It’s great to see the following book: Prophet of Justice, Prophet of Life: Essays on William Stringfellow, edited by Robert Boak Slocum back in print, courtesy of Wipf & Stock (re-published Jan 2014). I have the original 1997 Church Publishing Incorporated, New York edition. It has some great essays in it, including the very goof oft-quoted ‘Listen to this Man’: A Parable Before the Powers by Bill Wylie-Kellermann.
“Who was William Stringfellow? Like most prophets, he was brilliant. But he was also, like most prophets, difficult, irascible, suspicious, contentious—and full of courage. He was a lawyer, a social activist, and a dedicated communicant of the Episcopal Church. He graduated from Harvard Law School in the 1950s but put aside the promise of a lucrative career and went to work in East Harlem, one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods. At the height of the Vietnam War, he took the Reverend Daniel Berrigan into his home and was indicted for harboring a fugitive. In the 1970s, while the Episcopal Church was struggling with such issues as the ordination of women and the funding of programs for minorities, he accused the ecclesiastical hierarchy of arrogance, duplicity, and lack of leadership.
Everything William Stringfellow said and did was grounded in his profound belief in the Incarnation and the Eschaton. He knew Jesus Christ to be the Word of God, who is in all things and who challenges the powers and principalities of this world, calling people and institutions to repentance and newness of life.
In Prophet of Justice, Prophet of Life editor Robert Boak Slocum has gathered a diverse group of clergy, legal scholars, and seminary faculty to produce this stimulating and provocative series of essays on the life and work of William Stringfellow.”
This quote, thinking about words and stories we might use to talk about “resurrection”, from this post by Sheila Pritchard: “…"it's a process... life, growth, aging, decay, death and re-cycling…”
And finally, a few excerpts from this post by Maggi Dawn, centred on a Jesus-story that has been very important to me over a good number of years – John 21: 1-13.
“…Peter was done with grieving, done with trying to work out what to do next. The big dream was over--the hope of a Messiah to liberate them politically, the anticipation of a new kingdom, a new order, a new life. Jesus was risen and that meant joy, but it didn't change the fact that life couldn't continue as it had done for the last couple of years. Somehow they had to go back to their old lives and pick up where they'd left off…
… Even going fishing, you see, was never going to be the same again. It wouldn't really matter what Peter did from then on: none of it would ever be a matter of going back to what he did before. Everything would look different, smell different, taste different, because Jesus had walked through Peter's life, just as God had walked past Moses on the mountain top, and Peter had seen the glory of God just as surely as Moses had. Peter could go fishing any time he liked--he would always be a fisherman. What he couldn't do was go backwards.
Recognizing that Easter is 50 days long is important if, somehow, you have arrived at Easter morning and you don't feel overjoyed; don't feel much hope for the future. There are seasons in our lives when Lent is a more comfortable place to be, because it reflects our doubts and our struggles. Even if joy hasn't materialized for you yet, it's still a promise of things to come: a promise that the absence of God has been penetrated with light on the horizon, and the silence of the early morning is not hollow but hopeful, as if heaven is holding its breath, waiting for us to catch sight of it. We may still live with the frustration (like Moses) that all we can see is God's retreating back. But one day we will see face to face. We can never just go back to where we were before…”
And finally, this line from Barry Taylor talking about "darkness" in relation to Easter Saturday and life in general: "..Lately I am learning to let it be and not try and rush to discover a way through it but rather to spend time in that space and let it give me it's treasures, whatever they may be..."
Holy Week brings with is such a rich number of entry points into both the Jesus-story, and equally into our all together human stories; our struggles and our questing for richer, deeper, more whole and holy experiences of becoming more intergrated and authentically and compelling human, reflecting in that journey the humanity of he whom we call the "second Adam".
“What does it mean to preach the gospel today? How do we shape vibrant congregations? How do we preachers not merely survive, but thrive? For nearly a quarter century, Chris Neufeld-Erdman has preached the gospel--sustaining congregational life and emboldening Christian witness in the midst of this turbulence. He's also taught seminarians and mentored working pastors. His theology and practice of preaching is hammered out on the anvil of real life. It's tested. True. Useful. In this book, a veteran pastor meditates on everything from exegesis and sermon preparation to the way preachers might preach after tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. He reflects on what it means, for example, to host the text in the midst of what feels like a terminal state of war and violence, both abroad and at home, as well as the task of preaching in the midst of the massive anxiety produced by economic uncertainty and political gridlock. Here's a book that will inspire and guide you as a wise, empowered preacher--an ordinary agent of the extraordinary gospel.”
