Advent Through the Centuries – the fifth century

Monday, December 5
The fifth century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the desert and the dry lands be glad, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom; like the asphodel, let it burst into flower, let it rejoice and sing for joy. The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; then they will see the glory of Yahweh, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to the faint-hearted, ‘Be strong! Do not be afraid. Here is your God, vengeance is coming, divine retribution; he is coming to save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy; for water will gush in the desert and streams in the wastelands, the parched ground will become a marsh and the thirsty land springs of water; the lairs where the jackals used to live will become plots of reed and papyrus. And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; He will be the one to use this road, the fool will not stray along it.

No lion will be there, no ferocious beast set foot on it, nothing of the sort be found; it will be used by the redeemed. For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. 

Reading: 
Augustine, reflection on Psalm 109, c.400-430. Full text here.

He promised us eternal salvation and an unending life of blessedness with the angels, and an imperishable inheritance, the joy of seeing his face, a dwelling-place with him in heaven, and the fear of death removed from us through the resurrection. This is, if you like, his ultimate promise. We look forward to it, and when we reach it, we will want nothing more. But as to how this final end is to be reached, he has also told us in promises and prophecies.

He has promised to men that they will be like God; to mortals he has promised immortality; to sinners, righteousness; to the lowly, glory.

Indeed, brethren, because what God promised seemed incredible to men – that from mortality, decay, weakness, lowliness, dust and ashes they should become equals of the angels of God – he did not only sign a contract with them to convince them. He sent, not just any prince, not just any angel or archangel, but his only Son. The road by which he was to lead us to the end he had promised us – through his Son he would show us that road.

Even so, it was not enough for God to send his Son to point out the way – he made his Son the way itself, so that we can go on our journey guided by him as he walks along his own way.

So the only Son of God was to come to men, to take on humanity, and thus to die, to ascend to heaven and sit at the right hand of the father, and so to fulfil what he had promised among the nations. After that promise to the nations had been fulfilled, he would fulfil his other promise, to come, to demand the return of what he had given, to separate the vessels of anger from the vessels of mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the righteous what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied and foretold. It had to have its coming announced. It could not come suddenly and unexpectedly, causing terror and alarm: people had to be awaiting it with faith.

Apse from the Santa Pundenziana in Rome, fifth century.
Apse from the Santa Pundenziana in Rome, fifth century.

Prayer:
Attributed to St. Patrick, c. 450-490

Christ be beside me,
Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me,
King of my heart.

Christ be within me,

Christ be below me,

Christ be above me,

never to part.

Christ on my right hand,

Christ on my left hand,

Christ all around me,

shield in the strife.

Christ in my sleeping,

Christ in my sitting,

Christ in my rising,

light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;

Christ be on all tongues telling of me;

Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;

in ears that hear me, Christ ever be.

Advent Through the Centuries – the fourth century

I missed yesterday! here is the update for the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Church. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 3
The third century of the Church

Scripture:
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26

Yes, people of Zion living in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious to you when your cry for help rings out; as soon as he hears it, he will answer you.

When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes.

Your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, keep to it,’ whether you turn to the right or the left.

He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provides will be rich and nourishing. That day, your cattle will graze in wide pastures.

Oxen and donkeys that work the land will eat for fodder wild sorrel, spread by the shovel-load and fork-load.

On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and water-courses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall.

Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter — like the light of seven days in one — on the day Yahweh dresses his people’s wound and heals the scars of the blows they have received.

