Reading: Mark 10:17-31

This story is really interesting and bears looking into with some detail, although I will not be able to do so here. Rather, I’ll simply make some observations.

First, in the past I’ve read this story as though the man (not identified by Mark as a “rich young ruler”) was insincere. After all, isn’t his reference to Jesus as “good teacher” an obvious attempt to ingratiate himself? Isn’t he just looking for a shortcut to salvation? Now I don’t think so. I think that for us to feel the story’s full power, we need to see that the man was completely sincere, even when he declares that he has kept at least 5 of the 10 commandments since he was a youth, and even when Jesus deflects his attempt to write Jesus off as just another teacher (at least, I think that’s what Jesus is doing). No, the man is sincere. He really does want to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. As, by the way, do we. The text clearly asserts that Jesus “loved” him—an assertion that would be odd if he was just putting Jesus on (and wouldn’t Jesus know that?).

Second, Jesus connects “eternal life” with keeping the commandments that deal with how we treat each other. If nothing else, this should cause us to rethink our own ideas of what “eternal life” might be. Yes, Jesus goes on to say that eternal life will be given in the “age to come,” but we don’t get any real idea of what that is in this passage. Except that Jesus, after the man leaves, connects all this to “the kingdom of God.” Here we need to notice that Jesus twice asserts how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, but that these statements frame a more general statement that includes everyone: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Third, the disciples’ astonishment seems to come from their apparent belief that wealth indicates blessing from God; therefore, if it is difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom, it must be impossible for those whom God has not so blessed. And Jesus does affirm that impossibility—but then immediately asserts the possibility of the impossible with God.

Finally, Peter declares that the disciples have done what the man could not—given up all they had to follow Jesus. Jesus doesn’t deny this, and affirms that those who do such things will be given back “in this life” what they gave up and receive eternal life in the age to come. But then comes that saying that seems to have been one of Jesus’ favorites: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

We need to pay attention to that final statement of Jesus. This is a story about discipleship and the difficulty of discipleship. Jesus’ statement to the man that there was “one thing” he should do was not some sort of universal key to the secret of salvation; it was what that man needed to do to. Only by giving his possessions away could he gain the perspective needed to be Jesus’ disciple—to see himself as “last” rather than “first” or, to put it another way, to recognize that it was only through the power of God that he would inherit eternal life.

The other disciples had done what the man could not, but this does not mean that they were any more privileged than him—hence Jesus’ final admonition. So, for those of us who would be Jesus’ disciples, we need to hear this story as being directed squarely at us. Like the man and the disciples, we need to come to Jesus sincerely as we seek eternal life. We need to hear from this story that eternal life in the age to come has a great deal to do with ordinary everyday life in this age. Loving God means loving our neighbor. But we also need to be ready to hear Jesus tell us to give up something we’re hanging on to, something that keeps us from seeing ourselves in proper perspective. The question is, will we have ears to hear?

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Growing up in church, I tended to think of Christian faith in terms of intimidating lists of do’s and don’ts. Do go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t go to the wrong kind of movies. “Obeying the gospel” was another way of saying “be baptized,” which was itself the final item in a list of things to do to be saved: hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. It took many years before I understood that faith was a radical reorientation of one’s life toward God and others out of which one did or did not do certain things.

“Living justly” can often feel like “living legalistically”—like a return to those days when I felt shame and fear for my sins of commission and omission. The sheer number of ways a typical American’s lifestyle contributes to injustice—as well as the vast number of recommendations out there for how to live a green or sustainable lifestyle—can be overwhelming.

That’s why I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Julie Clawson begins her book Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP, 2009) with the words “Don’t panic.” Julie knows that the biggest risk of writing a book like this is that the reader will be so paralyzed that she will do nothing. So she addresses 7 specific areas from our everyday lives (coffee, chocolate, cars, food, clothes, waste, debt) where we can make small but significant changes, but in the process shows how living justly (or not) in these areas connects us to other people from around the world. EJ

Everyday Justice encourages us to take seriously the two greatest commandments according to Jesus: loving God and loving our neighbors. First John 4:20 puts it this way: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” The problem is, as Julie points out, that many of the things that Americans consume are produced by the poorest people on the planet in horrifying conditions. The fact that we do not see these people, except when the occasional scandal exposes their plight,  is no excuse for supporting the systems that keep them poor or otherwise endangered by their working conditions. But we do precisely that with our consumption patterns. Many of the things we buy support companies that treat their workers unethically. And many of the things we consume were produced in ways that deplete the earth of natural resources or were made with dangerous chemicals.