It’s important to note that this is a fully revised, updated, and expanded version of his earlier book, "Countdown to Sunday" (Brazos/Baker: 2007). There is a new chapter, Preaching in a Visual Age, which will be important for preachers and congregations today. As will be the additional sermon example and commentary at the end of the book. The new book also reflects the current political and social setting that can make preaching and the formation of the congregation challenging today.
My review of the earlier edition can be found here (PDF).
I highly recommend the new, fully revised and expanded edition. If you preach it’s a must read!.
Thomas Merton's advice to a diocesan priest in 1968 reflected his own evolving sense of his monastic and priestly vocation... It's not dissimilar to my own view.
"Couldn't you be a sort of 'underground priest' in lay clothes… In other words it seems to me that in this Post-Conciliar period you might be called to a kind of hidden service in the sort of unofficial and informal life you desire. In short, be like a layman, live like a layman, but do some of the priestly work and service along with it… All the more reason to get out of the ordinary patterns and yet to be a priest nevertheless, and work in a quiet, relaxed relationship with people you can relate to without too much difficulty. After all, you are always going to have to relate to people. See your priesthood not as a role or an office, but as just part of your own life and your relation to other persons. You can bring them Christ in some quiet way, and perhaps you will find yourself reaching people that the Church would not otherwise contact." (Father D. 3.14.68. From The School of Charity, p. 371)
Sadly I won’t be able to get to see / listen to Michael Leunig when he’s in Auckland next month, so the next best thing was to listen to him yesterday in a New Zealand radio interview (Duration - 30min 36sec). It was all to brief, but was a delight.
“Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig whose work depicts the fragility and follies of the human condition - and our relationship with the natural world. His latest book The Essential Leunig: Cartoons From A Winding Path is published by Penguin. Michael Leunig will be appearing at the Auckland Writer's Festival in May.”
For more on the show, go here.
A fascinating radio interview I was listening to last week
Andrew Smart is a neuroscience researcher and the author of Autopilot. He explains the art and science of being idle as a necessary means to creativity and greater productivity.
From Radio New Zealand, Nine To Noon on 09 Apr 2014.
"Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new lives, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of a child — life's most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!" —Howard Thurman.
A theologian I regularly check in on is Andrew Perriman. He recently put up a post, which explored whether Jesus thought of himself as God. It’s an engagement with the thinking of another theologian Michael Bird.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…I agree that Jesus interpreted his own role in the light of Daniel 7:13-14, and that by so doing he was “placing himself within the orbit of divine sovereignty and claiming a place within the divine regency of God Almighty” (66). But that is not the same as saying that Jesus “knew himself to be God”. The argument of Daniel 7:13-27 is that the Israel that remains faithful to the covenant under intense persecution will be vindicated by God and will be given dominion over the nations. If Jesus identifies himself with that narrative, it is because he believed that the future of God’s people at a time of greater crisis depended on the faithfulness of his followers and their willingness to suffer…”
“…All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become “sacred wounds” and not something to deny, disguise, or export to others.
If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.
Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying storyline of human history. Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals, so that we don’t just keep handing the pain on to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, humanity is in major trouble…”
~ Richard Rohr - Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 25-26 and Job and the Mystery of Suffering, pp. 90-91.
“…Somewhere along the way, we each get stripped of what we have spent our lives acquiring, of things closest to our hearts, of possessions or positions that made us who we thought we were. Then, thrown back upon ourselves, we are left to discover who we have really become. It is a frightening moment, often an embarrassing one, always a difficult one. So much of life is spent attending to the show and glitter, the masks and trappings, the externals of our personal identities that we fail to notice what is lacking inside of us. The problem is, of course, that we don’t miss what we don’t have within us until we need it most. Then the lack of dignity, of self-containment, of simple joy, of deep sincerity, of spiritual serenity, of holy trust, of genuine humility becomes glaringly apparent. It’s only at the point when we realize who we are not that we are ready to become someone worthwhile. When we have finally stopped the posturing and personal exaggerations of life, the freedom that comes with being honest with the self and open with others leaves us perfectly free. Now, nothing can possibly shame us again. No one can say anything about us that we have not already admitted, if not to others, certainly to the self. Now we cannot be slighted because we know who we are. We cannot be embarrassed by the past because we have already embraced and confronted it. We cannot be left to the vultures of life because there is no way left to pick us to the bone that we have not already reckoned with ourselves. It is a moment of great liberation. It is a moment of new life. Being willing to be the self and nothing more is the beginning of truth, the essence of humility, the coming of peace…”
From The Way of the Cross by Joan Chittister, “Station 10: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments” (Orbis). Image is by artist Chris Woods.
