The transistory nature of our culture heightens those times when we witness something of stability. Eugene Peterson wrote a book on the “Songs of Ascent” titled, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. On December 31, 2003, my pastor – Brother Justice died at the age of 96. A memorial service was held and several men impacted by his life shared stories and experiences to communicate something of the character and commitment of this godly man. Born in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma, Brother Justice, as we called him, experienced the grace of God. He gave his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus, the Christ. He kept to this commitment for 73 years! He preached his last sermon two weeks before he died. Though he lost his physical eyesight, he found his spiritual sight unhindered. I am glad to have known and been imprinted by one who understood “a long obedience in the same direction.”
In the movie “Cold Mountain”, Inman says, “I’m sure God is weary of being called down on both sides of the argument.” Set during the Civil War, it is an obvious reference to preachers and people on both sides laying claim to be on God’s side or rather having God on their side.
I wonder if there are not times when this statement well describes things today. For quite sometime leaders of the CBF and the SBC have battled one another. Now they would not say that was the case, but the reality is it has been a battle. Some view it as a battle between liberal and fundamentalist or moderate and conservative. Others believe it is basically about the bible. Cynics see it as a battle for power and control. Skeptics sense it is about money. It has moved beyond dialogue – that does not happen when you have assumed control. It has become vendetta.
Let’s make the CBF pay for what they have done to “us.” Vindictiveness does not fit the love for one another Jesus calls us to.
Let’s aggravate the SBC for how they treated “us.” Vincictiveness does not fit the love for one another Jesus calls us to.
I too sense God may be weary of being called down on both sides of the argument. If he is not, I am weary of the whole thing.
The excerpt must be from a book he is reading – he is a voracious reader. I find this piece very lifting and humiliating at the same time –
Eugene Peterson on David at Ziklag
Moralism is death on spirituality. Moralism is the approach that puts all the emphasis on our performance. It operates out of a conviction that there’s a clear cut right that we’re capable of discerning, choosing, and carrying out in every and all circumstances. It puts the entire burden of our spirituality on what we do. God is marginalized. And it crushes our spirits. There’s no mercy to it
Secularism is also death on spirituality. Secularism is the approach that the world as it is establishes the primary context for our daily living and the better we understand and accommodate ourselves to the world the better off we’ll be. We can then use whatever advantages accrue to us–money, position, reputation–to “serve the Lord.” It operates our of the conviction that spirituality is otherworldly and irrelevant regarding basic living. Spirituality is an extra that’s added on to a secular base of economic savvy, career know-how, and social smarts. God is trivialized. Secularism is contemptuous of our spirit. There’s no salvation in it.
Ziklag, for me, is the premier biblical location for realizing that when we get serious about the Christian life we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we had expected. The place and people is often called a church. It’s hard to get over the disappointment that God, having made an exception in my case, doesn’t call nice people to repentance.
The Christian life is never just my story; it’s a community of stories. I learn my story in the company with others. Each story affects and is affected by each of the others. Most of these others are distressed, in debt, and discontent. This complicates things enormously, but there’s no getting around it. We’re a company. We’re looking fora central meaning to our lives. We catch a thread of the plot and begin to follow it, receiving the good news that God is gracious, receiving the sacraments of God’s action in our actual lives. And then we bump into another story and are thrown off balance; distracted, we stumble. Safe, we think, in the company of God’s people, we’re tripped by a moralist and sent sprawling, we’re seduced by a secularist and defrauded. We’re in Ziklag.
Disillusioned, we go off on our own and cultivate a pure spirituality uncontaminated by religious hucksters and hypocrites. But eventually if we’re honest and reading our Bibles honestly, we find we can’t do it. We can’t survive in the wilderness alone. We need others, and we need a leader. And then we begin to get it: God’s purposes are worked out most profoundly when we’re least aware of them. Spirituality most of the time doesn’t look like spirituality, or at least what the moralists and secularists told us it was supposed to look like. Sometimes all we can see is David serving Achish of Gath and leading a company of moral and social ragamuffins in Ziklag.
Every time I move to a new community, I find a church close by and join it–committing myself to worship and work with that company of God’s people. I’ve never been anything other than disappointed: every one turns out to be biblical, through and through: murmerers, complainers, the faithless, the constant, those plagued with doubt and riddled with sin, boring moralizers, glamourous secualizers. Every once in a while a shaft of blazing beauty seems to break out of nowhere and illuminate these companies, and then I see what my sin-dulled eyes had missed: word of God–shaped, Holy Spirit-created lives of sacrificial humility, incredible courage, heroic virtue, holy praise, joyfull suffering, constant prayer, pervsevering obedience. I see “Christ–for Christ plays in ten thousand places,/Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
And in Ziklag, of all places.
Page 99-101 Leap Over a Wall
Over the last few years there has been an attempt to understand and succintly draw some conclusions about the cultural shift taking place in our world – we used to say in our Country but it can no longer be limited so. Often people respond dismissively when they do not understand a given subject. Other times they react with vigor and venom – a railing if you will.
In my position I have been want to find in one place a sort of summary of how I have come to understand what is taking place and how I feel about it. (I understand that I now have violated one of the cardinal rules of blogging – limit the use of “I.” However, I am offering commentary on myself. Soon I will break another rule by embedding a link rather than state the case myself.) Someone who has had a similar background, is a bit older – and maybe wiser, and continues ot pastor in the midst of huge shifts in theolgocial reflection and understanding while still holding high the power of the gospel of Christ offers a great statement. Albeit a response to an article by Chuck Colson, it does a good job of giving a helpful perspective. So here’s to Brian – great job!
An important Christian figure – Carl Hengry dies at 90