Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eustace and Aslan

But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Spark Lit a Fire

I won't wait, no, I won't wait for heaven
'Cause I believe heaven's coming my way.
While I'm alive I'll be gettin' on with living,
Like you're comin' my way.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Thoughts From the Journal

Luke 3:1-20

Here we have the introduction to (adult) John the Baptist. I confess, I've always had trouble understanding the role of John the Baptist. Why does Scripture treat him like such an important figure? I mean, the opening of the Gospel of John starts talking about him in the sixth verse, right after identifying Jesus as the Creator of the universe and sustainer of all life and goodness. It sounds like an odd thing to talk about next. “There was the Word – the Creator of all things who came to the world to overcome darkness and evil...and then there was JOHN!”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thoughts From My Devotional Journal

Where have you been?!

Luke 2:41-52

This is probably the only event recorded in the Gospels from Jesus' childhood. I wish the Gospels said more about Jesus' younger years, but I suppose if he refrained from doing miraculous things before he started his ministry there wasn't much reason for people to be taking note of his simple life before then.

The setting for this incident is the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, Mary and Joseph took him to the Feast. The setting, I think, is important. The Passover was, of course, in remembrance of the moment in Israel's history when “the destroyer” passed over the first-born Israelites in Egypt because of the blood of the lamb on the family doorposts. It was at this time of remembrance – this acknowledgement of Israel's salvation on account of a sacrifice – that Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation, started to make his presence known.

It's funny to me that Jesus' parents left Jerusalem and traveled for a day before realizing that Jesus was not with them. This gives us an interesting insight into Jesus' childhood – he spent time with relatives and friends. Most parents would check to make sure they had their 12-year-old with them when leaving a major city, but if your son had a habit of spending time with relatives and friends and many of those relatives and friends were traveling in the same caravan as you, you might just assume he was tagging along with them. It sounds like that's what happened here, because when Mary and Joseph couldn't find Jesus they “began looking for him among their relatives and friends.

Of course, he wasn't with them, so they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. It took them three days to find him. Three days! That means they didn't see their 12-year-old son for at least four days. That must have been scary. I wonder if Mary feared that he had been attacked or killed. She must have. After all, Simeon had said to her, “a sword will pierce your own soul.” Did she continue to have faith in God's promises (promises that were yet to be fulfilled through her son), even in the midst of a crisis like this? How much did she doubt?

When they found Jesus, he was sitting in the temple courts listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed, including his parents.

Like any normal parents, Mary and Joseph were upset. Mary said, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?”

The exchange is fascinating. First of all, did Jesus fail to “honor his mother and father” as the law commands? I know if I had run away from my parents for days and then responded to their questions with, “Why were you looking for me?” I would have been severely reprimanded. Jesus seems flip in his answer.

I think we need to trust, though, that Jesus really means what he says here. He's not trying to be flip or disrespectful. He really DOES think it's odd that his parents were searching for him. He had to be in his Father's house. How could they not know that?

Theologians often like to make the point that Jesus was not omniscient (at least not during his earthly life). As it says at the end of this passage, Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature.” He didn't know all things the moment he popped out of the womb.

But Jesus did have special knowledge. The Father gave him revelation about many, many things. But omniscience was not something the Father gave to him – God emptied himself of himself when he became Jesus. He had fullness of God's character but not of His power (or so many theologians argue).

I think Jesus knew he needed to be in the temple because his Father had revealed it to him, but I don't think he realized that his Father hadn't revealed this to Mary and Joseph.

I think young Jesus heard the Father's instructions clearly, knew following those instructions was his first priority, and then followed them. I'm sure he was concerned about honoring his earthly parents in addition to following his heavenly father's instruction, but he may have never even considered the possibility that he was dishonoring them because he probably assumed the Father would tell them the same thing he had clearly told him: that he needed to be in the temple.

So, in my opinion, we shouldn't be asking: why was Jesus so rude to his parents? He wasn't. What we should be asking is: why didn't God the Father reveal the same thing to Mary and Joseph that he did to Jesus? I'm not sure what the answer is, but it's possible he did everything he could but Mary and Joseph just weren't listening. It's also possible that the Father wanted to teach them that they can't hold on too tightly to their son. Jesus is supposed to honor his parents, yes, but his first loyalty is to his heavenly Father, and his true home is in his Father's house.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Brotherhood of Man

All day, since your haircut in the morning,
You have looked like a painting, even more than usual
We are in the wind, planting the maples
We meet an older man who seems to know 
I miss my dad.
And he smiles through the limbs.
We talk easily with him
until the rain begins.
This is the brotherhood of man.

Waiting at the airport on my suitcase
a girl traveling from Spain became my sudden friend,
though I did not learn her name.
And when the subway dimmed
a stranger lit my way.
This is the brotherhood of man.

I never can say what I mean
but you will understand,
coming through clouds on the way.
This is the brotherhood of man.

By Karen Peris (C) 2006 Umbrella Day Music

I really like The Innocence Mission (and this song in particular). Sufjan Stevens once said (in reference to another Innocence Mission song - although I think it applies to this one as well):

I'm in awe of big songs, national anthems, rock opera, the Broadway musical. But what I always come back to, after the din and drum roll, is the small song that makes careful observations about everyday life. This is what makes the music by The Innocence Mission so moving and profound. 'Lakes of Canada' creates an environment both terrifying and familiar using sensory language: incandescent bulbs and rowboats are made palpable by careful rhythms, unobtrusive rhyme schemes, and specificity of language. What is so remarkable about Karen Peris' lyrics are the economy of words, concrete nouns - fish, flashlight, laughing man - which come to life with melodies that dance around the scale like sea creatures. Panic and joy, a terrible sense of awe, the dark indentations of memory all come together at once, accompanied by the joyful strum of an acoustic guitar. This is a song in which everyday objects begin to have tremendous meaning.

Right on, Sufjan. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tell Me a Story

I absolutely love this album. Love, love, love it. It is magic.

M83 is not a Christian band by any stretch, but there is one song on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming that reminds me of the Gospel every time I hear it. The track is called Raconte-moi une Histoire (Translation: "Tell me a story"), and it features a little girl fulfilling the title's request. The first time I heard it, I thought it was just nonsense. I thought it was a throwaway song - you know, one of those extra tracks between the "real" songs that pretends to be a novelty but is really just there to make potential buyers think the album has more substance than it really does.