A Great Society

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Prodigal sons and rejected stones

prodigalson

Eve Tushnet:

“The Church should be the place for prodigal sons and rejected stones, at least as much as it’s the place for elder brothers and other respectable types. The early Church promised that those who gave up family or marriage to follow Jesus would find a new family, a new home, with fellow Christians as their brothers and sisters. Is that what happens to lay people who strive to live celibately today? 
 
From what I’ve seen, we’re mostly left alone. If you’re straight or people think you are, and you’re not yet married, you may get urged to spend time with the young adults’ ministry or the singles’ ministry or one of the other (necessary!) meet markets of the Church. I like these ministries and I like that they matchmaker. I don’t think they’re the catchall solution for unmarried lay people, though, regardless of sexual orientation. And so, people who genuinely want to serve the Church come away feeling exhausted or confused. They’re pretty sure God doesn’t want them to lead loveless, barren and miserable lives, and yet they have little sense of where they might give and receive lasting, sustaining love outside of marriage. The people who are already serving often feel unwanted or excluded; the people who aren’t already embedded in an ecclesial community have no idea where to start. This is an immense waste of love.”

daily by an open grave

Eugene Peterson:

“Jan and I were visiting a Benedictine monastery, Christ in the Desert, in New Mexico. One of the brothers was leading us on a path from prayers in the chapel to the refectory where we would have lunch. The path led through the cemetery. We passed an open grave.

Jan said, ‘Oh, did one of the brothers just die?’

‘No, that is for the next one.’

Three times a day, on their way from praying together to eating together, the monks are reminded that one of them will be ‘the next one.'”

bearing burdens requires burdening yourself

Jonathan Edwards:

In many cases, we may, by the rules of the gospel, be obliged to give to others, when we cannot do it without suffering ourselves. If our neighbor’s difficulties and necessities be much greater than our own, and we see that he is not like to be otherwise relieved, we should be willing to suffer with him, and to take part of his burden on ourselves; else how is that rule of bearing one another’s burdens fulfilled? If we be never obliged to relieve others’ burdens, but when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens, when we bear no burden at all?

Tim Keller:

This is a vivid illustration. A poor man is a man walking with a burden – a burden of discomfort, inconvenience. So when a Christian says, ‘I can’t afford to help the poor,’ he is really saying, ‘If I help, it will cut into my style of living.’ In other words, some of the poor man’s burden would slide over onto the helper. The helper would not be able to take the vacation he wants or buy the car he wants. ‘Well,’ Edwards is arguing, ‘isn’t that exactly what the Bible demands? If your giving to the needy does not burden you or cut into your lifestyle in any way, you must give more!'”

A word might have changed your path

Disaster

by Bill Coyle

All do not all things well,

and there are few things more

thankless than trying to tell

a friend he hasn’t got

an ounce of talent for

the work nearest his heart –

which is why I was not

straight with you from the start.

 

An asteroid on a course

for earth, caught early enough

could, with a hint of force

(and a good dose of math)

be steered fatefully off.

Once, a word to you

might have changed your path.

Now what can I do?


Now it is too late:

now the course you’ve chosen

has all the force of fate,

and if I pointed out

you’re bound for a collision

with the reality

of who you are, I doubt

you’d hear me, or agree.

 

You are both asteroid

and shadowed impact zone

and neither can avoid

the crash that’s on its way;

and I, who might have known –

who knew – how this would end

am not about to say

anything now, my friend.

Confession beneath the Cross

Preparing to preach on confession of sin, centering on Proverbs 28:13 – “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

In preparation, I returned to that rich little classic, Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Two of his insights into confession and community:

1) Without confession of sins, there is no true Christian fellowship.

“He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.” (110)

2) Only a Christian who has truly and personally encountered the Cross of Christ is a safe person to receive a confession.

Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him. Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother. Looking at the Cross of Jesus, he knows the human heart. He knows how utterly lost it is in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin, and he knows that it is accepted in grace and mercy. Only the brother under the Cross can hear a confession. (118)