But Everyday Justice is a light shining in this darkness. Yes, it exposes the darkness, causing me to be depressed. But it also gave me hope by showing how I can alter my lifestyle and love my unseen brothers or sisters around the world by supporting companies that pay their workers fair wages or make their products without wasteful plastics or dangerous pesticides.

The area in which the book challenged me the most was clothing. I pride myself on maintaining a simple, inexpensive wardrobe. But I’ve realized that my inexpensive, colorful t-shirts may have a hidden cost, as they could have been made by people who weren’t paid fairly, and were doubtless made with cotton produced with the use of outrageous amounts of pesticide. Further, I have way too many items of clothing purchased specifically because they are relatively “care-free,” i.e., “wrinkle-resistant” or “unshrinkable.” I bought them even though I knew that it took chemicals to make them that way. Our culture trains us to think that we are successful consumers if we find the best bargain on clothing (or whatever). But cheap clothing, as with cheap food, has other costs that are built into its production from the get-go.

Many readers will be on the same theological page with Julie, as I was. The book’s value for them, as for me, will be to help them put their theological values into practice. Other readers may be a little suspicious of what may appear to be a “liberal social justice agenda.” But I suspect these readers will be moved by Julie’s accounts of the real-life impact of our consumption patterns on those who are considered “the least of these,” and may find their theology shifted in subtle ways. But all of us, if we have ears to hear, will be moved a little closer to truly obeying the gospel. And that’s a good thing.

I began this blog with a 6-part series on the gospel (beginning here). One of the points I made was that we should keep asking “What is the gospel?” not because we don’t have any idea, but because we’re always tempted to distort the gospel so that it serves us, rather than being convicted by it so that hearing the gospel results in a total reorientation of our lives to God’s purposes.

The Conservative Bible Project provides a prime example of what happens when we elevate political ideology over all else and recruit God to our “side.” (I’m assuming that it’s not a massive joke; if it is, it’s not funny. I also acknowledge that the extreme conservatism of this project has already been rebuked by various, more moderate conservative commentators.) In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, I refer you to the CBP link above. In brief, the CBP hopes to combat what it perceives to be liberal bias in current English translations of the Bible by producing its own “fully conservative” version. What follows are some thoughts about this.

The CBP is engaging in conceptual idolatry on a number of fronts. I’ll limit this post to naming two: (1) Its elevation of the modern liberal/conservative divide to ultimate importance and, subsequently, to its elevation of the conservative side to ultimate hermeneutical status; (2) its elevation of the English language to ultimate linguistic status.

1. From the CBP website, it appears that the folks behind it see the world through a harshly dualistic liberal/conservative lens. It’s strictly either/or: you’re either one of us or one of them. In fact, this modern political construct can, according to them, be applied backward 2,000 years to the biblical stories; one of their goals is to eliminate “liberal” biblical stories, such as the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (point #8 in their 10-point list). Ah, but they say this story was inserted “later” (and most biblical scholars agree); ok—so exactly when did the “liberal bias” begin? When do they think the story was inserted? Do they really think the first “pure,” unedited Gospel texts represent a “conservative” view? More to the point, do they think a political framework grounded in recent American history is really the ultimate way to read the biblical texts?

2. The CBP not only insists on reshaping the Bible (more specifically, the New Testament; is the Old Testament not valid as Scripture?) according to its own historically and hermeneutically limited perspective, it further constricts the biblical text by asserting that the English language is ultimately superior in conveying truth about God—but only when conservative principles are applied to it (see especially points 1, 2, 4, 7). Footnote 2 asserts that “Christianity introduced powerful new concepts that even the Greek and Hebrew were inadequate to express, but modern conservative language can express well.” So…conservative concepts expressed through modern English are the ultimate expression of Christian truth?

