that it bears witness to the eschatalogical event of the Messiah – his life, death, resurrection, and ascension – and throws the door wide open for an ongoing, unfolding realization of this event. What I mean is, even beyond being an incarnational narrative, the scriptures are witnessing to the defining moment in history that sets a trajectory for an eternal – literally, unending, unlimited, unstoppable – future.”—The Bible is NOT Inerrant (But It IS Eschatological)
“A fourth consequence [of God’s humanity]: the sense and sound of our voice must be fundamentally positive. Proclamation of the covenant of God with man, announcement of the place which is once for all opened and assigned to man in this covenant, the message of Immanuel, the message of Christ – this is the task. The dialogue and encounter which are our theological theme involve God’s grace and man’s gratitude. To open up again the abyss closed in Jesus Christ cannot be our task. Man is not good: that is indeed true and must once more be asserted. God does not turn toward him without uttering an inexorable ‘No’ to his transgression. Thus theology has no choice but to put this ‘No’ into words within the framework of its theme. However, it must be the ‘No’ which Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself for us men, in order that it may no longer affect us and that we may no longer place ourselves under it. What takes place in God’s humanity is, since it includes that ‘No’ in itself, the affirmation of man.
The direction of our word is given therewith. The man with whom we have to do in ourselves and in others, though a rebel, a sluggard, a hypocrite, is likewise the creature to whom his Creator is faithful and not unfaithful. But there is still more: he is the being whom God has loved, loves, and will love, because He has substituted Himself in Jesus Christ and made Himself the guarantee… And with this explanation the statement that the human spirit is naturally Christian may also be valid as an obstinately joyful proclamation. That is what we have to testify to men in view of the humanism of God, irrespective of the more or less dense godlessness of their humanism – everything else must be valid only in the framework of this statement and promise.”
“One of the most sensuous and beautiful love poems ever written in Western Literature appears in the Old Testament of the Bible. Hidden between the pronouncements of Ecclesiastes and the visions of Isaiah, the Song of Songs tells us in powerfully seductive images of the passionate longing of young lovers: ”You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one of your glances, with one chain of your necklace. How fair is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the smell of your ointment than all spices!” In first-century Palestine the Song of Songs was sung in taverns. Yet in the Middle Ages, the love poetry of the text held a deep fascination for monks and nuns. This erotic masterpiece has always carried with it something more than merely a sensual attraction. Christian mystics used its language to express their longing for God. Monks in the Middle Ages made it the most copied book of the Bible. In fact, even to think of Jewish spirituality without the Song of Songs is not possible. It is deeply embedded in our Judeo-Christian literary tradition. The Song of Songs has inspired more common quotations in English for its length than any other book of the Bible. Today in wedding ceremonies it is often quoted. The character of this short text, however, has been much debated for at least two thousand years. Is it simply an erotic love poem that somehow found its way into the text of the Old Testament? Is it an allegory, to be interpreted by one of various theological approaches? How has this text been visualized? To understand the richness of the Song of Songs, it is necessary to consider the controversies over the relation between physical and spiritual love, the role of eroticism in the Bible, and the way in which the Song of Songs has been depicted artistically.”—Carl W. Ernst
“Leave it at this: a church that has come to tolerate remarriage after divorce cites the teaching of Jesus and its own tradition (including the plain text of its own traditional marriage liturgy) as a reason not to include same-sex couples. It is as if we were living on Animal Farm: the values of monogamy, permanent fidelity and mutual love (which the document cites as evident in at least some same-sex relationships) can be erased from the constitution, leaving only “man” and “woman” — the crucial defining adjective “one” no longer being applicable, even, as has been noted, for the likely future governor of the church. The Bishops have hinged the sole significant virtue (fidelity and so on being all very well but not restricted to mixed-sex couples) upon heterosexuality itself. Gender has become a virtue, and virtue insignificant. And they have the gumption to call this the teaching of Christ.”—“Incoherent Hypocrisy”
I would like to suggest that alongside the familiar Quadrilateral we consider another structure that for want of a better term I’ve called the Anglican Triad (with apologies to those who use this term for what is often known, incorrectly, as “Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool.”) This Triad consists of three elements which I think are particularly characteristic of Anglicanism — not necessarily unique to it, but together constituting a unity which I fear is at present very much under assault.
