In the holy city, murder is the ultimate sin …
By: Peter Tremayne
Peter Tremayne is the pen-name of the Irish Post columnist and historian Peter Berresford Ellis. The depth of his understanding of seventh century history is quite remarkable. As I read through his “Sister Fidelma” novels, I find myself not only thoroughly entertained from the twists and turns of a murder mystery, but also educated with the historical acuteness of the author. I usually walk away from one of his novels with a list of new vocabulary words to look up and research.
This brings me to how I was introduced to the writings of Tremayne: my growing fondness of the celtic church and early Anglican history. A friend of mine, a retired history professor, suggested the novels as a fun and quick way to begin to get more immersed with some of the dynamics of this time period.
All of my previous book previews have been limited to non-fiction books. The “Summary”, “Big Idea”, “Little Idea 1 & 2″, and “take away” headings seemed to work well within that genre, but will not translate well into previews of fiction novels, especially murder mysteries (think about it, “the big idea” = ___ is actually the murderer” – would totally ruin the story). Therefore, I will be more brief and selective of the quotes and will list the major themes that bleed through in the narrative.
“Has this Ronan Ragallach admitted that he killed Wighard?”
“No.” Gelasius was dismissive. “But the evidence against him is overwhelming.”
“So you want to be able to announce that this crime was resolved by Eadulf of Canterbury and Fidelma of Kildare agreeing in unison in order to prevent a possible conflict arising?”
The plot is at first glance simple: there was a murder of the future archbishop of Canterbury in 7th century Rome and a suspect is held in custody who was captured at the scene of the crime. Seems like a job for local law enforcement, an open and shut case. NOT SO!
In the Autumn of 664 A.D. when this story unfolds, there was a lot of tension between Rome, the Celtic Church, and Canterbury. Therefore, to avoid open conflict over the murder of the archbishop of Canterbury (and the theft of his valuables), the authorities of the Lateran Palace call into action Sister Fidelma of Kildare and her friend Eadulf of Canterbury as investigators to discern the nature of the murder and the guilty parties. The story takes you through ancient Rome: the architecture, religion, and culture.
- A thoughtful and well researched historical novel – As I alluded to earlier in this preview, Tremayne is a history scholar and it comes through in his writing. The Sister Fidelma novels make Dan Brown’s novels seem like those tabloid magazines you find at grocery check outs… entertaining, yes. accurate, not entirely. Tremayne’s novels will not only entertain you, they’ll educate you!
- Celtic Feminism – A constant theme bleeds through of how “liberated” or better put, “protected under Celtic law” women were in Celtic society. The protagonist of these novels, Sister Fidelma is a “sharp-witted, outspoken young religious, trained in criminal investigation in a land where women aspire to the same roles as men.” I found this discovery of the role of women in celtic society quite enlightening. The feminist narrative I hear often is that women weren’t liberated until the 1960s…or that they aren’t yet there. It would perhaps be a helpful case study (for us all) to look more into the role of celtic women in their society.
- Roman and Celtic Church Conflict - The need for brother Eadulf and sister Fidelma to undertake this investigation is to avoid conflict and potential bloodshed over the murder that took place at the Lateran Palace. All throughout the book there is thoughtful theological dialog between Eadulf (newly under Rome via Saxony) and Fidelma (Celtic Church) that personalized some of the differences between the two variants of the one holy catholic apostolic church of Christ.
- References to Islam - Since this second installment of the Sister Fidelma novels takes place in Rome, there are frequent references to the “followers of Mohmet” and their zealous militaristic expansion into Roman lands and their naval piracy. This even plays into the plot about halfway through the novel.
‘Awake, Though That Sleepest’
Sermon 3 – 1742
This sermon may have been inspired by Fr. John Wesley; however, it was preached by none other than his brother Charles Wesley at Oxford on April 4th, 1742. It is indeed worth noting that the first three of the standard 52 sermons have been preached at the University of Oxford. Each sermon had a polemical tone and were railing against the lapsed Christianity of Wesley’s day. Charles’s message does not disappoint for it was Charles’ evangelical statement and his personal identification with the Revival.
The sermon of Charles revolves around Ephesians 5:14
Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
The three major points of Charles’ message was:
- Describe the sleepers to whom they speak
- Enforce the statement of “Awake thou that sleepiest, and arise from the dead’
- Explain the promise made to such as do awake and arise: ‘Christ shall give his light’
It indeed takes a skillful writer to speak with clarity in the midst of endless questions. Reading this sermon was like drinking from a fire hose to the constant questioning of the fire fighter, “Did you get that.”
