the last enemy and the reigning Lord

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim:

“There are many shades in the danger of adventures and gales, and it is only now and then that there appears on the face of facts a sinister violence of intention – that indefinable something which forces it upon the mind and the heart of a man, that this complication of accidents or these elemental furies are coming at him with a purpose of malice, with a strength beyond control, with an unbridled cruelty that means to tear out of him his hope and fear, the pain of his fatigue and the longing for rest: which means to smash, to destroy, to annihilate all he has seen, known, loved, enjoyed, or hated; all that is priceless and necessary – the sunshine, the memories, the future; which means to sweep the whole precious world utterly away from his sight by the simple and appalling act of taking his life.

I Corinthians 15:20, 25 – 26, 57 – 58:
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
“For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
“thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.”

The truest index of our real situation

C.S. Lewis, from his sermon, “The Weight of Glory”:

In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside – repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other had, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

The diminishing possibility of neutrality

From That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis:

Have you ever noticed, said Dimble, that the universe and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?…

I mean this…If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family – anything you like – at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. the whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.

That old familiar fear, that nothin’ ain’t no good

After the last two posts touching on Christian eschatological hope, I came across this contrary point of view, by the haunting David Gray.

Some of the lyrics:

Maybe that it would do me good
If I believed there were a god
Out in the starry firmament
But as it is that’s just a lie
And I’m here eating up the boredom
On an island of cement
Give me your ecstasy I’ll feel it
Open window and I’ll steal it
Baby like it’s heaven sent

This ain’t no love that’s guiding me

…And waiting there in every pause
That old familiar fear that claws you
Tells you nothing ain’t no good
Then pulling back you see it all
Down here so laughable and small
Hardly a quiver in the dirt

This ain’t no love that’s guiding me

 

The Witness of Bearing Children

Peter Berger explaining his hypothesis as to why religious people have more children than secular people (here):

For a believing Jew, Christian or Muslim, the future of the world, his own future, and that of his children lies in the hands of a compassionate God. Every mother, of any faith or of no faith at all, will get up in the night to comfort a crying child. She may not speak. Her presence and her holding the child may be enough comfort. If she does speak, it is likely to be some variation of saying “everything is all right” or “everything will be all right”. This may well be true at the moment. In a purely secular perspective, these formulas are finally not true. The mother, the child, and everyone and everything they care about are fated to perish. Religious faith gives a cosmic validation to the mother’s comforting words. It is no accident that the most famous lines of Julian of Norwich, that elusive medieval mystic, are reminiscent of a lullaby: “And all will be well. And all will be well. And every manner of thing will be well”.

Which is reminiscent of something Stanley Hauerwas has already written (in Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony):

We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth living—and not because ‘Children are the hope of the future,” but because God is the hope of the future.

If we lack good reasons for having children, we also lack good reasons for deciding not to have them. Christians are free not to have children not because of most contemporary rationales (‘I don’t want to be tied down.’ ‘I would not bring children into this messed up world.’), but because we believe in the power of God to create a people through witness and conversion rather than through natural generation. The church must be created new, in each generation, not through procreation but through baptism.

It is our privilege to invite our children, and other’s children, to be part of this great adventure called church. Christians ought to ponder what an amazing act of faith it was for Jews in the face of constant and death-dealing Christians and pagan persecution to go on having babies. People of God do not let the world determine how they respond to tomorrow.

Rising in humble confidence

 

James Edwards, in his excellent Pillar commentary on the Gospel of Mark, writing on Mark 4:26 – 34:

The faith that Jesus requires of disciples is to sleep and rise in humble confidence that God has invaded this troubled world not with a crusade, but with a seed, an imperceptible “fifth column” that will grow into a faithful harvest.

He quotes Helmut Thielicke (pictured above):

One day, perhaps, when we look back from God’s throne on the last day we shall say with amazement and surprise, ‘If I had ever dreamed when I stood at the graves of my loved ones and everything seemed to be ended; if I had ever dreamed when I saw the specter of atomic war creeping upon us; if I had ever dreamed when I faced the meaningless fate of an endless imprisonment or a malignant disease; if I had ever dreamed that God was only carrying out his design and plan through all these woes, that in the midst of my cares and troubles and despair HIS harvest was ripening, and that everything was pressing on toward his last kingly day – if I had known this I would have been more calm and confident; yes, then I would have been more cheerful and far more tranquil and composed.

A way of living in mystery

“The salvation brought by Jesus is not a salvation of knowledge. The salvation of Jesus is rather a way – of following, of faithfulness, of standing guard at our posts, for ‘no one knows about that day or hour’ (Mark 13:32). It is not a way of dispensing with mystery but of living in mystery.”

James Edwards, “The Gospel According to Mark”, page 400.