For shorthand I will call these three elements Humility, Provinciality, and Variety. They stand in the via media between Humiliation, Provincialism, and Chaos at one extreme, and Pride, Centralism and Uniformity at the other. All three are well attested in foundational documents of the “Anglican Way.” (The Articles of Religion, the Prefaces to the English and American Books of Common Prayer) and in the work of those who first focused the Anglican vision, such as Richard Hooker
“Recent events around the world show us that sitting on the sidelines is no longer permissible — especially for Christians. We cannot let others speak for Jesus. Our faith is being used to do serious harm to LGBT people. Showing love for our neighbor today, as commanded by Jesus, means stepping up and standing in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.”—Christians Are a Cause of LGBT Oppression So We Have to Be a Part of the Liberation! (via azspot)
Unfortunately, it must be said, far too many Catholic homilies consist of merely touting various moralistic admonishments and
encouragements. Some such homilies fail even to be discernibly
Christian—many could very well be offered at the Rotary Club or
Unitarian Universalist Association. Be a good person. Care for others. Try to forgive. Love God better. Care about social justice. Et cetera. All of these messages are obviously good, but they must be animated,
motivated, and directed by the reality of the Gospel.
Homilies that peddle moralistic admonishments and encouragements are at bottom, no matter how nice sounding, massive failures to speak the truth; to reorient listeners to the one and only important reality…. The authentic Christian Gospel is the heart of what the Church has to say, the only starting point and ultimately the sum of what she is about. For Catholic homilies to say anything else while neglecting the Gospel is a massive failure.
“Jesus Christ is not a proposition, not a theological concept which exists merely in our heads. He is an event of liberation, a happening in the lives of oppressed people struggling for political freedom. Therefore, to know him is to encounter him in the history of the weak and the helpless.”—James Cone, God of the Oppressed (via thomasirby)
Hunger and poverty cannot be separated in analyzing the biblical material. Hunger accompanies poverty. Famine can strike an entire land, rich and poor alike, but it is still the poor who go hungry while the well-to-do buy food from other lands (cf. Gen. 12:10; 42:1-2). In both the Old and New Testaments hunger is linked with other terms describing those who have been forced by societal conditions into a marginal existence — the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed.
God especially loves and cares for the poor: “‘Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’” (Ps. 12:5). “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 29:19). “For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress” (Isa. 25:4). God will not forget or forsake the poor or the needy (Ps. 9:12, 17-18, 10:12; Isa. 41:17).
It is important to note that God’s love for the poor does not imply an acceptance of their condition. He loves them in order to deliver them from poverty. It is regarded as an evil (Prov. 15: 15), and God’s response is to deliver his people from it. God promises not merely to love the poor and the hungry but to be active in their behalf: “I will satisfy her poor with bread” (Ps. 132:15).
Because God has identified himself with the poor, so too the community of faith is called to special concern for these persons. In Israel care of the needy was not regarded as an act of voluntary benevolence. The poor were entitled to such benefits. Underlying this practice was the assumption that poverty and need were due to a breakdown in the equitable distribution of community resources or to a social status over which an individual had no control (widows, orphans). Thus, the responsibility for action lay with the privileged rather than with the poor themselves. By contrast, in our society it is commonly assumed that the poor and the hungry of the world ought to bear the major burdens of bettering their own condition.
