A Holy Saturday kind-of Easter (on doubting the Resurrection)


Rothko-blue-and-gray

The culmination of Lent is Holy Weekend, prefaced by Maundy Thursday and consisting of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I realized that each year that I have been really intentional about my Lenten engagement, one of those four “Holy Days” seems to overshadow the the others and carry over into this Easter season (yes, it’s a season).

There are some years where the foreshadowing and ever-repeating Presence of Jesus in Communion makes Maundy Thursday the highlight (or lowlight?) of Lent. Some years, the utter darkness, weight, and drama of Good Friday overtake me and linger in my mind well into Easter season. And still others, no matter how I try to reflect and meditate on sinfulness and fallenness, I still can’t escape the lighted joy and horizon-cresting dawn of Easter, whose anticipation overshadows (or over-brightens?) my Lenten experience, making all the doom and gloom seem foreign to me.

For me, this year is a Holy Saturday kind-of Easter.
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Crying Over Spilt Rilke [Re-Blog]


Ran across this quote and post. They are both so good. I am all the more persuaded I need to open up the copy of Letters that I have sitting on my shelf right now. It gets cut off in the excerpt above, but here’s the whole Rilke quote:

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

The Narratician

“You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I recently came across a used copy of Letters to a Young Poet, which I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. As I was leafing through it in the book store, I noticed that there was…

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The Lord is Fleeting [photo sermon]


train-knitting-fleeting

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Fleeting“.

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A garden cool. A God at leisure. Lovers conspire. Nectar tasted.

The God is gone.

He appears in visitors and shapes and shadows, and as a voice to an ancient Babylonian:

“I will make you…”

The Babylonian’s faith is counted as righteousness, and deservedly so, for this man doesn’t hear the voice of God in any way for decades. (And I get mad when his voice leaves me for months.)

This God lets his people sit in slavery for hundreds of years. When his Chosen asks to see his Glory, He offers only the briefest glimpse of his back. When His People stray at Sinai, He still offers to give them every benefit that He promised–the land, the victory, and their identity. The only difference: He would send his angels with them and withdraw his own Presence.

They freak out.
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Change: God is Real [Guatemala, Day 4] [photo sermon]


church-philly-bw-cross-market-east

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Change“. I thought I’d take this chance to begin processing my time in Guatemala with Lemonade International.

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I don’t struggle with the plurality of beliefs about God. If there is a God, I am quite confident (as arrogant as it may sound) that Christianity is the proper understanding of Him.

Rather, my struggle is with the sense that God is there at all. Many of the posts on this blog have dealt with my open acknowledgment of my “inner atheist” (as I’ve called him several times), and how I’ve tried to deal with him.

I don’t know that I need to expound on this too much, as I’m confident many of the readers here get this already, but just in case: this doubt is not intellectual; it is existential. I often miss that abstract sense and “feeling” of God’s existence. Continue reading

Pain, Suffering, & the Story of God


[Update: this post inspired a comment (below), that I ended up responding to. The commenter responded to that, then I gave my final response, and then he gave his. Lastly, a friend posted her thoughts on the discussion as well. Follow the links to get in on the discussion.]

You know that proverbial flu bug that is perpetually in existence all over the country all at once on snowy days?  Yeah, well I’ve got it.  Starting yesterday, the back of my head and the top of my neck were struck by a throbbing pain, pulsating with every heartbeat; my body temperature playing the role of ping-pong ball between the paddles of heat and cold; my body aching with every move.

I went to sleep last night, tossing and turning for a long while hoping for the pain to subside by the time I woke.  I woke and felt great.  That is, while I was laying in my bed.  The moment I stood up and the blood rushed throughout my body, the pain, dizziness, and energy-sapping delirium of flu raged against me.  And then I went to work. Continue reading

“David Bazan: an Example for Christians After All?” – Patrol Magazine


bazanI’m having blogging withdrawal.  So sorry.  I’m still trying to find my rhythm with the new job.  I have several articles I’ve slowly been working on and others that I was working on, only to have the “moment” pass before they were done.  This is particularly true of some political articles I’ve been thinking through.  Just when I get an idea for a political article, the proper time passes before I’m actually able to get the thing written and published.  So once again, sorry.

But, I’m not slacking on my writing for Patrol Magazine.  Here’s the new article:

David Bazan: An Example for Christians After All?

As I said last week, I am the new Thursday blogger for the site.  My first article went up last week, and it was on Christopher Hitchens’ brother, Peter Hitchens.  This week’s article concerns a David Bazan show I went to early this week and some things this show taught me concerning my own spirituality.  So read and feel free to comment!

