Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

More Life and Freedom

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

I really hate that Jesus’ Gospel is so much about death. I hate it. I wish that Jesus’ message was, Follow me and all your dreams of cash and prizes will come true; follow me and you’ll have free liposuction and winning lotto tickets for life. But obviously he’s not like that. Jesus says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” He says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” and infuriating things like “if you seek to find your life you will lose it but those who lose their life will find it.” And every single time I die to something — my notions of my own specialness, my plans and desires for something to be a very particular way — every single time I fight it and yet every single time I discover more life and more freedom than if I had gotten what I wanted.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 186-187

[Photo: Hug Point, Oregon, November 10, 2015]

Carried

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk; he will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking; he will not carry us if we will not walk.

Very different are the good news Jesus brings us from certain prevalent representations of the gospel, founded on the pagan notion that suffering is an offset for sin, and culminating in the vile assertion that the suffering of an innocent man, just because he is innocent, yea perfect, is a satisfaction to the holy Father for the evil deeds of his children. . . . The good news of Jesus was just the news of the thoughts and ways of the Father in the midst of his family.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 81-82

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]

The Wideness of the Tent

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

This desire to learn what the faith is from those who have lived it in the face of being told they are not welcome or worthy is far more than “inclusion.” Actually, inclusion isn’t the right word at all, because it sounds like in our niceness and virtue we are allowing “them” to join “us” — like we are judging another group of people to be worthy of inclusion in a tent that we don’t own. I realized in that coffee shop that I need the equivalent of the Ethiopian eunuch to show me the faith. I continually need the stranger, the foreigner, the “other” to show me water in the desert. I need to hear, “here is water in the desert, so what is to keep me, the eunuch, from being baptized?” Or me the queer or me the intersex or me the illiterate or me the neurotic or me the overeducated or me the founder of Focus on the Family.

Until I face the difficulty of that question and come up, as Philip did, with no good answer . . . until then, I can only look at the seemingly limited space under the tent and think either it’s my job to change people so they fit or it’s my job to extend the roof so that they fit. Either way, it’s misguided because it’s not my tent. It’s God’s tent. The wideness of the tent of the Lord is my concern only insofar as it points to the gracious nature of a loving God who became flesh and entered into our humanity. The wideness of the tent is my concern only insofar as it points to the great mercy and love of a God who welcomes us all as friends.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 94

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]

The Good News

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Atonement theories are not the gospel. Across the New Testament, while metaphors do appear to hint at the “how” of atonement, the emphasis is not on these symbolic explanations, but on the story itself. Preaching the gospel never meant theorizing how atonement happens but, rather, proclaiming good news: the events and impacts of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 230

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]

A Lovely Light

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by teling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 155

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015]

At-one-ment

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

With all my heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, I believe in the atonement (all it the a-tone-ment, or the at-one-ment, as you please). I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement, that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

God Is Not Mad at You.

Friday, March 16th, 2018

What I want you to know is that God’s attitude, God’s spirit, toward you is one of unwavering fatherly-motherly love. You have nothing to fear from God. God is not mad at you. God has never been mad at you. God is never going to be mad at you. And what about the fear of God? The fear of God is the wisdom of not acting against love. We fear God in the same way that as a child I feared my father. I had the good fortune to have a wise and loving father, and I had deep respect, reverence, admiration, and, perhaps, a kind of fear for my father, but I never for one moment thought that my dad hated me or would harm me. God does not hate you, and God will never harm you. But your own sin, if you do not turn away from it, will bring you great harm. The wisdom that acknowledges this fact is what we call the fear of God. Sin is deadly, but God is love.

I know some will be quick to remind me that the writer of Hebrews tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And no doubt it is. In the hands of God, there is no place to hide. We have to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. In the hands of God, we can no longer live in the disguise of our lies. In the hands of God, we have to face ourselves. And that can be terrifying. When the prodigal son returned home and fell into the arms of his father, I’m sure the boy felt afraid. We can tell by how he immediately speaks of his unworthiness: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This wayward son has fallen into the hands of his father; his fate is in his father’s hands . . . and he is afraid. But there is no better place to be! This gracious father in Jesus’s parable is given to us as a picture of our heavenly Father! When the prodigal son fell fearfully into the hands of his father, forgiveness, healing, and restoration began. Just because the prodigal son felt fear as he fell into his father’s hands doesn’t mean he had anything to fear from his father. In his father’s hands was the only safe place to be. It was in the far country that the prodigal son was in danger, not in his father’s hands. When we fall into the hands of the living God, we are sinners in the hands of a loving God.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 19-20

Saints and Sinners

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Personally, I think knowing the difference between a racist and a saint is kind of important. But when Jesus again and again says things like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed, and the rich are cursed, and that prostitutes make great dinner guests, it makes me wonder if our need for pure black-and-white categories is not true religion but maybe actually a sin. Knowing what category to place hemlock in might help us know whether it’s safe to drink, but knowing what category to place ourselves and others in does not help us know God in the way that the church so often has tried to convince us it does.

And anyway, it has been my experience that what makes us the saints of God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners. The title “saint” is always conferred, never earned. Or as the good Saint Paul puts it, “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones – people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time, people who have just a wee bit of a drinking problem and manage to get sober and help others to do the same, people who are as kind as they are hostile.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 7-8

Just Like Jesus

Friday, March 9th, 2018

I believe that God is just like Jesus, only greater yet, for Jesus said so. I believe that God is absolutely, grandly beautiful, even as the highest soul of man counts beauty, but infinitely beyond that soul’s highest idea — with the beauty that creates beauty, not merely shows itself beautiful. I believe that God has always done, is always doing, his best for every man, that no man is miserable because God is forgetting him, that he is not a God to crouch before, but our Father, to whom the child-heart cries exultantly, “Do with me as thou wilt.”

I believe that there is nothing good for me or for any man but God, and more and more of God, and that alone through knowing Christ can we come nigh to God.

I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one — that he will not leave his sins, come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips, p. 269.

Listen

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Inspiration comes far more often during work as things get rolling than before you sit at the typewriter. This is because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen. To listen to the work and to go where it tells you to go. And this involves faith. Letting go of your own control and having faith in something you do not control.

To pray is also to listen. To move through my own chattering to God, to get beyond those words to that place where I can be silent and then listen to what God may have to say.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Wheaton College Writing and Literature Conferences, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 132.