“This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we severely fear punishment, not to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.”—St. Gregory of Nyssa (via sebastianmorris)
It may also be helpful to think of God’s relation to Joshua in the way that the author of Joshua used the king’s taxation document. Through the medium of the community of God, God picks up Joshua, adopts it and reappropriates it by adapting it (by means of placing it in new interpretative contexts within the canon and within the life of the community). The synagogue and the church do not consider Joshua as Holy Scripture on its own, in isolation from the rest of the Bible. It is Scripture only when read in the context of the canon and in the context of the community of God. Likewise, it is authoritative only when engaged with in such contexts. It is not a stand-alone authoritative text! Removed from the right reading contexts it is not Scripture at all, even if we think that God was at work behind the scenes in its composition.
“I had grown weary of the clichéd church advertising that said, “We aren’t your grandmother’s church.” I understand what they mean by that. It’s a way of saying that our church has electric guitars rather than pipe organs. I didn’t grow up in churches with pipe organs, so I have no reason to be defensive about them now. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be annoyed with the careless language. The desire to cut ourselves off from those who came before us is no virtue. Even when we are flatly, and perhaps rightly, embarrassed by the behavior or the history of our churches on some level, we still exist in continuity with them. We are forever tethered to our grandmother’s church, and this is as it should be. Our grandmother’s church has given us many good gifts. But even when it has been very wrong, it still belongs to us.”—Jonathan Martin (via azspot)
In [Matthew 2, the evangelist describes] Gentile magi coming to worship the King of the Jews guided by divine revelation through the star, while Jewish leaders who have more precise revelation available in the Scrptures (Herod, the chief priests, and the scribes) seek to kill him - note the plural in 2:20: “Those who sought the child’s life.” One might falsely assume that in Matthew’s dualistic view there are only good Gentiles and bad Jews. Rather, the hero of Matthew’s infancy story is Joseph, a very sensitive Jewish observer of the Law, who is brought through God’s revelation to accept Jesus, saving him from destruction. For Matthew it was perfectly possible to be simultaneously a Law-observant Jew and a Christian, since Jesus proclaimed that every jot and tittle of the Law would be preserved (5:18), praised those who kept even the least commandments (5:19), and appreciated scribes who could treasure what is new along with what is old (13:52). Such Law-observant, believing Jews preserved the memory of Jesus and through their proclamations made disciples of the Gentiles (28:19). Thus, in Joseph, the evangelist was portraying what he thought a Jew should be and probably what he himself was.
In the proclamation of the annunciation scene, this point is worth developing. There is a poignancy in Matthew’s Joseph, righteously concerned for the Law of God, but seeking also to prevent Mary’s public disgrace. Obviously, Matthew’s story may imply Joseph’s love for his bride, but we should not contrast too simply obedience to the Law and love as the opposing motives in his behavior. Rather, Joseph understands that the Law in all its complexity allows behavior that is sensitive, neither assuming the worst nor seeking the maximum punishment. That is why Matthew can reconcile a profound obedience to the Law with an acceptance of Jesus. His objection to the legalists is not that they keep God’s Law exactly, but that they do not understand the depth of God’s purpose in the Law. In 12:1-8 he will describe Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath, accused of condoning violations of the Law, but truly perceptive as to how God has acted in past applications of the Law. In the church of our own times where a mention of law may evoke legalism (either because of past memories or unimaginative enforcement by those who should be interpreting), Matthew’s sensitive description of a Law-obedient or righteous Joseph may give new import to the invocation “St. Joseph.”
”—Father Raymond E. Brown, S.S. Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year Kindle Location 1254
The Bible is unique in its disclosure of the standpoint of the victim, which means from the standpoint of the narratives, God takes the side of the victim. Not all narratives do this, but a new perspective emerges in Israel. What the people or crowd want is to justify itself and its past, and they do this by blaming someone for all their troubles. In moments of crisis caused by deep-seated rivalries a person is unjustly accused of some offense or crime. Or, as in the case of the Joseph story, the persecutors fear the person in question and are jealous of him. This is mimetic desire at work. The brothers of Joseph compete with him for the favor of their father, Jacob, but Jacob dotes on Joseph.
