Catechumenate
Our new house in Courtenay!

Our new house in Courtenay!

The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That’s why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It’s toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable – but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn’t
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in – as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.

-Denise Levertov, “Contraband”

Tony Robinson opened up the marvelous Festival of Preaching Northwest with this equally marvelous poem by Denise Levertov. The theme of the festival was, appropriate to the poem, “Preaching in a Post-Modern World.”
When I say I believe, I do not mean that I take over for myself what the Church says on these matters (God, Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, and Eucharist) but that through Love I hold on to the perfect unseizable truth which these mysteries contain, and that I try to open my soul to it so that its light may penetrate into me.
Simone Weil, ‘Gateway to God’, (1974) via my pal Trevor

Ash Wednesday

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

Beautiful day at the Vancouver Aquarium!

Beautiful day at the Vancouver Aquarium!

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions.My favorite is “Wash teeth if any.”

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions.

My favorite is “Wash teeth if any.”

We give you thanks for the babe born in violence.

We give you thanks for the miracle of Bethlehem,
born into the Jerusalem heritage.

We do not understand why the innocents must be slaughtered;
we know that your kingdom comes in violence and travail.
Our time would be a good time for your kingdom to come,
because we have had enough of violence and travail.

So we wait with eager longing,
and with enormous fear,
because your promises
do not coincide with our favourite injustices.

We pray for the coming of your kingdom on earth
as it is around your heavenly throne.

We are people grown weary of waiting.

We dwell in the midst of cynical people,
and we have settled for what we can control.

We do know that you hold initiative for our lives,
that your love planned our salvation
before we saw the light of day.

And so we wait for your coming,
in your vulnerable baby
in whom all things are made new.

Amen.

Walter Brueggemann, “In Violence and Travail” (via invisibleforeigner)

For tomorrow’s text.
As a Christian I came to see the importance of the Exodus story, with its movement from death to life and from bondage to worship, as the foundation of the story of Jesus and the New Testament. These are not two separate stories, but one whole story. They are both stories of God’s encounter with Death as a power in the world, and God’s will and work for Life, restored and made new according to God’s creation design. The Exodus story of bondage and freedom and the New Testament story of death and resurrection are the two great primal narratives of scripture. All else builds from these.
Late modern society is principally concerned with purchasing things, in ever greater abundance and variety, and so has to strive to fabricate an ever greater number of desires to gratify, and to abolish as many limits and prohibitions upon desire as it can. Such a society is already implicitly atheist and so must slowly but relentlessly apply itself to the dissolution of transcendent values. It cannot allow ultimate goods to distract us from proximate goods. Our sacred writ is advertising, our piety is shopping, our highest devotion is private choice. God and the soul too often hinder the purely acquisitive longings upon which the market depends, and confront us with values that stand in stark rivalry to the only truly substantial value at the center of the social universe: the price tag.
David Bentley Hart (via onancientpaths)