Wesley speaks first of what he means by sleepers, “By sleep is signified the natural state of man: that deep sleep of the soul into which the sin of Adam hat sat all who spring from his lions… wherein every man comes into the world, and continues till the voice of God awakens him.” This is not just a state of the heathen, but also the “Laodicean Christian’, neither cold nor hot, but a quite rational, inoffensive, good-natured professor of the religion of his fathers.
You can even pick up echoes from the Second Sermon, “Almost Christian” with the reference to he ‘who having a form of godliness, denies the power thereof’,
He ‘fasts twice in the week’, uses all the means of grace, is constant at church and sacrament; yea, and ‘gives tithes of all that he has’, does all the good that he can. ‘touching the righteousness of the law’, he is ‘blameless’: he wants nothing of gladness but the power; nothing of religion but the spirit; nothing of Christianity but the truth and the life.
Wesley concludes that without the Spirit of Christ, we are dead and sons of the devil!
The right response to the “awake, awake” of God is “what must i do to be saved”? Wesley draws out many examples of the dire situation we find ourselves, “The night is far spent, the morning is at hand when thou art to be brought forth to execution. And in these dreadful circumstances thou art fast asleep; thou art fast asleep in the devil’s arms , on the brink of the pit, in the jaws of everlasting destruction.”
“In what state is thy soul?”, “Hast thou oil in thy lamp?”, “Art thou ‘partaker of the divine nature’?”… the questions of Wesley drives his rhetoric forward, calling out to his audience to “arise from the dead”. Wesley finally explains the promise, ‘Christ shall give thee light.’ Even in this final section, Wesley pleads with his audience to hear the Lord’s cry to awake, “O God, ‘in the midst of wrath remember mercy’! Be glorified in our reformation, not in our destruction.”
Not all the dead who walk the earth will arise.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~Rev. 3:20~
A new weekly series is beginning on rmkocak.com by the title of Preview Mondays (PM). Last year with JD Walt and friends, we envisioned a new way to look at book reviews. Instead of a pessimistic review of a book, we desired to provide a comprehensive exposure to the substance of the book. We eventually came up with a format that went by the code name, “The Big Idea Preview.” It consists of a brief summary, the “big idea” of the book, two “little ideas”, and finally the take-away for the reader. By the end of reading one of the book previews, the reader should know what they can expect from the book and whether or not they are interested in picking it up and reading it for themselves.
A few months ago, I was in the ordination process to become a Presbyter (Priest) and read through a series on Pastoral Theology books by Eugene Peterson with Father Joe Boysel. I first read “The Contemplative Pastor” and wrote a review on it in August, but since getting ordained shortly thereafter, I didn’t get around to writing about the others. Today I amend that with my preview of “Working the Angles.”
Eugene Peterson needs to be read in his context: an age of the unaware religious consumer and the religious shopkeeper. The pervasiveness of marketing these days is not limited to only businesses and government, but now the church. Peterson in “The Contemplative Pastor” pointedly said that Pastors are leaving their posts by the thousands to become shopkeepers, even if their product is a pre-packaged, sanitized, domesticated religious product. Peterson builds on this critique by looking at the “shape of pastoral integrity.”
THE BIG IDEA:
Most of what we see in a triangle is lines. The lines come in various proportions to each other but what determines the proportions and the shape of the whole are the angles.
The visible angles of pastoral work are preaching, teaching, and administration. The small angles of this ministry are prayer, Scripture, and spiritual direction.
Working the Angles, page 5
This quote summarizes the governing thesis of Peterson’s work. It is the unseen and seamlessly invisible aspects of the Pastor’s work that matter immensely in the visible ministry that the parish sees. Peterson in his layout out the book works out this thesis in a beautiful and sweeping story of three angles: “prayer”, “Scripture”, and ” spiritual direction.”
For Peterson these are the foundation of being a successful and faithful Pastor according to Scripture and church history. You can build a huge, luxurious, extravagant house and fill it with a lot of cool decorations; however, it will not last long if the foundation isn’t strong enough to support it. As Peterson puts it, “If we get the angles right (prayer, scripture, spiritual formation) it is a simple matter to draw in the lines (preaching, teaching, and administration). But if we are careless with or dismiss the angles, no matter how long or straight we draw the lines we will not have a triangle, a pastoral ministry.”