Reading: 
Origen, Homily on Luke. Full text not online – expanded text here.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: My Father and I will come and make our home in them.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

Prayer:
Attributed to Cyprian of Carthage, c.200-258

Most gracious Father, bless with Thy special care all penitentiaries and homes of refuge. Look with pity upon those who are housed there. Guide and protect those who have returned to the world. Grant all of them true contrition for past sins, and strengthen them in their good resolutions. Lead them along from grace to grace so that by the help of the Holy Ghost they may persevere in the ways of obedience and humility, and in the struggle against evil thoughts and desires. Grant the Holy Spirit to those engaged in teaching and training them, that they might have a right judgment with respect to those entrusted to them. May they labor for love of Thee with deep humility and singleness of purpose, purity of heart and life, and true zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls. Give them faith and love to sustain them in disappointment, love and patience toward those under them, and in Thine own good time crown their work with an eternal recompense. This we ask in the name of Thine only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

Sunday, December 4
The fourth century of the Church

Scripture:
John 1:1-5

Matthew 3:1-12

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in the desert of Judaea,’Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’

This was the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said: A voice of one that cries in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.’
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather loin-cloth round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones.

Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

Reading: 
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45, c.380 AD. Full text here.

And that was that the Word of God Himself, Who is before all worlds, the Invisible, the Incomprehensible, the Bodiless, the Beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetype, the Immovable Seal, the Unchangeable Image, the Father’s Definition and Word, came to His own Image, and took on Him Flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made Man; conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost, for it was needful both That Child-bearing should be honoured and that Virginity should receive a higher honour.

He came forth then, as God, with That which He had assumed; one Person in two natures, flesh and Spirit, of which the latter deified the former. O new commingling; O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into Being, the Uncreated is created, That which cannot be contained is contained by the intervention of an intellectual soul mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fulness.

art of the healing of the bleeding woman, from the fourth century.

Art of the healing of the bleeding woman, from the fourth century.

Prayer:
Basil of Caesarea, 329-379

Arising from sleep I thank you, O Holy Trinity,
that, for the sake of your great kindness and long-suffering,
you have not had indignation against me,
for I am slothful and sinful,
neither have you destroyed me in my transgressions:
but you have shown your customary love towards man,
and have raised me up as I lay in heedlessness,
that I might sing my morning hymn and glorify your sovereignty.

Do now enlighten the eyes of my understanding,
open my ears to receive your words
and teach me your commandments.

Help me to do your will,
to sing to you,
to confess you from my heart,
and to extol your All-holy name,
of Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
now and for ever,
and unto the ages of ages.

Amen.

Advent Through the Centuries – the second Century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 100-200. Tomorrow will be 200-300, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts. This has been posted before, but I’ve updated the scripture readings and in some cases the historical texts too. Enjoy.

Friday, December 2
The Second Century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 29:17-24

Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest?

That day the deaf will hear the words of the book and, delivered from shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.

The lowly will find ever more joy in Yahwehand the poorest of people will delight in the Holy One of Israel;

for the tyrant will be no more, the scoffer has vanished and all those on the look-out for evil have been destroyed:

those who incriminate others by their words, those who lay traps for the arbitrator at the gate and groundlessly deprive the upright of fair judgement.

That is why Yahweh, God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s redeemer, says this, ‘No longer shall Jacob be disappointed, no more shall his face grow pale,

for when he sees his children, my creatures, home again with him, he will acknowledge my name as holy, he will acknowledge the Holy One of Jacob to be holy and will hold the God of Israel in awe.

Erring spirits will learn to understand and murmurers accept instruction.’

Reading: 
2 Clement c.130-160 AD. Full text here.

BRETHREN, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God,–as the Judge of the living and the dead. And it does not become us to think lightly of our salvation; for if we think little of Him, we shall also hope but to obtain little [from Him]. And those of us who hear carelessly of these things, as if they were of small importance, commit sin, not knowing whence we have been called, and by whom, and to what place, and how much Jesus Christ submitted to suffer for our sakes.

What return, then, shall we make to Him, or what fruit that shall be worthy of that which He has given to us? For, indeed, how great are the benefits which we owe to Him! He has graciously given us light; as a Father, He has called us sons; He has saved us when we were ready to perish. What praise, then, shall we give to Him, or what return shall we make for the things which we have received? We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stones and wood, and gold, and silver, and brass, the works of men’s hands; and our whole life was nothing else than death. Involved in blindness, and with such darkness before our eyes, we have received sight, and through His will have laid aside that cloud by which we were enveloped.

