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Poured from a Clay Pot (Part 4) – The Last Drop

July 22, 2014

I am finding that announcing a series of posts is not all that wise. Sometimes I find it difficult to complete the task. I get distracted. I get sidelined by other interesting ideas and find myself pursuing those. Occasionally when I reread what I have written it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to even me, and I come to the realization that I need more time to completely think through my subject.

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I don’t know exactly where God is leading me in terms of my thinking lately, but he is definitely taking me somewhere.New divider6As I wrote in my last post, Scripture sees no divide between the spiritual and the natural, the sacred and the secular. Neither is there a divide between the spiritual and the political; the spiritual is inherently political. Engagement with our fallen world is not optional for Christians. It is following the example of Jesus.New divider6Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.

—Frank A. Clark

You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God.

—Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

 

I need to keep these wise words in mind, to keep my criticism constructive and hopeful.

New divider6Much in the same way I did in Some of Those I Met Along the Road on My Journey Toward Calvary (May 5, 2012), Marcus Aureleus opens his first book by acknowledging those who influenced his thinking. Here he mentions the contributions of Quintus Junius Rusticus, one of his teachers.  I’m not sure I could say who taught me to do these things.

To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of.

—Marcus Aureleus, Meditations

 As I have been inching my way through this classic, in the emporer’s thoughts I hear far-off echoes of the Apostle Paul.New divider6Perhaps the gospel can be made most visible in the sharing of one’s own particular encounters with it.

(Theologian James William McClendon, Jr. wrote a book on this subject some 40 years ago. I haven’t read it, but it is on my “search list”.)New divider6A common temptation among people working with the poor is to try to make them look like us, to live a middle class life. Perhaps this poignant comment to a blog about helping the poor might bring things into perspective a bit. I would love to be able to credit it, but it was only signed “Ann”.

I’ve been very close to the streets myself and may very well die there. Right now, I’m temporarily able to pass for something close to middle class, even though I’m living on less than half of median income. My new acquaintances talk about poverty as if it was somehow amusing to be homeless, as if getting out was a matter of not being so lazy and worthless, as if getting necessary, effective intervention for psychiatric and substance abuse problems is as simple as walking in a door. They talk as if abusive, drug-addled relationships are deliberate choices to mess up one’s life, not the best one can get under the circumstances, and as if leaving a violent spouse is safe, sane and responsible rather than an invitation to an even bigger, possibly fatal beating. They assume that because I’m disabled, I’m entitled to thousands of dollars a month of perks, not realizing that their own nasty attitude translated into regulations puts caps on what people can qualify for that guarantees people like me a life of poverty and substandard medical care. They talk as if the primary quality of a good parent is money (yes, I am dragging a kid through this nightmare). They think the poor should save, not realizing that if they try to, they lose access to the very programs that made it possible to put a little bit aside. They don’t understand that the system is set up to punish saving, or any other form of planning ahead, for that matter.  They talk as if my life now is the result of my moral virtue and that everyone could do it if they tried, not realizing that I don’t have the life they think I do and I’ve done a lot of things over the years that would disgust them just to survive. I’m passing for white, in a manner of speaking, and I’m revolted by what I see …

Right now, marriage is a trap or a burden for the poor. It ties them to abusers, wrecks their finances, and limits their options …

But what would I know? I’m just another loser looking for a handout.New divider6Anthropologist Sarah Kendzior, in her penetrating Medium post on the plight of fast food workers wrote:

The paradox of poverty is that tomorrow is unpredictable but the future never changes.

Social justice is integral to the meaning of the gospel and not just an implication of it. If you disagree, open your Bible to Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 58:6-8, Jeremiah 22:3, Amos 5, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 4:16-21, Ezekiel 16:49, Isaiah 10:1-3, Ezekiel 22:29, James 5:1-6 … Need I go on?New divider6For a Christian, Jesus is the one in whom it has indeed become manifest that revolution and conversion cannot be separated in the human search for experiential transcendence. His appearance in our midst has made it undeniably clear that changing the human heart and changing human society are not separate tasks, but are as interconnected as the two beams of the cross.

—Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

New divider6For me, theology must have practical implications; it’s useless without outworkings. Theology is knowledge, all in the head. It is in the heart that the rubber meets the road. Theology tends to get a little muddied when one gets down and dirty in the world.

New divider6I love this line from the Rachel Held Evans post Everyone’s a Bible Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony because it is so true.

But it’s good to remind ourselves now and then that just as Southern slaveholders had a vested interest in interpreting Colossians 3:22 literally, so we tend to “pick and choose” to our own advantage. New divider6It is only by making mistakes and hurting one another that we learn the greatest of human joys—forgiving …. and being forgiven.

As I watched the final season of BBC’s wonderful series Lark Rise to Candleford, this reflection by Laura Timmins, the young writer who is both narrator and a central figure, struck me as a profound truth. Though I wrote it down, unfortunately I did not record the episode number, and search as I might, I have been unable to find it.New divider6Perhaps my resurrection is as much about my experience of Jesus’ victory over death and death’s works in my life right here and right now as it is about the immortality of my soul or life in the hereafter.

New divider6 Though the Word of God is often mediated through the biblical text, it cannot be reduced to the Bible. “Word of God” is intended to capture the Logos, the Word of God definitively revealed in Jesus.

For the word of God is living [within me according to Galatians 2:20] and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

I purpose to discern and listen to the Word of God in every circumstance of life.New divider6There is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.

—Victor Hugo

 Yesterday I received an incredible gift—my first grandson. Edwin is a most welcome addition to the family.

 

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged. (Proverbs 17:6 ESV)

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3 NIV)

 

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                The pot is now empty.

 

 

 

 

 

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