LITTLE IDEA #1
“The life of faith is not DONE to us but DEVELOPED in us by commanding and blessing words that are completed in words of obedient assent and willing praise. All the parts of our lives and all the parts of our history are addressed by God and then answered by us.”
Working the Angles, page 62.
One of the strongest sections in the book is on prayer and the extent by which Peterson frames it. He helpfully gives many ‘modes’ of prayer and connects it to something that we cease to “do” or “perform”, but it eventually becomes a way of life, a natural rhythm of our souls, offering words of blessing and praise and receiving from the Lord. Prayer also resists one of the major “spiritual forces of wickedness in our present evil age”, namely instant fulfillment, the ungodly ethic of busyness, a works based practice of the discipline of prayer.
Peterson highlights the often “bipolar” prayer life of Pastors by looking at the controversy between Pelagian (we earn salvation) and Augustine (grace not works).
“We are, most of us, Augustinians in our pulpits…But the minute we leave our pulpits we are Pelagians. In our committee meetings and our planning sessions, in our obsessive attempts to meet the expectations of people, in our anxiety to please, in our hurry to cover all the bases, we practice a theology that puts our good will at the foundation of life and urges moral effort as the primary element in pleasing God.”
Peterson suggests that part of the angle of prayer is keeping sabbath and healthy daily rhythms. During sabbath isn’t the time to pragmatically perform the chores or catch up on work, but instead it should be characterized by praying and playing.
LITTLE IDEA #2
“Spiritual direction means taking seriously, with a disciplined attention and imagination, what others take casually. “Pray for me” is often a casual remark. The spiritual director gives it full attention. All those movements in life when awareness of God breaks through the crust of our routines – a burst of praise, a pang of guilt, an episode of doubt, boredom in worship – these take place all the time and are mentioned from time to time in half-serious ways while we are on the run to something big or important.
Being a spiritual director means a readiness to clear space and arrange time to look at these elements of our life that are not all the peripheral but are central – unobtrusive signals of transcendence. By naming and attending and conversing, we teach our friends to “read the Spirit” and not just the newspapers.”
Working the Angles, page 151-152.
Peterson demystifies the term “spiritual director” and simply frames it as being and doing the things you would think a pastor would do for people. Spiritual direction is not about preaching and leading bible studies and admin meetings for a large group of people. It is a highly personal ministry and asks the soul questions that are personally going in your life. Spiritual direction is how you respond when someone says, “Pray about this, what should I do about this, help me get through this sorrow, pain, etc… ” We sit with these questions and comments, making them a priority and giving them attention as we seek God’s grace and wisdom to apply scriptural truth in a personal situation.
There are three convictions that underpin spiritual direction meetings according to Peterson:
- God is always doing something: an active grace is shaping this life into a mature salvation.
- Responding to God is not sheer guesswork: the Christian community has acquired wisdom through the centuries that provides guidance.
- Each soul is unique: no wisdom can simply be applied without discerning the particulars of this life and situation.
Spiritual direction (like all the angles) calls pastors to be counter-cultural, “The culture conditions us to approach people and situations as journalists: see the big, exploit the crisis, edit and abridge the commonplace, interview the glamorous. But the Scriptures and our best pastoral traditions train us in a different approach: notice the small, persevere in the commonplace, appreciate the obscure.”
THE TAKE AWAY
This book is not for the feint of heart. If as a pastor you are satisfied running the church like a corporation and overvalue the visible aspects of pastoring to the hidden work that pays little earthly dividend, then you should go read one of the many other books on “how to _____ .” If however, you burned out, weary, jaded, needing a fresh vision for how to care for a parish then this is the read for you!
Peterson casts a vision for pastors that is a narrow road and a stark contrast to the width of the modern pastoral highway. Peterson’s vision is cogent and compelling for those Pastors who want to get back to the simple way of being a Pastor and the practices that throughout the history of the church were the foundations of the pastoral ministry: prayer, scripture, and spiritual formation.
”Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
As I wrote this article, I was flying a little above 36,000 feet right now on my way to the Anglican Mission’s Winter Conference. That being the case, I only had the Wesley sermons from my Accordance Bible Software to keep me company during this flight and not the massive volumes of Scripture Notes, Letters, and Journals that I would love to refer to for a more comprehensive context.