Folks, we’re in the realm of idolatry here. (Again, I want to make clear to my friends who consider themselves conservative that I don’t mean to lump them all in with this more radical, extreme mindset. I would encourage you to rehabilitate the term “conservative” from folks like the CBP, if you can.) Whenever you decide that your political position provides all the resources needed to interpret Scripture, and that in fact Scripture can be “purified” only by the application of principles you hold dear and in the language you speak, then you’re in danger of worshiping your own ideas rather than the God that Scripture points to in the first place. 

I have more nits to pick with the CBP as set forth at their website, but these should do for now.

Readings: Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise to God that helps us put things in perspective. Although God’s name is “majestic” in all the earth, God is not the same as what God has created: God’s glory is “above the heavens.” At the same time, neither does the psalmist denigrate the created order. Creation turns the psalmist’s thoughts to God and to humanity’s relation to God.

In this light, humanity appears small and insignificant: “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Yet humanity is not so insignificant after all: “you made them a little lower than God.” Again in line with Genesis, the psalmist describes humanity’s task: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.”

Lest we begin to swing the pendulum the other way and think too much of ourselves, we might turn to the New Testament reading, where the writer of Hebrews picks up Psalm 8 to describe Jesus’ mission and ministry. Hebrews 1:1-4 exalts the risen Christ in every way possible: he is superior not only to prophets but also to angels. The world was created through him, and “he is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” Then the writer uses Psalm 8:4-6 to name at least one way in which humanity also has an edge over the angels: in relation to the world, “God left nothing outside [humanity’s] control.” We might be tempted to follow this logic: while we are not God, we follow Jesus, who created and sustains all things, and Scripture says God has put all things under our control. Clearly, the world is ours to do with as we wish. Right?

Wrong. Wrong, precisely because we do follow Jesus, and Hebrews 2:9-10 makes clear that Jesus’s lordship was/is not displayed in domineering tyranny but in self-sacrifice and suffering. While our readings describe both Jesus and humanity as having been crowned with glory and honor, Jesus was so crowned “because of the suffering of death.” Jesus gave up his status and joined humanity for a little while as being “lower than angels.”

These texts call us to a proper perspective on our relation to God and to the world. As Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 8 affirm, we have been given a tremendous responsibility, stewardship of all creation. Lest we sinfully distort the boundaries of that stewardship, however, we need to follow the example of Jesus, who, though God, took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2). These texts speak to us deeply as we consider our relationship to God, to each other, and to all creation. Do we have ears to hear?

Bringing It Home

Obviously, there’s no way to say in one post everything that needs to be said about the gospel. And there’s no way I can say in this post everything I’d like to say. But here are some thoughts about the implications of the gospel as I laid it out.

  • The gospel begins and ends with God. That is, the central focus of the gospel is on what God is doing in the world, not what my eternal salvation will be, as important as that is (to me). This is what distinguishes the gospel from other gospels that come to us in culture or other places. The good news isn’t only good news in relation to bad news. The good news doesn’t begin with shame or fear. It begins with God. And it has to do with what God wants for all of creation (and thus us individually as part of that creation).
  • The gospel is rooted in Scripture—all of it, not just the New Testament, and not just Paul. If we miss this point, we risk excising Jesus (and Paul) from his Jewish context, and when we make Jesus the first Christian—that is, picture him as overthrowing, denigrating, or making irrelevant the religious tradition that shaped him—then terrible things happen, and have happened. The center of the gospel is God; and Scripture witnesses to the enduring faithfulness and righteousness of God. Anyone who isolates the New Testament from the Old will miss this basic point, will not come close to understanding the New Testament, and will risk misunderstanding just how good the good news is.
  • When in the last post I said I struggle to believe the gospel, I don’t mean by “believe” simply giving mental assent to it. I mean giving my whole life over to it. As should be clear from that post, I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is about more than simply adhering to Christianity as opposed to some other religion. I believe it has to do with what it means to be truly human. I believe the gospel is meant to re-form us into the image of God, tying together God’s initial creative purposes with God’s eventual redemptive intentions and giving us a frame in which to live, move, and have our being—or not. The power of sin is still within me, continually tempting me away from the path God would have me walk. A reason to keep asking “What is the gospel?” is so we help each other remember where the path is when we’re tempted to step off it.

