p {text-indent: 12px;}
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Flowers

Taking a short break from George MacDonald, here is more tremendous photo work from Scott Fillmer:

Iris in Bloom in Auburn by Scott Fillmer
Credit:  Scott Fillmer,    http://scottfillmer.com/blog/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

G Mac II - Poor in Spirit

The last post discussed the struggle to send away sin.  Jesus describes believers who do so as the poor in spirit.   Who are the poor in spirit?   MacDonald says that they are  "unambitious, unselfish, and they never despise others or seek their praises."   They are the lowly who see "nothing to admire in themselves ...."  They "give themselves away ...."   The poor in spirit "would lift every brother to the embrace of the Father. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they are of the same spirit as God, and the nature of the kingdom is theirs."

Here is G Mac commenting on those who have "the same spirit,"  the poor in spirit and the meek who will inherit the earth:

The same spirit, then, is required for possessing the kingdom of heaven, and for inheriting the earth. How should it not be so, when the one Power is the informing life of both? If we are the Lord's, we possess the kingdom of heaven, and so inherit the earth. How many who call themselves by his name, would have it otherwise: they would possess the earth and inherit the kingdom! Such fill churches and chapels on Sundays: anywhere suits for the worship of Mammon.

How can a person go through life looking up from the bottom of society in this manner as Jesus teaches?  The believer always looks to the future, and the work which still needs to be done,  clinging to the precious father and child relationship: 

He who delights in contemplating whereto he has attained, is not merely sliding back; he is already in the dirt of self-satisfaction. The gate of the kingdom is closed, and he outside. The child who, clinging to his Father, dares not think he has in any sense attained while as yet he is not as his Father—his Father's heart, his Father's heaven is his natural home.


All quotations are from George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel  (Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co. 1892). 

Monday, April 22, 2013

G. MacDonald - The Hope of the Gospel

I call George MacDonald "G Mac."   Last post I said that I would discuss what interferes with prayer.  Sin interferes with prayer, sin in what we think about,  what we say, what we do, and what we fail to do.  G Mac is spot on with his argument that in dealing with sin and the spiritual life we make the mistake of seeking knowledge rather than obedience.  The teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5-7) makes it clear that spiritual knowledge alone does not bring a person  into a father and child relationship with God.  In his discussion of obedience G Mac says this about repentance:

That he may enter, clear the house for him. Send away the bad things out of it. Depart from evil, and do good.  ...
They must cleanse, not the streets of their cities, not their houses or their garments or even their persons, but their hearts and their doing.  ...

George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel  (Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co. 1892). 

After the house is cleared, Jesus has to come in.  But this movement away from sin and toward the Lord is not something that can be done by force of the will.  It is a movement of the grace of God in a person's life.   This life of the believer who "sends away" sin to make room for Jesus will be the subject of a series of future posts. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heschel - Prayer as a Song

Every believer would like to live a life of prayer in the midst of each busy day.  One of the starting points involves attitude, which has been the subject of a previous post.
   Behind my house, Mayville, WI,  September 13, 2012. 

The believer must open up to God's presence in the word of God, but also in all things including trees, water and sunsets.   While walking in Riverside Park Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "Did you notice the trees?” 

Heschel was open to the divine presence in these every day encounters.   I have blogged  about the revelation of God who is present in all things.  But beyond that attitude of seeing God in these things,   what about the activity of prayer?

Heschel in an interview said this about prayer:

First of all, let us not misunderstand the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose of prayer is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.   Prayer may not save us, but prayer may make us worthy of being saved. Prayer is not requesting. There is a partnership of God and man.

http://www.philosophy-religion.org/religion_links/aj_heschel.htm    (Interview with NBC news correspondent Carl Stern February 4, 1973).  

What Heschel says speaking in a Jewish context also rings true for us who are Christian as we think of the words of Jesus, and  here again we can't forget that Jesus too was Jewish.   Jesus taught  his friends to pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven,"  a song of praise of the child to the father.   The child has an  intimate "partnership" relationship with God who is father to the one praying.   Jesus goes on to pray, "give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,"  and yes, those are requests, but even the requests come in a spirit  of praise to God to whom we say, "hallowed by thy name."  

Heschel's  idea of prayer as a song helps to bring the Lord's prayer to life for me.

What interferes with prayer?   That will be the subject of the next post. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jesus Meets Cleopas Post Easter - Richard Bauckham

This is one of my favorite paintings of Jesus post-resurrection.

                Jesus and the two disciples On the Road to Emmaus, by Duccie,1308-1311,
 Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.  Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Today as I think of this scene from Luke chapter 24 I am picturing the later "testimony" of Cleopas in the Jerusalem church, describing his glorious encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  On this subject of the testimony of the eye-witnesses,  Richard Bauckham explains why Luke mentions Cleopas by name:

If the names [of those named in the gospels] are of persons well known in the Christian communities, then it also becomes likely that many of these people were themselves the eye-witnesses who first told and doubtless continued to tell the stories in which they appear and to which their names are attached.  A good example is Cleopas (Luke 24:18):  the story does not require that he be named and his companion remains anonymous.  There seems no plausible reason for naming him other than to indicate that he was the source of this tradition.  

Richard Bauckham,  Jesus and the Eyewitnesses  (Eerdmans 2006) at page 47 (footnotes omitted).  

Who was Cleopas?

[Cleopas] was very probably the same person as Clopas, whose wife Mary appears among the women at the cross in John 19:25.  Clopas is a very rare Semitic form of the Greek name Cleopas, so rare that we can be certain this is the Clopas who, according to Hegesippus, was the brother of Jesus'  father Joseph and the father of Simon, who succeeded his cousin James as leader of the Jerusalem church (apud Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 4.22.4). Cleopas/Clopas was doubtless one of those relatives of Jesus who played a prominent role in the Palestinian Jewish Christian movement.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses at 47 (footnotes omitted).   Mary wife of Cleopas/Clopas was at the cross and her husband had the blessed privilege of encountering Jesus post-resurrection.  These two witnessed sacred  mysteries of our faith, the death of Jesus, and his appearance to his friends after his resurrection from the dead.     Their son Simon was a Torah observant Jew who led the Jerusalem church.    Now I would have loved to hear the testimony of any one of those three!