I still have available to me some very helpful notes from Albert Outler that pertain to the context of this sermon. The context of the first sermon, “Salvation by Faith” was delivered in the context of a post “heart-warming” experience at Aldersgate, but “The Almost Christian” (another one preached at Oxford) comes in the midst of the Revival and the exponential growth of Wesley’s Societies. Wesley’s hermeneutic of Acts 26:28 is also noted by Outler as being “a familiar one in Puritan preaching. It was, indeed, already conventional to shift from the text’s plain reference (Agrippa’s being almost persuaded to become a Christian) to a discussion of nominal Christianity.”
It is also highly recommended to read Wesley’s later sermon, “The More Excellent Way” (1787) in dialog with “The Almost Christian.” While there is no change in Wesley’s soteriology, the hard-line between the “almost” and “altogether” Christian becomes more gentle and the emphasis given for both orders of Christian to pursue the “telos” of being in Christ, ‘the more excellent way’ of a pure love of God and a humble ‘love of all men for God’s sake.’” Context matters with both sermons since “Almost Christian” is a polemical sermon delivered to an Oxford audience, whereas “The More Excellent Way” appears to be more pastoral (yet less highly regarded).
Wesley begins by outlining a concept that manifests itself in every age and culture: nominal Christianity. We hear this in those plagued words of Herod, ‘almost thou has persuadeth me to be a Christian.’ Wesley, therefore, draws a hard-line between what he designates as the “almost” and the “altogether” Christian.
The “almost Christians” are characterized by a couple of distinctive features:
- They are culturally moral people: they abide by the standards of morality. Doing things like telling the truth, caring for the poor, doing things in moderation, etc.
- They are outwardly Christians: they do nothing that the Gospel forbids. No excessive drinking, gluttony, no scoffing, gossiping, etc.
- They faithfully attend worship services: they participate in the sacramental life whenever they can and even practice privately the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.
- They are properly motivated by a desire to serve God and do his will: the almost Christian isn’t a hypocrite, but genuinely is motivated by an inward desire to be faithful to God.
But what more than all this to be an “altogether Christian”?
Wesley outlines three main “paradigm shifts”:
- The Love of God: A complete in-filling in heart and deed of the holy love of God. The entire capacity of our soul, the whole heart, all our affections, and the complete extent of all our faculties should be permeated by this love. That God would dwell in us and us in God.
- The Love of Neighbor: This to Wesley means every man, woman, child, and enemy. That the love in us creates a humanizing energy to see the remnant imago dei in each human person.
- Born of God: Wesley then moves into the reality that ‘To as many as received him gave he power to become the sons of God.’ That this familial relationship with God comes by the right living kind of faith (echoing sermon #1 “salvation by faith” a few years earlier), a faith that brings forth repentance, love, and all good works… this is also tied to believing more than just in the creeds, the Holy Scriptures, BUT ALSO to have a “sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ”
When I initially wrote this short article, I felt a lot like Wesley must have felt like with the Moravians on his turbulant voyage back from America… there was constant turbulence on my flight to Houston and it wasn’t a “comfortable flight.” In this context, I read Almost Christian.
As I sat in my plane seat and attempted to not only digest the substance of Wesley’s sermon, I also pondered the “almost” / “altogether” dichotomy presented by Wesley in this sermon and how it applies to the landscape of American Christianity today. The hallmark of modern evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) is an unwavering assent in word (at its best in deed as well) to the tenants of Wesley’s “Altogether Christians” (but seriously, how many times does the ‘Greatest Commandment’ get abducted into become nothing more than a pithy church slogan/mission statement/marketing mechanism… of “love God – love neighbor”).
In word we say it’s about the Great Commission, the Greatest Commandment, and “being born again”, but in praxis (practice) we are not only “almost Christians’, but “half-ass Christians”… Our church programs, worship services, discipleship, and agendas have deteriorated into the state of become nothing more than a production line for taking “half-ass Christians” and turning them (at best) into what Wesley identifies as “almost Christians.” (read Willow Creek’s book on their megachurch Reveal). How many people even attempt (let alone attain to) the personal piety that Wesley and the “Oxford Holy Club” had:
“Using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time, buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of Grace, endeavoring after a steady seriousness of behavior at all time sand in all place… And God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God….”