Well, there’s so much more to say, and I’ll probably return to this topic explicitly from time to time. But I wanted to kick off this blog with this series because it really provides a frame for what I want to do with the blog, that is, explore where hope is peeking through in the despair around us. In the end, I think the gospel may be the only legitimate reason for hope or faith.

But that leads me to one final point, and one more reason to keep asking “What is the gospel?” That is, the gospel—indeed, God—is always at risk of being drowned out, ignored, overwhelmed, distorted, abused, coopted, misheard, misinterpreted, and on and on. God comes in weakness: in the still, small voice; in the Spirit that hovers over the waters; on a cross; in a box (the ark); through other people, particularly the poor and oppressed; and through Scripture, which does not speak with one voice but many, which tends to obscure rather than clarify, and which offends us on so many fronts (e.g., the violence of Joshua and Judges, the patriarchal attitudes of Paul) that we may be tempted to say, “Umm, no thanks.”

Apparently this is the way God works. God takes the chance that we might be so offended, so hard-hearted, so churched, so educated, so Christian, so righteous, or so fill-in-the-blank that we might miss what’s good about the good news. And so we need as individuals and as churches to keep asking each other “What is the gospel?” in order to hold open the possibility that we haven’t heard all of the good news yet.

So I ask you: What is the gospel?

The Gospel I (Struggle to) Believe

I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the same God who, in love, created all things. I believe that God created human beings in God’s image. I believe that being made in God’s image means that humans were and are meant to live in relational shalom with God, each other, and all of creation.

I believe that when humans decided to walk a different path, God, in love, did not destroy creation but worked redemptively to preserve it. I believe that one way God did this was to call a particular people to walk in the way God intended all humanity to walk. I believe God delivered Israel from oppression and slavery; God then freely entered into covenant with this people. I believe that when Israel chose a different path, God did not abandon them but continued to speak through prophets, whose messages not only exhorted repentance and return to the one God but also promised that all nations would eventually do the same.

 I believe that when the right time came, God sent one uniquely anointed to proclaim to Israel that God’s kingdom was at hand. I believe that what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of God” was that, just as God had been present in Eden, in the wilderness wanderings, in the tabernacle, and in the temple, God would now be present in Israel in such a way that God’s redemptive intent for all humanity would be revealed—that, in fact, it could be seen uniquely in Jesus’ healings, teaching, and ministry.

I believe that the path Jesus walked was the path God intended for all humanity. But the authorities of Jesus’ day, particularly the Roman authorities oppressing Israel, recognized that path as diametrically opposed to their own and crucified Jesus in an attempt maintain their own systems. I believe that God, as the creator of all things, decisively vindicated Jesus’ path and refuted the path of oppression by raising Jesus from the dead.

I believe that in the light of the resurrection and in the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the eyes and hearts of the early Jewish followers of Jesus were opened such that they saw in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection the working of the one God, the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I believe, with these early followers, that God’s promises of salvation and deliverance were being fulfilled in new and unexpected ways—including the prophetic promise that all nations would feast at God’s banquet. I believe that Jesus’ death atoned for humanity’s sins so that, free from the power of sin and death, humanity would be free to walk in the path God intended.

I believe that God’s promises to Israel have not been negated but that the church, even now in its primarily Gentile form, has been invited to the same task God has always given to God’s people: to proclaim the redemptive intentions of God for creation and to model those intentions by living in shalom with God, each other, and all creation. I believe that the church is empowered to do this by the presence of the Holy Spirit—the presence of the creator God, whose Spirit hovered over the face of the primordial waters.