Following on from Saturday’s post, today I want to highlight a recent conversation with David Tacey, facilitated by Sean J. McGrath. McGrath researches and teaches in the areas of metaphysics, classical German philosophy (Kant to Heidegger), phenomenology and hermeneutics, and psychoanalysis at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.
I have a great deal of time for Tacey and as a consequence he has featured a number of times on this blog. Tacey is an Australian and is a Professor of English at La Trobe University in Australia and a world-renowned authority on Jung and spirituality. He studied under the late James Hillman and is the author of twelve influential books, His most recent being The Darkening Spirit: Jung, Spirituality and Religion, which was published in 2013 by Routledge.
The conversation was recorded last month, March 2014, and, while in places quite academic, I valued it in its own right, but also for the interesting places it took my own thinking. It comes in at just on an hour in duration.
Today a lengthy excerpt from a recent Third Way article on dreams by Mark Vernon:
“…If, for Freud, dreams attempt at concealing, for Jung dreams are communications. Jung thought we dream, not in order to stay asleep, but because our conscious life lacks something. The dream conveys that lack, and we dream because the psyche has a potent capacity to try to heal itself. It is always struggling to do so. It wills to make us whole. For the spiritually-minded, Jung provides a dream model that allows us to understand both how our troubled past distorts our view of things now, and how the resources of our inner life might transform us by gradually expanding our personalities and developing our capacities in ways that currently elude, frighten, and/or seem impossible to us.
… So how did Jung suggest we work with dream symbols so as not to be led astray? The key word is amplification. When he worked with his patient's dreams, he would elaborate on the symbols that they reported. But he did not interpret too quickly. The aim is to keep the dream alive in the individual's psyche, gradually unfolding its meaning to conscious awareness - a process that must be felt as well as understood. So he would encourage his patients to re-enter the dream, as it were, and allow all its feelings and images to come back to life. The dream could then be explored in a hynagogic state, an exercise he called active imagination. The therapists role is not only to help create the right mood or frame for this to take place, but also to contribute in a more objective way, by making timely suggestions, particularly on the basis of what the therapists knows about the meaning of symbols. Here's an example Jung offers in his chapter in the book, Man And His Symbols.
“For instance, a patient of mine dreamed of a drunken and disheveled vulgar woman. In the dream, it seemed that this woman was his wife, though in real life his wife was totally different. On the surface, therefore, the dream was shockingly untrue, and the patient immediately rejected it as dream nonsense…
…What then, was his unconscious trying to convey by such an obviously untrue statement? Clearly it somehow expressed the idea of a degenerate female who was closely connected with the dreamer’s life; but since the projection of this image on to his wife was unjustified and factually untrue, I had to look elsewhere before I found out what this repulsive image represented.
In the Middle Ages... it was said, “Every man carries a woman within himself.” It is this female element in every male that I have called the “anima.” This “feminine” aspect is essentially a certain inferior kind of relatedness to the surroundings, and particularly to women, which (in men) is kept carefully concealed from others as well as from oneself…
That was the case with this particular patient: His female side was not nice. His dream was actually saying to him: “You are in some respects behaving like degenerate female,” and thus gave him an appropriate shock.”
I like this example because it is so grounded. The man needed a shock from the unconscious if he was to integrate a part of himself that he was trying to expel, and in so doing caused him to behave like a lout. But Jung also introduces us to his notion of archetypes, the propensity that we collectively inherit to have shared kinds of fantasies and experiences in our inner lives - in this case, a man dreaming of his anima. Often when you read about archetypes they are enthusiastically presented as semi-divine figures within us, but as here, Jung himself tends to keep his feet on the ground. He shows quite clearly that most of the time such figures play a far more humdrum role: to highlight uneasy issues in our personalities - perhaps residues from specific difficulties in our lives; or tendencies that have become out of balance…”
You can read Mark’s complete article here. For an excellent audiobook introduction I highly recommend this one by Anthony Stevens.