The brothers waylay Joseph and sell him into exile in Egypt. Later he is unjustly accused of rape by his Egyptian master’s wife and thrown into prison. When Joseph finally gains prestige and power, he uses them to save Egypt and to save his family. Though his brothers expect him to retaliate by taking their lives, he forgives them and affirms the providence of God working through his sufferings.
God’s siding with victims is especially prominent in the book of Psalms, which contains the first sustained outcries in world literature of the single victim who is persecuted by enemies. This theme in the psalms is brought to a poetic crystallization in the sufferings of Job, who recognizes he is a scapegoat of the crowd and cries to God for help. And of course many of the prophets oppose sacrifice, connecting it to shedding of blood (Isa. 1:15; Hos. 6:6-8) and denouncing the offering of children as victims (Mic. 6:7; Jer. 32:35). The greatest prophetic figure of fall, prior to Jesus, is the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 52:13-53:12), who is scapegoated by his people in Babylon and does not resist or protest. He is like a “lamb led to the slaughter,” the Lamb of God.
So from a purely anthropological viewpoint, the Bible unveils the victim mechanism that lies behind polytheism and mythology, but not only behind polytheism and mythology, for its full expression underlies everything we know as human culture. The Bible recognizes this in the story of Cain and Abel. Because Cain murders his brother, God bans him from the soil, making him a wanderer on the earth, and God puts a mark on him, a sign to protect him from suffering what he made Abel suffer. Then Cain builds the first city, and so civilization begins. The story in Genesis 4 tells us, in effect, that the sign of Cain ts the sign of civilization. The cross of Christ is the sign of salvation, which is revealed as the overcoming of mimetic desire and violence through the nonviolence of love and forgiveness.
”—James G. Williams, in the foreword to the English edition of I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard (Kindle Location 140)
“…the Judeo-Christian tradition is in a process of transforming our hermeneutic of sacrificial violence into a hermeneutic of mercy, forgiveness, and love. This tradition reveals that the true God is not one of the gods. The violent gods are idols, projections of our own violence. Indeed, a sacrificial strand runs through the Bible that claims God does desire sacrifice — that God is violent. But there is an alternative strand within the Bible that leads us away from sacrificial violence. The Psalmist says, “Sacrifice and offerings you do not want.” And God says through the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus lived, died, and resurrected by the mercy strand in the Bible. Jesus frequently quoted Hosea to reveal that his hermeneutic was one of mercy not sacrifice. When the crowd united against Jesus and yelled, “Crucify him!” Jesus hung on the cross and prayed that his persecutors would be forgiven. The words “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” is an anthropological statement that affirms mimetic theory.”—Flipping the Script: Mimetic Theory and the Nonviolent God (via azspot)
“Christians who reject supersessionism merely out of consideration for Jews have, in effect, given up on their own tradition. Christians who reject supersessionism for the sake of Christ are more reliable — and far more interesting — partners for the synagogue.”—Joseph L. Mangina
“Consumers want programs….But nowhere in the Epistles do you find the apostolic writers urging the church to develop programs. Instead all the teaching is about a way of life, and that way of life is taught and caught in the church as it sees itself as the continuation of God’s story in the world. For example, in the spirit of Paul calling us to be imitators of Christ daily, one might ask, “Who am I discipling? Who is discipling me? Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ?””—Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (via bethmaynard)
As recently as the 1990s, the National Council of Churches, the once great institution of mainstream liberal Christianity, still could make headlines. Under general secretary Joan Brown Campbell they raised money for burned black churches, (much of which forestalled the NCC’s own financial insolvency), stood with President Clinton during his confrontations with the new Republican Congress, and championed the return of little Elian Gonzalez to Castro’s Cuba. In the early 2000s, Campbell’s successor, former Democratic Congressman Bob Edgar helped keep the NCC alive with grants from secular liberal philanthropies.
