Lent: Beginning Again, and Again

“So our sins become not stopping points, but starting points. They can be the occasions of constantly fresh, constantly wider visions of the grace of God. It’s often been said, boldly, that the saints in heaven rejoice over their sins, because through them they have been brought to greater and greater understanding of the endless endurance of God’s love, to the knowledge that beyond every failure God’s creative mercy still waits. We have a future because of this grace.”  ~  Rowan Williams


Fridays (or Wednesdays) with Flannery: #6

self-portrait19532What offends my taste in fiction is when right is held up as wrong, or wrong as right. Fiction is the concrete expression of of mystery–mystery that is lived. Catholics believe that all creation is good and that evil is the wrong use of good and that without Grace we use it wrong most of the time. It’s almost impossible to write about supernatural Grace in fiction. We almost have to approach it negatively. As to natural Grace, we have to take that the way it comes–through nature. In any case, it operates surrounded by evil. ~ from the Habit of Being, pg. 144

The best fiction and the best preaching include a kind of ambush. Approaching the subject sidewise and seemingly accidental. Seeing the truth for what it isn’t is often the only place we can start. It’s usually the only believable one.

Singing Our Vengeance

There is no avoiding the fact that the Old Testament is violent. Take this example from Genesis 4:23.

Lamech said to his wives:

‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’

Here are two more examples from the Psalms:

The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. ~ Ps. 58:10

O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock! ~ Ps. 137:9

Psalm 37 seems to read more like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian than it does the Bible. Some may find it hard to accept that words this are in the Bible at all. Reverend Jeremiah Wright found himself under a barrage of criticism for words he uttered in a sermon that were inspired by Psalm 137. Those words led to his disavowal by his former parishioner, President Obama.

The passage from Genesis above and the two Psalms cited along with it are reminders to us that our capacity for violence and our thirst for revenge lie just below the surface of our collective and personal lives. Events like 9/11 and the senseless deaths of innocent people stir up these feelings up. “We know we shouldn’t feel this way but what if we feel this way?”

Branson Parlor offers a suggestion for how we are to both read these texts and deal with our own violent and vengeful impulses. He suggests that we sing  them. Read about it in:   “Overcoming Lamech:  Lament as an Antidote to Violence”.


Patience, Faith, Patience … repeat

Jayber Crow, barber and accidental spiritual director, finds the traditional path of a seminarian a difficult one with few allowances for those who are hanging on the fringes of faith.

“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.’

And how long is that going to take?’

I don’t know. As long as you live perhaps.

That could be a long time.’

I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.’” – Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Thanks Josh Luton at the Apprentice Institute for this little gem from Wendell Berry.  http://apprenticeinstitute.org/blog/


Ragamuffin,  a film about Rich Mullins premiered a week ago here in Wichita. For those of you paying attention to Christian music in the late 80’s and into the 90’s you’ll understand why it was a special film for many of us. If you remember hearing Rich play at the West Bank stage here in Wichita or in any number of churches in the area you’ll understand too. Not a documentary or a concert film it was a dramatic interpretation of one difficult, good life.

So many friends have yet to see the film so I don’t want to share too much. However, if there is such a thing as a “Christian Film” (other than Gran Torino), this might be it. It was dark and funny and beautiful. The kind of things that are missing from so much Christian media. I encourage you to go.

For those of you who’ve seen the film you can enjoy this clip from one of Rich’s last concerts. If you’ve not seen the film let this be a teaser, a taste of what is to come. He riffs from behind the keyboard on such topics as the church, infanticide, “Christian” music and the Bible. As expected he was funny, disturbing and prophetic.


Thanks Richard Beck! The Meaning of Christmas

It’s too easy to get drawn into the “War on Christmas” and miss out on how God’s Kingdom is breaking into this world through the profane and mundane. Richard Beck, over at Experimental Theology, hits a home run with his post on how the true meaning of Christmas is discovered in what many would assume an unlikely place, your television. Enjoy.

Everything I Learned About Christmas I Learned From TV