Philosophy & Theology {II} | “Christian” Existentialism [2]


A couple of days ago, I laid out some reasons why “Christian” Existentialism was not the end-all-be-all philosophical orientation for the Christian. But, as I explained in my first post in this series, Philosophy is not the enemy of theology. Rather, it can help us understand other finer points of theology by giving us new categories to think in. So, I proceeded to give three ways that Existentialism can inform our theology. The first way was that it helps us see sin in regard to our personal orientation to God. This post continues with two more ways:

Secondly, a big discussion in Existentialism the relationship between our “existence” and our “essence”.  I pointed out in the previous post that when god was asked by Moses “what’s your essence?” God answered “I exist”. This is the way it is with God. His nature and being are equated with His existence. He simply “is”. The big question concerning these two things in Existentialism is “which comes first?”. Classic Existentialism holds that our existence comes first and our essence is formed and shaped by our existence. This brings up some problems for the Christian. The Bible talks about our essences being known by God before we ever existed, but it also says that there’s something of our essence that is corrupt at its core. When God “knows” us before we exist, does he know our corrupted selves? Does God create us depraved? The Bible seems fairly clear in its representation of the nature of God that He doesn’t create and form our essences as corrupt, so it look likes the question is a bit more complicated than just “which comes first”.

Best I can figure, it looks like both essence and existence have narrative frameworks and are seen as whole things that are shaped through eternity past and future. In short, the story goes like this: God knows and forms our essence-1 (S1), which is pure and good in his sight. He then creates the world of existence-1 (X1) which is made good but then falls and gives way to a different realm of existence, existence-2 (X2).  At the moment this essence-1 enters into existence-1 (X1), it comes into the fallen world and becomes essence-2 (S2) which is corrupt. Christians, then, at conversion are changed at the very level of their essence such that they then become pure in essence (essence-3) living in a corrupt existence (existence-1 still). The rest of the life of the Christian is a slow work by God and others to bring more and more of this Christian’s life and existence in line with their now pure essence-3 (s3), to prepare them for existence-3 (X3). Existence-3 is when this created world/realm within which we exist is restored and glorified and finally our pure essences-3 are able to live in freedom and peace in pure existence-2 in glorified eternity.  Here’s what it looks like graphically:

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Lastly, there is a very important service that Existentialism lends to the spirituality of the Christian life. In Existentialism, there is a loss of the objectivity of knowledge. All we know is our existence, and that is a very small sphere of knowledge indeed. What this tenet of the philosophy does is create a very strong sense of angst. Existentialists carry the reputation for being very depressed people, seeing as they can know nothing more than (1) they exist, and (2) they can’t know more than that. We can be sure of no other knowledge. This makes you feel very small in a world of chaos that you can do nothing to change. This sort of worldview should make people very despairing, and it has for people such as Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus. But for others, like Jean-Paul Sarte and Soren Kierkegaard, Existentialism seemed to create a humble sobriety that actually allowed these men to enjoy life in a way many Christians could learn to do.

The Christian life is angst. It’s messy. It’s sloppy. That’s why it’s lived by faith – i.e. “trust”. Reality is such that we will be forced to have to trust our Creator to save us, because there really are no objective grounds (that we can know) upon which His salvation is based. This is because God knows He is the greatest of all things and our tendency is to drift from Him. It’s His love that makes us need to draw near. But, when we do, it shows us even more where we fall short and we cry out to God more. He draws even nearer and we are able to experience that One for whom our soul was made. Faith is not neat. Faith is not tidy. Faith is not naive. Faith is not imbecilic. Faith is having the courage to admit your finitude and inadequacy in order to be joined to and in communion with the Joy of joys, Peace of peaces, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

As one friend put it: “I will not resolve to embody that kind of [naive] faith ever again. So, I will read Scripture, asking God to communicate to me what in me is broken, what is unreconciled, what needs restoration, liberation, salvation. And I will sit at the foot of the cross, in the pain of who I am. And I will ask God for reconciliation, restoration, liberation, salvation. On the other side of it all, I will trust Christ more deeply. This is sanctification. This is working out my salvation in fear and trembling. And then, hopefully I will have caught my breath, and it will all begin again.”

Existentialism helps us recapture the “fear and trembling” part of working out our salvation (hence the title of Kierkegaard’s famous work).

I’ll end with perhaps my favorite set of quotes I have ever read. These have had such a profound impact on me and so reflect how I understand these things to be. These words are from the poet Joe Weil in an interview with Patrol Magazine. I leave you with these words that could have been written by the most quintessential existentialist:

“I once described faith as something I got on my shoe and can’t kick or wash off. I’m stuck with it. My poems are the trespasses and blasphemies of a malpracticing Christian, one who can’t stop ogling an attractive leg, or wanting to be first, who is venial, foolish, seldom at peace, horny and lonely, and so far from the kingdom of God that his whole life becomes the theme of that distance, someone knowing he is in deep shit. It’s the perfect place to be, where you can’t fool yourself into thinking you’re on the right track…The only thing I have to offer God is my sins. I am interested in mercy when it appears in places where you would never expect it. I am interested in love that shovels shit against the tide. I am interested in grace…It is better to be annihilated and crushed by God, if you are in love with God, then it is to have no relationship at all. Better God smite you then merely be absent. God does not ‘tolerate’ me. God loves me.”