Saturday, 26 July 2008

Becoming Alive

"I have come to appreciate the "worldliness" of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a being defined by religion, but is a man or a woman, pure and simple, just as Jesus became man... It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman, a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one... This is what I mean by worldliness -- taking all of life, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness... How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we so need to participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world?"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amidst a pleasant amble through the woods today, I sat and had lunch by a group of small drops in a stream, where the waters cascaded almost musically in the sunlight. It's a favourite spot -somewhere I've visited numerous times the last few years in both walks and as a back-drop for some of my photography.
As I sat there, chewing on my pastie, I noticed how the sunlight clearly showed a contrast between the parts of the stones above the water and those beneath the flowing current.
The area of the stones not affected by the water were, well, filthy - covered in earth and moss, clearly being overgrown by all their environment literally 'threw' upon them, but the area of the same stones below the water was a different story entirely. The brilliant light showed that these areas had not only been cleaned of all such debris, but 'polished' to expose a lush red colour - the natural state of the stone, glistening in the water. The difference was so striking, it reminded me of something a friend had once told me - of some large rocks on a beach that were infused with iron. When water had been applied to these rocks in bad weather, the iron leached out, changing the colour of the gray stone itself and the pools of water beneath it.
Both of these spoke to me of the essence of Christian spirituality.
We are gray stones, either washed up or covered in the mire of the present life, but the 'alien' nature of Christ's imparted life, working within us and around us, changes all of this, making us become those who realize that it's only the presence of such a life that can make us more than plain stones - it is that life that makes us 'natural' - human once again, and thereby able to genuinely show care for others and even for ourselves.

A little later in my walk, as I sat, a little like Jonah, under a shady tree, I pondered how we might live in a manner that truly worships God. It is so easy to be religious, and thereby to completely miss what is really necessary. It is only when we recognize that God is present amidst it all, our best and worse, when we think we achieve and when we know we fail - in everything, Christ can be shown to be what defines reality, and that is imperative if those we love, those God grants us to know, are to see a reality that is entirely meaningful in life.

A 'living stone' certainly does not gather moss, but radiates a life that makes it more than it ever could be if it merely remained...gray.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

"You have to see with better eyes than that"

"Consider an instance of the materialist's faith dilemma. How does the materialist answer the question: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” For the theist this is an easy question. God, the un-caused first cause, created all things that exist. But the materialist finds himself between the Scylla of an eternal universe and the Charybdis of a self-created universe. The eternal universe flies in the face of all we now know about the cosmos. There is practically universal agreement among cosmologists that the universe had a beginning. The self-created universe is a logical absurdity".

Faith and Reason - Barry Arrington.

Last weekend, my Star Trek friends and I had a weekend together to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of one of our company (congratulations, Steve). Rather than the usual, best-forgotten events that usually occurs at such times, we decided to fill the weekend with fun but not OTT ventures and events, the highlights being:
Laser Quest (the five of us in an arena with 40 6-11 year olds!)
and a whole array of tasks for our friend to fulfill or gain forfeits if not completed to our satisfaction. It all proved to be great fun, and the merriment was recorded for posterity on video, so that selected moments could be edited and used by the best man at the forthcoming 'big day'.

I spent yesterday working my way through an hour's footage to create a two and a half minute 'taster' of the day, and I then found myself pondering our understanding of reality, as there are similarities.

When we read of the act of Creation in those six days of Genesis, we should find ourselves astonished. God brings His works into being in a manner that inherently contains maturity -
stars which immediately 'give light' to the earth, plants and trees which are fruit-bearing, and of course, man and woman, ready to truly become a reflection of 'Elohim' in their union.
As with the modern cosmologist or biologist, we are totally stumped to understand how this is possible. Like Job, we stand with our small frame of reference, our lack of understanding, and if we listen carefully, we hear the voice which says, 'were you there when I did these things?'
Genesis is actually our 'snapshot' of that profound moment, wrought in a depth and mystery that eternity alone will begin to unfold.

In like fashion, we can barely comprehend the enormity of those hours which follow the last supper to the resurrection morning. The Gospel writers provide us with insight into the unfolding events and the words of the Lord in this crucible, but it takes 'another angle', provided especially through Paul to really allow us to open up the astonishing treasures of this marvel of redemption.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of how Moses had to hide his face when he returned from speaking to God, but we come 'unveiled' before the glory (the significance) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:12, 18). The 'rough guide' to Creation and Redemption provided by Scripture allows us to eagerly await the 'great day' which is coming, when the full ramifications of what has transpired will become as real - in truth, more real, than the joys and bonds of friendship we know and share in this present time.
Our delights now are but a glimpse of a joy beyond words, a significance which will resonate through every particle and every moment of a redeemed creation...

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Grand Design

"In Christ's work of salvation natural human life is victorious"
Gustav Wingren - Man & the Incarnation.

It was just like coming home.
The mellow, boisterous breeze played across my bared flesh as I listened to the gentle shifting of the sand grains beneath my toes. The sky, a painted blue streaked with strands of thin white of cirrus, presents itself like a bride before the expanding light and warmth of the sun. The lax wash of a mellow tide completes the rhapsody as my wife and I sit amidst it all to eat and drink, to ponder, to play - to enjoy the sheer sweetness of being alive in this astounding place.

If you have spent such a day amidst creation, (or perhaps watched the superb film, Shadowlands), then you'll no doubt know something of the marvel I'm describing. What we can so often neglect and even totally ignore is that this wonder is actually a crucial and inherent part of our spirituality.

In the record of Creation, we come to see two very important things:
1. The very nature of God's revelation of Himself, woven into the record of Genesis 1&2, is open and unconditional - He is the Sovereign and yet He is also amidst the forming of it all, taking of the very earth and investing this with His breath.

2. That we are made 'between' God and the world - invested with that breath but made of the soil, to express the significance of Father, Son and Spirit to all that is made.

This reveals something truly overwhelming. God's intention is for this revelation to be at the very heart of all that is natural - all of life.
Spirituality, therefore, is not something we 'do' only in devotions, or pious acts - it is inherent in our entire existence, and should be as natural as eating or breathing.

"As soon as we make the distinction between natural and supernatural the basis of our thinking", notes Wingren, "human and divine will sharply be divided".

The divide which now marks human life, caused by the fall, is inherently alien to creation.
The necessity is the manner of fellowship evident in God walking amidst our world, finding pleasure in all of it.

The wonder of Christianity is that this fellowship is now renewed in Christ. Through Him, this 'wells up' amidst His living body so that we might drink afresh by grace of that life.

That life, as Irenaeus noted, will one day wholly permeate the renewed creation, entirely penetrating the flesh, exorcising sin and death, to make us once more human.

In the sweetness of a breeze, the lapping of the sea and air, the brightness of a sky, we see a promise as sure as it was to Abraham and Noah, secured in Jesus Christ.
The day is coming when this place will once again, be home.