I believe that the church best proclaims and models God’s redemptive intentions by following the way of Jesus—that is, bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. I believe that the kingdom of God comes partially through this Spirit-empowered work, but only partially; because, finally,

I believe that God will one day redeem all of creation in a decisive way. I believe that the presence of God in Eden, in the tabernacle, in the temple, in the person of Jesus, and in the indwelling Spirit will be consummated by God’s full, complete presence among us and that the image of God in us will be perfected—that we will be like God because we will see God as God is. I believe that in the new creation, all things will live in the relational shalom for which they were intended.

I believe Revelation 21 points us toward this day: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

Jesus Deconstructs Me, This I Know

I want to say, if anyone’s wondering, that my insistence that we keep asking “What is the gospel?” does not mean that we shouldn’t come to some conclusion—and then decide how we’re going to respond to the gospel’s ethical summons (thanks to David Dark for that phrase). I’m not after some wishy-washy, relativistic “pick your own gospel” sort of mind-set. Far from it.

Why keep asking the question? Because we (the church) have gotten it wrong in the past. Too many Christian preachers stepped into the pulpit and proclaimed that “God so loved the world…” Then from that same pulpit they preached sermons that in one way or another sanctioned slavery or the slaughter and displacement of Native Americans or the massacre of European Jews, or that in one way or another sanctioned the abuse of women by men. am_i_not_a_man

Now it’s easier (if not easy) to look back and see where we’ve gotten it wrong in the past. It’s much harder to figure out where we’re getting it wrong now. Who is it that we’re excluding, demonizing, or not loving as God loves, even when we think we’re being “biblical” or in step with the will of God?

The reason we keep asking the question is that none of us has it all right. None of acts, believes, thinks, or knows outside of our own finitude, not to mention the constant temptation to walk our own path rather than in the way of Jesus. We keep asking the question, not because we don’t have an answer, but because the good news may be better than we think. We keep asking the question to remind each other of the gospel, to help each other see as others see so that our blind spots can be overcome. (This, by the way, is why the emerging church conversation is a conversation.)

The emerging church interest in our postmodern or late modern context does not serve the purpose of being hip; it is to help us all be more humble. Without creative tension in our thoughts or talk about God (between what we know and what we don’t), it becomes easier to create what Bruce Ellis Benson terms “graven ideologies.” In other words, the idols we’re most likely to create and worship these days are our own conceptions of God and what God wants. And, friends, when the church has gotten this wrong, it’s REALLY gotten it wrong! As our Native American, African American, and Jewish brothers and sisters know all too well, the ultimate consequence of our unacknowledged idolatry is death for those who are not “us” or the same as us.

If we need biblical support for this idea, well, the texts have been there all along. When Jesus says to examine the log in our own eyes before we rail about the splinter in someone else’s, or when he presses the law to unexpected extremes in the Sermon on the Mount, or when he declares that one receives the kingdom like a child, or when Paul says that he sees through a glass darkly, or talks about not having finished the race, we need to have ears to hear. We need to hear that the gospel comes to us where we least expect it, in ways and forms that we didn’t expect, and from persons we thought not to hear it from. Thus, like the woman searching for the lost coin, we rejoice when we receive the gospel, and we invite our friends over to celebrate—and to share the coins they’ve found too.

Readings: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Mark 9:38-50

There’s an interesting similarity in the Numbers and Mark lessons for today. In Numbers, the people weep because the manna in the wilderness is nothing compared to the good food they had in Egypt. Moses goes before God and complains about the heavy burden that the people have become. God’s solution is to have Moses gather 70 elders of the people at the tent of meeting, where God’s spirit rests on them and they prophesy (but, notes the text, this was a one-time occurrence). But two elders, Eldad and Medad, also receive the spirit even though they remained in the camp, and they prophesy as well. When informed, Joshua declares that Moses should put an end to this “unauthorized” prophesying. Prophecy, it seems, is Moses’ bailiwick. This is reflected in Moses’ reply: “Are you jealous for my sake?” But he goes on: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

