Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lunch at Barnes and Noble

While waiting for his glasses to be crafted, my son and I decided to visit the local bookseller and redeem gift cards we had received for Christmas. After finding a few books, there was enough time left to visit the in-store café.

As we sat in the café, we noticed the mural above the café counter. Stretching for about forty or so feet, and being about four to six feet tall, the mural displays likenesses of fifteen famous authors – Faulkner, Hemingway, Parker, and the like. They are sitting in a café themselves, most at tables, but with one or two standing. As we studied the mural, a few things became obvious that we had previously not noticed. The first is the most obvious – of the fifteen authors, only two are women. Not overly exciting this, but curious nonetheless given the recent and somewhat extended push for gender equality and recognition of women's contributions in previously male-dominated fields.

The next detail that became apparent is that the few "extra" people in the mural – those who are not authors - either have their eyes painted with little or no detail, or that their eyes are not visible at all. Essentially, the only people with eyes are the authors. We could chalk this stylizing of the non-authors simply to the idea that this mural is in a bookstore. It would be reasonable that the authors would be the main and possibly only object of the painting, with the others simply filling in some open space. 

The foregoing would make the mural interesting enough, but there is another detail that highlights this only-authors observation. It seems that the authors are looking at something, or perhaps are intently pondering some grand idea. The authors aren't all looking at the same thing, but they are all intently looking at something. Nabakov for instance is holding his glasses and peering at them in his hands. Neruda though, seems to be staring into space, pondering some idea or site perhaps only he can see.

There is clearly more going on in, and behind this mural than what initially is apparent. The message seems to be that authors – those with classic staying power – are observers of people and life. It isn't suggested that they are simply observers though. No, these authors are observers that intently study the goings on around them – people, ideas, and events. The only author who is actually writing is Hughes who seems to be writing in a bound journal. Maybe he's recording his observations – or writing poetry about his surroundings for later delivery to us as classic.

It occurs to me that perhaps God followers could be in this mural. After all, what better group of people to closely observe the human condition and pass on their observations to the rest of the world? Maybe if we spent a bit more time observing the world from the perspective of God – from the perspective of the image in which we were made – we could more effectively communicate the Good News to the world full of people who remain confused and wondering, with no one to lead them. To do so though, requires that we set our Bibles down, let go of our perceptions of what doing life "right" looks like, and allow ourselves to become and experience real humanity. Can we do all this without lecturing, without castigating our fellow humans that don't seem to get it?

It seems that we must do this if we expect to have a continuing positive impact on our world. Have we become so ensconced in our churches, so shallow in our faith lives, that the realities of life shock us overly much, or even scare us? How can we minister to people whose lives scare us? I suggest that we cannot.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prayer for a Newborn

Our great God, our Creator, the giver and sustainer of Life. We praise you for this miracle we have received today.

As Violet Grace takes her first breaths, we ask you to breathe on her; give her your Spirit. Infuse her with a desire for you, give her wisdom to discern you in herself, in others, and in the Creation. Give her the strength to follow You, and patience and compassion with those who do not know you, or who have not discerned you as she has.

Give her patience with herself and teach her to wait on You. Give her a desire for a simple life, lived quietly in trust with You.

Father, as we remember the coming of Your Son, we ask that You incarnate Yourself in Violet; that You nurture and grow her to be a living witness of Your grace in this life.

Keep her safe, bless her and her parents beyond their imaginations, and give them long lives and great wisdom.

We trust You, and rely on Your steadfast love.

Thank you for Your Son, and in His name we offer Violet to You.

Amen

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Communion Reflection – 7 December 2008

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

This psalm describes a God that is not far off, but a God that sees and loves those who would follow Him. This God sees the trouble of His people and protects them, lifts them up, and sustains them. Communion reminds us of this same God who saw the world in distress, as those without shepherds, and who intervened to save, protect, and lift us up from our despair.

As we remember our God who died for us, let us also remember that we do this in community – with one another. As we take the bread, we promise one another, we promise the world, we pledge to our God to take not just His life, but His death into our own bodies. We die to ourselves so that we may join with our God in blessing the world.

We are told that blood is life, and so today we take into ourselves not just our Lord's death, but His life as well. As you drink this cup, and as it courses through your being, let it enliven you, let it give life to your souls, to your minds, and to your bodies. Let us use this life to leave here and give life and blessing to those outside. Let us live life as God would have us live it.

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