This is Reverend John Wesley speaking… ordained in the Church of England as a Presbyter, a missionary to the end of the world, Georgia, a faithful observer of daily prayer offices, a diligent student of the Bible, a preacher, and the ‘founder’ of Methodism… And yet Wesley says,
“My own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost that all this time I was but ‘almost a Christian.”
We motivate those whom we Shepherd to study the Bible, go to adult education electives, go on short-term missionary trips, perhaps go to Seminary and get ordained, pray more often, come to this conference, listen to this music, get more involved in ‘church activities’ … this isn’t necessarily ‘bad’, but without the right Spirit behind it we are merely making “almost Christian” disciples …
I submit that as leaders we need to have a “taste and see” or “follow me as I follow Jesus” … An orthopraxis to match the orthodoxy of Wesley’s “altogether christian.” We must ourselves encounter the risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way that we are forever changed, marked, adopted as sons and daughters… A paradigm shift must occur from mentally (or emotionally) assenting to propositional truths about Jesus to ontologically being seen/known/rooted in Christ, “being hid in Christ.”
A paradigm shift must also occur in ecclesiology… we must go from seeing “the church as an institution with sacraments” to “a sacrament with institutions.” It is one of the scourges of our age that in order to attract religious consumers, leaders in the church (and wolves) use clumsy sayings like, “its about Jesus not the church” “or I love Jesus but hate the church.”… As I heard it described, “moralistic therapeutic deism“… This may scratch the ears of the consumers of spiritual fads (and sell some books), but it is not in line with ecclesiology according to the Scriptures, creeds, church fathers, and millennia of the church being the “body of Christ.”
I tend to agree more with the tone of Wesley in his much later sermon, “The More Excellent Way.” Perhaps “nominal” or “cultural” Christian is a title more befitting the qualities that Wesley lays out here instead of “almost Christians.”
It’s sermons like this that do convict me in some strange way. They challenge the core of my desire, the inner cry of my soul, the motive behind my movements, so I conclude with this prayer (it should sound familiar if you read the sermon or St. Paul):
“May we all thus experience what it is to be not almost only, but altogether Christians! Being justified feely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus, knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, and having the lover of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.”
Written in conjunction with the Wesley 52 Project.
Salvation By Faith
“By grace ye are saved through faith.”
- Ephesians 2:8 -
Weds, May 24th, 1738:
In my return to England, January, 1738, being in imment danger of death, and very uneasy on that account I was strongly convinced that the cause of that uneasiness was unbelief; and that the gaining a true, living faith was the “one thing needful” for me. But still I fixed not this faith on it’s right object: I meant only faith in God, not faith in or through Christ. Again, I knew not that I was wholly ovid of this faith; but only though, I had not enough of it…
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing they change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely wormed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
If you go and read John Wesley’s journal entries from the days between his “Aldersgate” experience above and the preaching of the sermon “Salvation by Faith” on the Festival of St. Barnabas, June 11 at the University of Oxford, you will find a man working out in his personal experience the substance of his proclamation from Ephesians 2:8, especially the themes of faith and salvation.
Albert Outler, also notes that the Moravian elements of the sermon are qualified by echoes from the Book of Homilies (as in the claim that salvation involved the power not to commit sin – see especially the homily “Salvation of Mankind“)
- The relationship between Grace and Faith - Wesley brilliantly begins by differentiating between “grace” and “faith”: “If then sinful man find favor with God, it is ‘grace upon grace’… ‘By Grace’, then, ‘are ye saved though faith.’Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation…. Now, that we fall not short of the grace of God, it concerns us carefully to inquire…” Wesley then goes on to inquire on the condition of faith and the scope of salvation.The subtlety of this beginning is profound. If you begin not with God’s grace as source, then you may stumble into the heresy that one’s faith is both the source and condition of salvation. This is the misinformed argument that I face amongst my Reformed brethren, “Is it your faith or what Jesus did that saved you.” The underlying question being, “does your faith independent of anything God does or doesn’t do bring about salvation?” Wesley, I believe would say no. It is only by God’s grace that ‘he loved us enough while we were yet sinners to send Jesus Christ to die and save us.’ It is by grace through faith.