 In Mark, the disciples tell Jesus about someone moving in on his territory: “We saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” This episode occurs immediately after the disciples have been arguing about who is greatest among them. Thus, we’re invited to see this incident as another example of the disciples’ tendency to in-group and out-group: we’re in the inner circle; that guy’s a two-bit nobody who’s trading on Jesus’ name but doesn’t really get what he’s all about. Jesus’ reply? “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” He goes on to say that even those who do no more than give the disciples a cup of water because they follow Christ will gain “the reward.” Jesus follows this with a series of statements: about putting a stumbling block before “these little ones who believe in me”; about one’s hand, foot, or eye causing one’s own stumbling; and about the nature of having/being salt—being “at peace with one another.” lectionary

Jesus’ standards for who is “with him” are shockingly broad, including those who (we might speculate) are using his name to gain glory for themselves by casting out demons; and those who do nothing more than provide a cup of water for his name’s sake. At least Eldad and Medad were “registered” elders! At least in Numbers there’s no doubt that God’s spirit rested on them too! Here those affirmed by Jesus do not even have a name or credentials of any kind.

Jesus’ and Moses’ final words in these lessons are telling. Jesus’ statement, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another,” casts light on what immediately precedes it. Stop arguing about who is greatest. Stop ranking people by whether they know enough, or do enough, or believe enough to be “in.” Stop in-grouping and out-grouping and be at peace with others. That’s how you’ll show your saltiness. Moses’ words should send us to Acts 2 and Luke’s description of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel 2—as a day when God’s spirit is poured out and the people prophesy. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit has indeed been poured out. The question, then, is whether we’re living in the power of the Spirit so that we’re able to bear witness to God’s redemptive intentions for the world, or whether we’re more interested in determining who’s “in” and who’s “out.”

As an outsider to the Orthodox tradition, I’ve tried reading an occasional book on icons, usually with the hope that the book would help me “get” them. “I just want to know what these things mean” was my thought. nouwen

After reading Henri Nouwen’s Behold the Beauty of the Lord (Ave Maria, 1987), though, I see just how much of a mistake that was. Nouwen admits right away that for each of the four icons he writes about, his insights did not come until after months of living and praying with them. What he’s given us are meditations on the icons rather than analyses of their meaning (although there’s some overlap), and I found that Nouwen’s meditative approach was exactly what I needed from a book about icons. Reading this book is like praying with Nouwen as he prays with the icons.

The book is brief (80 pgs), with one meditation each on Rublev’s Trinity, the Virgin of Vladimir, the Savior of Zvenigorod, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The icons are reproduced in full color and folded into the front and back of the book in such a way that you can look at the icon at the same time that you’re reading about it.

rublevNouwen draws one primary spiritual lesson from each of the icons. I was most interested in what he had to say about Rublev’s Trinity, since it was a gift from my wife a couple of years ago and has been hanging in my office ever since. Nouwen says that contemplating this icon helped him learn what it means to live in “the house of love.” Introducing this icon, he writes:

Hardly a day passes in our lives without our experience of inner or outer fears, anxieties, apprehensions and preoccupations. These dark powers have pervaded every part of our world to such a degree that we can never fully escape them. Still it is possible not to belong to these powers, not to build our dwelling place among them, but to choose the house of love as our home. This choice is made not just once and for all but by living a spiritual life, praying at all times and thus breathing God’s breath. Through the spiritual life we gradually move from the house of fear to the house of love.

Friends, Nouwen has put his finger on the exact reason I’m blogging: to find hope in the midst of fear. While at times Nouwen focuses on mystical insights he received (and I don’t have nearly enough mysticism in my life), I really appreciated his final reflection—that is, that each of the four icons is connected to the world, whether through the square in the altar in Rublev’s Trinity, representing the four corners of the earth, or the damage done to the icon of the Savior, or the king in the Descent of the Holy Spirit. These icons remind him that heaven and earth are connected, a connection that helps us live in the house of love. I imagine I’ll return to this book many times for that reminder too.

Friends, I’ve decided to finish the gospel series early next week. I’d like to give those last 2 (possibly 3) posts some time to breath before I put them up. In the meantime, I’ll post some brief reflections on this Sunday’s lectionary readings. Also next week: a book review of Henri Nouwen’s Behold the Beauty of the Lord. Peace.

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