For He had compassion on us, and mercifully saved us, observing the many errors in which we were entangled, as well as the destruction to which we were exposed, and that we had no hope of salvation except it came to us from Him. For He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.

fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.
fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.

Prayer:
Polycarp, c. 110-140

May God the Father, and the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, build us up in faith and truth and love, and grant to us our portion among the saints with all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for all saints, for kings and rulers, for the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and for ourselves we pray that our fruit may abound and we may be made perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Advent through the centuries – The First Century

I’m reposting my advent through the centuries blogs again this year for the third time. 2016 has been a hard year for many people, and I think it’s in times like these that we need to look back and reflect on how Christ has continued and continues to meet with us. I have updated with new scriptures and in some cases new readings. Every day I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 0-100. Tomorrow will be 100-200, and so on.

Thursday, December 1
The First Century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in Judah: ‘We have a fortress city, the walls and ramparts provide safety.

Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in, the nation that keeps faith!

This is the plan decreed: you will guarantee peace, the peace entrusted to you.

Trust in Yahweh for ever, for Yahweh is a rock for ever.

He has brought low the dwellers on the heights, the lofty citadel; he lays it low, brings it to the ground, flings it down in the dust.

It will be trodden under foot, by the feet of the needy, the steps of the weak.’

Reading:
The Didache, c.75 AD. Full text here.

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.
The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings.

Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer., c. 65-80 AD

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be your Name.
your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Advent through the centuries: the twenty-first century

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The twenty-first century of the Church.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Scripture:
Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

Reading:

Brian Zahnd, speaking through a series of tweets and facebook posts. I thought this was appropriate given the digital and postmodern world that we find ourselves in.

For God so loved the world…that he did not send a text message.

God did not communicate “virtually” — by the Gnostic means of disembodied 1’s and 0’s. God came to us incarnate — in human flesh and blood. Selah.

God did not send us a digital message of 1’s and 0’s. God joined us in our sweaty, smelly, earthy humanity so we could meet face to face.

In the Incarnation the truth of God is expressed in one Word: Jesus Christ (God’s one Word made flesh).
(from Facebook)

Christ is not something that will nicely accommodate your cherished assumptions.
Christ is the most radical thing that has ever happened to this world.
To see Christ as Christ, the King of the Jews who is now King of the World—
Is to realize that Caesar is not Lord, Pharaoh is not Lord, but Jesus is Lord.

Jesus cannot be owned or incorporated or subsumed into any other nation—
Not Babylon, not Egypt, not Rome, not Russia, not England, not America.
Jesus is building his own nation (kingdom)—it’s the Kingdom of God.
Christ does not come to endorse any nation—he comes to set up his own.
But the nations of the world—all of them!—will resist this.

Because every nation insists that national sovereignty trumps everything.
As long as nations believe that their national sovereignty trumps everything—
They’ll be at war with Christ. Christ insists that his lordship trumps everything!

So to see the birth of Christ for the Epiphany it is—
Is not only to witness a Birth, it is to encounter a Death:
The death of loved and cherished lies. (Oh yes, there are lies we dearly love!)

What are these lies? I can’t tell you. You love them too much.
You have to see these lies as lies for yourself.
But I can tell you what will happen when you see the lies…

When you see the lies, you’ll no longer be at home in Babylon.
(All the nations of the world insisting on their own sovereignty add up to one big Babylon.)
To have the Epiphany of which I speak will make you an alien in your own land.

As Eliot said, you will no longer be at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
The old magi says, “I should be glad of another death.”
What about you? Are you ready for the Birth of the New?—
If it means the Death of the Old?
(from The Magi and I)

The Mary of the Magnificat was not the medieval “Madonna” but a prayerful Jewish peasant with revolutionary expectations.
(From Twitter)

Ascension, by George Grie. 2013.
Ascension, by George Grie. 2013.