But the NCC has continued to shrivel. Not long ago the NCC still had hundreds of employees (including its large relief agency, Church World Service), and was headquartered in New York at the imposing Interchurch Center on Riverside Drive, built by the Rockefellers as a headquarters for Mainline Protestantism next to Union Seminary and Riverside Church. By 2002, under Edgar, the NCC was reduced to thirty-eight employees and a budget of less than ten million dollars. Today, the NCC staff roster lists six persons and its latest budget is $1.4 million. And last year, the NCC quit New York after over half a century and relocated its sharply pared-down staff into the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
American Christianity very early on began to adapt itself to the culture of choice. The Great Awakenings (late 18th and early 19th centuries) pushed a theology of choice to the forefront of Christian existence. To be a Christian is to “make a decision for Christ.” “God has no grandchildren!” the revivalists proudly proclaimed. Those who were born into the Christian faith and Baptized as children, but had never made a conscious “decision for Christ” were considered less than Christian. Baptism as sacrament was treated as “empty” ritual. The “personal decision” became everything.
As time has gone by, this thinking has effected much of the modern Christian world. Many contemporary Christians would think that my above description is “traditional” Christianity – even normative, with the notion of infant baptism being a cultural innovation of the Middle Ages and a degeneration of “true” Christianity. However, decisional Christianity is less than 250 years old, and is simply an example of the Modern Project in Christian disguise. It is not the faith of the Fathers (once delivered to the saints).
“To be fully human is to be Christlike and thus Godlike in this kenotic and cruciform sense. Cruciformity, it turns out, is really theoformity. That is, in more traditionally Western theological language, imitatio Christi is really imitatio Dei. John Chrysostom, in the East, said as much in his homily on Phil 2:5-8: “For nothing so sustains the great and philosophic soul in the performance of good works as learning that through this one is becoming like God.” The [primarily] Eastern theological vocabularly for this process was, and is, theosis. The emphasis is on transformation by union, or participation, more than imitation, and is more appropriate than the language of imitatio, as we will see in later chapters. From either perspective, however, the key point for now is that human beings, including Adam, are most like God when they act kenotically. In Christ’s pre-existent and incarnate kenosis we see truly what God is truly like, and we simultaneously see truly what Adam/humanity truly should have been, truly was not, and now truly can be in Christ. Kenosis is theosis. To be like Christ crucified is to be both most godly and most human. Christification is divinization, and divinization is humanization.”—
Michael Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology
Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk.
If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth.
The encounter we are called to is with the Christ who is in the creche, on the cross, out of the tomb, breaking the bonds of Hell, and reigning in glory all at once in living memory. Each new believer is called to freshly live the Gospel story and know its shape as our own even as we tell it anew to the world around us.
He is calling us too to know ourselves as a Body both within and yet unbeholden to any one time – to know ourselves unbound by conceptions of time and place as we dwell deeper in the mystery he is revealing to us by water, cross, crown, and bread. That revelation is mediated by tradition but never captive to it. Death to old life means necessarily a death to even our most cherished imaginings of how Christ is reaching us, forming us, and calling us so that he might speak in fresh ways. It may mean a death to tradition so that we can embrace new life – so that living water might flow.
When the rich young ruler is called to give up all that he has to follow Christ – the choice is too painful to contemplate. We are being called, perhaps, to give up all that we think gives meaning and depth to a form of ecclesiastical martyrdom by which we know that all that stands as tradition, for us, may be in the way of deeper union – it may be undoing our fuller understanding. We are always being called to the place and person of Christ – to mirror his own self-gift and obedience. Once we allow tradition to be unquestioned and unquestionable then we are giving up an essential quality of Christ’s own mission – the undoing of human conceptions of what it means to relate to the Divine. As heirs of the promise, as the living Body, we are given the ability and the mandate to do even greater things.