- The scandal of particular faith - Wesley doesn’t just say that all you need is any form or flavor of faith, but a faith of a particular genre, “It is faith in Christ – Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper object of it.” Furthermore, it is not just a faith of mental assent, “Confess with thy mouth and believe with thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead”If you look at the other categories of faith that Wesley uses in this sermon, “Faith of a heathen”, “Faith of a Devil”, “Faith of the pre-easter Apostles”, then you find in fact that truly ‘the road to destruction is wide and spacious, but the narrow gate leads to life, and few find it.” For Wesley, the linchpin of the faith by which one is saved is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not just mentally assented to, but an ingestion of truth whereby the reality of the Gospel becomes “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” I love the scope of Wesley’s definition of Christian Faith:”Christian faith is then not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ, a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us,and living in us.… It is a sure confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God; and in consequence hereof a closing with him and cleaving to him as our ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption’ … or, in one word, our salvation.
- Scope of Salvation -For Wesley “salvation” wasn’t just a ‘get out of hell card’ or an ‘escape from the fallenness of creation’ or a ‘say this prayer and be saved’ genre of salvation. As the quote above illuminates, salvation is personal: it involves the second person of the Holy Trinity, Christ Jesus and it involves each one of us as people (in other words, “God has no grandchildren”, but sons and daughters through Christ).Salvation also is ”presently powerful”: Salvation isn’t just something you wait for when you die, but can be experienced in this life. Forgiveness is linked with formation- our desires, actions, ‘modes of being’, are transformed to the likeness of Christ – even the guilt of sin is transformed in our salvation in Christ.
- Objections - What preacher you know today at the end of his or her sermon will say, “and now for some objections to preaching so and so.” Then to answer the objections with humility, sobriety, and grace.Objection 8 is particularly interesting to me because of Wesley’s distancing of his presentation of “salvation by Faith” against that of the church of Rome (a claim again that some theological camps wrongly make by ascribing Wesley’s teaching to a romish semi-pelagian heresy). He also says that this doctrine, “by grace through faith” is called by the Church of England to be the foundation of the Christian religion and the reason for “popery” being driven from the land. He even references Martin Luther in a very flattering way.
As an Anglican priest, theologically educated in the Wesleyan tradition, I am thankful the Reverend John Wesley. He is not only a gift to Methodism, to Wesleyanism, to later Anglicanism, but to entire Body of Christ. He is a saint that is truly worthy of his feast day (which in the Church of England consequentially falls on May 24th, but in the Episcopal Church USA on the 3rd of March).
When I read Wesley, I am always struck with how comprehensive his sermons are. He doesn’t just tell you to do this and do that, but advances a cogent argument, a well defined pathway that lets you wrestle through the layers of theological extremes that clutter and distract you from the road. Wesley is also someone who lived out his sermons. Part of my plan this year as I go through the 52 Standard Sermons is to also read through the journal entries before and after each sermon delivery date. I want to become better friends with John Wesley this year, and perhaps, this friendship will be a means of grace by which to I will grow in love and knowledge our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is my prayer for us all.
Written in conjunction with the Standard52 Project
It begins on rmkocak.com tomorrow… and every Wednesday henceforth in 2012.
The first entry on the 52 standard sermons preached by Reverend John Wesley in the 18th century will be posted. It is part of a collaborative work between myself and friends from a variety of denominations, church positions, and geographic locations. Each week we read one of the 52 standard sermons and write a little something about it (you can find those sermons free online here). I will be posting both on our Wesley 52 site (check this site out for a variety of views and insights) and each Wednesday on rmkocak.com.
Keep your eyes peeled for a post on Wesley’s sermon “Salvation by Faith” tomorrow morning.
Memory. Connection. Change.
Beauty. Language. Passion.
Past. Present. Future.
As the new year turns, I am captivated by the words from George Steiner’s video below. This is the time of year of promises, resolutions, and new beginnings. There are usually lists of the categorical change (from in to out, from fat to slim, from unhealthy to healthy, etc) we seek to conjure up in the coming year. I have those lists just like the next person: running more, writing more, eating less ice cream, practicing the spiritual disciplines more often… but perhaps I am weary of categorical change … weary of such lists.
Perhaps 2012 will be one of existential change (ryan becoming ryan, me becoming me) … summoning up remembrance of things past. Not just a year of recalling solutions (re-solutions), but of recalling memory (anamnesis or actively remembering) the narrative of life in an active, ingestive, and transformative way.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30:
“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.”