Prayer:

Something a little different tonight, this Christmas Eve. I’ve posted a lot of prayers over the past three weeks or so, but I want you to realize that you are part of this grand tradition. Ignatius, Origen, Menno Simons, Thomas á Kempis – they are all humans seeking after God, trying to understand this mystery called the Incarnation of Christ, this magic called Christmas. You are part of that tradition! If you have been following along with this journey, i encourage you to add to the journey by posting your own thoughts below, and possibly your prayers as well. Here’s mine.

Lord Jesus, God incarnate, God with skin on,
Have mercy on us.
We fail each other, and we fail ourselves.
We fight, we bribe, we lie, and we steal.
We’re broken, Lord, and if left to our own devices,
We will continue to stumble and fall.
As we pause this Christmas season,
Help us to remember each other
Help us to hold each other
Help us to love each other
like you do.
Help us to have mercy on each other
To forgive as you forgive
To love as you love.
Amen.

Advent through the centuries: the twentieth century, part IV: 1970-1999

Monday, December 23, 2013
The twentieth century of the Church.

And we’re almost up to the current day. Today will be the late 20th century, roughly 1970-1999. Tomorrow (The 24th) will be roughly 2000-2013.

Scripture:
Zephaniah 3:14-17

Shout for joy, Daughter Zion!
Shout out, Israel!
Be happy and boast with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has removed the judgment against you;
he has turned back your enemy.
Israel’s king, the Lord, is in your midst!
You no longer need to fear disaster.
On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
“Don’t be afraid, Zion!
Your hands must not be paralyzed from panic!
The Lord your God is in your midst;
he is a warrior who can deliver.
He takes great delight in you;
he renews you by his love;
he shouts for joy over you.

Reading:

Óscar Romero, two quotes, both from 1978.

Christ became a man of his people and his time:
He lived as a Jew,
he worked as a laborer of Nazareth,
and since then he continues to become incarnate
in everyone.
If many have distanced themselves from the church,
it is precisely because the church has somewhat
estranged itself from humanity.
But a church that can feel as its own all that is human,
and wants to incarnate the pain,
the hope,
the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy,
such a church will be Christ loved and awaited,
Christ present.
And that depends on us.

A Christian community is evangelized
in order to evangelize.
A light is lit
in order to give light.
A candle is not lit to be put under a bushel,
said Christ.
It is lit and put up high
in order to give light. That is what a true community is like.
A community is a group of men and women
who have found the truth in Christ and in his gospel,
and who follow the truth
and join together to follow it more strongly.
It is not just an individual conversion,
but a community conversion.
It is a family that believes,
a group that accepts God.
In the group, each one finds that the brother or sister
is a source of strength
and that in moments of weakness they help one another
and, by loving one another and believing,
they give light and example.
The preacher no longer needs to preach,
for there are Christians who preach by their own lives.
I said once and I repeat today
that if, unhappily, some day they silence our radio
and don’t let us write our newspaper,
each of you who believe
must become a microphone,
a radio station,
a loudspeaker,
not to talk, but to call for faith.
I am not afraid that our faith may depend
only on the archbishop’s preaching;
I don’t think I’m that important.
I believe that this message,
which is only a humble echo of God’s word,
enters your hearts,
not because it is mine,
but because it comes from God.

Modern Day Jesus, by Dan Beers. 1990.
Modern Day Jesus, by Dan Beers. 1990.

Prayer:
Creation Care prayer from 1992.

All people of the earth, each and every nation
Arise and rejoice at the continued creation
Of beauty, of springtime, the yearly rebirth
Of our protector, our home, our own Mother Earth!

Who despite our apparent lack of care
Creates bountiful splendor for all to share
From mountain tops to the deepest sea
All wonderful earthly miracles bursting free!

Yet this miracle of renewal requires the helping hand
Of the people to replenish and renew the land
From the largest of cities to the most remote farms
To unite in spirit and with the strongest arms.

Become a midwife to the birth of each flower
A guardian of our resources hour by hour
We must learn to take time to appreciate
The miracles of which we did not create.

For God has given this wonderful treasure
And its preservation will be the measure
Of people who recognize and will celebrate
The birth of each season before it’s too late.

