Monthly Archives: July 2015

From the wound a lovely flower grew

Br. Curtis Almquist SSJE writes this morning in “Brother, Give Us a Word” about Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

Healing
Ignatius of Loyola had his life’s quite-vain ambitions completely dashed by a mortal wound. Through that wound he found a kind of healing for his soul: an experience of love, freedom, and clarity to attune his desires to what God desires.

I can’t help hearing echoes of a song by Sting called “The Lazarus Heart”:

He looked beneath his shirt today
There was a wound in his flesh so deep and wide
From the wound a lovely flower grew
From somewhere deep inside

While Sting is also referencing the myth of the Fisher King — the sickness of the land is visible in the king’s body, and his healing saves the land — Br. Curtis points to the cross-shaped life that Ignatius embodied.

From a powerful fall, a crippling wound that should have ended his military usefulness, Ignatius became something new, a soldier for Christ. His discipline and ferocity were transmuted into rigorous prayer and daring service.

Each of us will find in our own falling, in the “wound in our flesh so deep and wide,” the seed of new life in Christ — if we wish to flower.

Though the sword was his protection
The wound itself would give him power
The power to remake himself
At the time of his darkest hour
She said the wound would give him courage and pain
The kind of pain that you can’t hide
From the wound a lovely flower grew
From somewhere deep inside

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Continue in what you have learned

O God, you have taught me since I was young, *
and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.
And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, *
till I make known your strength to this generation
and your power to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:14-18)

The Thursday morning Bible study group I belong to is reading Adam Hamilton’s Making Sense of the Bible, and today we discussed chapter 14, “Is the Bible Inspired?”

Hamilton starts with Paul’s reminder to Timothy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

As the image on today’s blog suggests, I am one of those who “from childhood [has] known the sacred writings.”

Without going into too much detail, I really appreciate how Hamilton draws out the various meanings we attach to the notion of “inspiration.” The writers of Scripture are inspired, we readers find inspiration as we read, and the community’s traditions and teaching inspire us in certain ways (129-38).

He also gently teases apart how some notions read into the Scriptures something that really isn’t there — notions like the “verbal, plenary inspiration” and the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Hamilton disagrees with those who would suggest that “every word in scripture is equally inspired” (140-41).

Today’s Daily Office readings offer an object lesson in one of the stories about David from the tumultuous time just before he is made king of Israel.

David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when the one who told me, ‘See, Saul is dead,’ thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag — this was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?” So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron. (2 Samuel 4:9-12)

None of the details of the story specifically represent the will of God. None of them offers a command binding down to our time and place. None of them answers the question, “What, then, should we do?” (Luke 3:10).

Instead, they paint a picture of human ambition, ambivalence, power, cruelty, and sentimentality. These are the people through whom God will accomplish his purpose?

Reading this passage in the context of the Daily Office is also important, I think, because immediately after we read this lesson, we respond by saying Canticle 8 – The Song of Moses, which is appointed for Thursday mornings.

The Lord is my strength and my refuge; *
the Lord has become my Savior.
This is my God and I will praise him, *
the God of my people and I will exalt him.
….
With your constant love you led the people you redeemed; *
with your might you brought them in safety to
your holy dwelling.
You will bring them in and plant them *
on the mount of your possession,
The resting-place you have made for yourself, O Lord, *
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hand has established.
The Lord shall reign *
for ever and for ever. (BCP 85)

The juxtaposition between these two passages of Scripture further accentuates the difference between David’s political power and cruelty and God’s saving power and constant love.

The Lord has become my savior,” we remind ourselves, not David the king. God will bring us in and plant us, not any human leader or authority.

Reading the Scriptures in the context of the Daily Office is one way to remember “what [we] have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom [we] learned it.”

That is, allowing the tradition of the community to speak is part of the process of inspiration that we trust is at work. The practice of engaging with the Scriptures in the context of prayer will bear fruit over time if we, like those who came before us, “continue in what we have learned.”

A Collect for Guidance

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 100)

My ways are not your ways. Gosh!

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. (BCP 86)

Today, we see in the lessons, canticles, and collects of Morning Prayer three examples of the upside down ways of God.

It was only a question … gosh!

In the OT reading we have the beginning of the story of David and Goliath, which we may remember from childhood as the victory of the small over the great. David with his slingshot (and his faith) triumphs over the strength and weapons of the giant Philistine.

David, the youngest brother, is only supposed to be bringing food to his older brothers, but he hears around the camp that the king will reward whoever kills Goliath.

His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.” David said, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” (1 Samuel 17:28-29)

But there’s also a subversive political strain to the story, since the shepherd boy David is being groomed by God to supplant the king of Israel. The anointing of God is being taken away from Saul and giving to David instead.

God shows no partiality

We see that same subversive streak in the lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ– he is Lord of all. … While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:34-36; 44-47)

The anointing of the Holy Spirit, which the disciples had assumed was an additional gift to the Chosen People — the Jews who believed in Jesus as Lord — is now falling on anyone who hears the good news.

Even Gentiles are receiving God’s spirit. What next?

You stretched out your arms of love

What’s next for the disciples is the conviction that in Jesus, God was acting to save all people.

Paul’s letters crisscross the Mediterranean world, reminding new Christians that grace, not law, is their guide and salvation …

The Gospel writers begin to compile their chronicles of Jesus’ life and teaching, four accounts that together draw out just how upside down his message was, for those with ears to hear.

John, writing later than the others, even recounts Jesus saying “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them in also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).

The religious rules and the political order both turn upside down in the face of God’s grace and truth, seen most clearly in Jesus’ last gift of love.

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)