In citizenship, in willingness to toil
We must bend our backs and tend to the soil
In stewardship, arise and applaud the worth
Of the wondrous marvel of our Living Earth!

Consider creation. . . . Consider it now.

Advent through the centuries: the twentieth century, part III: 1945-1970

Sunday, December 22, 2013
The twentieth century of the Church.

And we’re almost up to the current day. As there are more days left before Christmas than there are centuries in church history, We’re going to alter slightly here. Today will be the mid-20th century, roughly 1945-1970. Tomorrow (the 23rd) will be roughly 1970-1999, and The 24th will be roughly 2000-2013.

Scripture:
John 9:1-7

A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock,
a bud will sprout from his roots.
The Lord’s spirit will rest on him—
a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom,
a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans,
a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord.
He will take delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by mere appearances,
or make decisions on the basis of hearsay.
He will treat the poor fairly,
and make right decisions for the downtrodden of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and order the wicked to be executed.
Justice will be like a belt around his waist,
integrity will be like a belt around his hips.
A wolf will reside with a lamb,
and a leopard will lie down with a young goat;
an ox and a young lion will graze together,
as a small child leads them along.
A cow and a bear will graze together,
their young will lie down together.
A lion, like an ox, will eat straw.
A baby will play
over the hole of a snake;
over the nest of a serpent
an infant will put his hand.
They will no longer injure or destroy
on my entire royal mountain.
For there will be universal submission to the Lord’s sovereignty,
just as the waters completely cover the sea.

Reading:

Karl Barth, in Church Dogmatics,  IV/1, 186.

It is in full unity with Himself that He is also – and especially and above all – in Christ, that he becomes a creature, man, flesh, that He enters into our being in contradiction, that He takes upon Himself its consequences. If we think that this is impossible it is because our concept of God is too narrow, too arbitrary, too human – far too human. Who God is and what it is to be divine is something we have to learn where God has revealed Himself and His nature, the essence of the divine. And if He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ as the God who does this, it is not for us to be wiser than He and to say that it is in contradiction with the divine essence. We have to be ready to be taught by Him that we have been too small and perverted in our thinking about Him within the framework of a false idea about God. It is not for us to speak of a contradiction and rift in the being of God, but to learn to correct our notions of the being of God, to constitute them in the light of the fact that He does this. We may believe that God can and must only be absolute in contrast to all that is relative, exalted in contrast to all that is lowly, active in contrast to all suffering, inviolable in contrast to all temptation, transcendent in contrast to all immanence, and therefore divine in contrast to everything human, in short that He can and must be the “Wholly Other.” But such beliefs are shown to be quite untenable, and corrupt and pagan, by the fact that God does in fact be and do this in Jesus Christ. We cannot make them the standard by which to measure what God can or cannot do, or the basis of the judgement that in doing this He brings Himself into self-contradiction. By doing this God proves to us that He can do it, that to do it is within His nature. And He Himself to be more great and rich and sovereign than we had ever imagined. And our ideas of His nature must be guided by this, and not vice versa.

Nativity, by Marc Chagall. 1950.
Nativity, by Marc Chagall. 1950.

Prayer:
From Martin Luther King Jr., 1953. 

Most Gracious and all wise God, Before whose face the generations nse and fall,
Thou in whom we live, and move, and have our being. We thank thee for all of
thy good and gracious gfts, for life and for health, for food and for raiment, for the
beauties of nature and the love of human nature. We come before thee painfully
aware of our inadequacies and shortcomings. We realize that we stand surrounded
with the mountains of love and we deliberately dwell in the valley of hate. We stand
amid the forces of truth and deliberately lie, We are forever offered the high road
and yet we choose to travel the low road. For these sins 0 God forgive. Break
the spell of that which blinds our minds & our hearts that we may see thee. 0
God in these turbulent day when fear and doubt are mounting high give us broad
visions, penetrating eyes, and power of endurance. Help us to work with renewed vigor
for a warless world, for a better distnbuhon of wealth, and for a brotherhood that
transcends race or color. In the name and spint of Jesus we pray, Amen.

A journey through the Christian life