“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life.” ~A.W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God (1948)
Read this quote over here this morning. I have always loved this vision of unity and today was ex.act.ly the day that I needed this reminder.
Note to self: Eyes on Christ. (Repeat as often as necessary)
From Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water (Crosswicks, 1980):
God is no respecter of persons, and this is something we are reluctant to face.
We would like God’s ways to be like our ways, his judgments to be like our judgments. It is hard for us to understand that he lavishly gives enormous talents to people we would consider unworthy, that he chooses his artists with as calm a disregard of surface moral qualifications as he chooses his saints.
Often we forget that he has a special gift for each of of us, because we tend to weigh and measure such gifts with the coin of the world’s market place. The widow’s mite was worth more than all the rich men’s gold because it represented the focus of her life. Her poverty was rich because she had belonged to the living Lord. Some unheard-of Elizabethan woman who led a life of selfless love may well be brought before the throne of God ahead of Shakespeare, for such a person may be a greater force for good than someone on whom God’s blessings seem to have been dropped more generously. As Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard says, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.“
Well that’s a perspective we should keep in mind, especially as we interact in the world of social media. Large numbers of ‘followers’ does not mean that we are being a force for good. If all you have is one ‘follower,’ lead them well. Invite them into the mystery of your God-focused life. Offer that selfless service as your widow’s mite. Let your poverty of followers be rich in influence.
For Christmas my niece gave me Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water (Northpoint Press, 1980). This book is L’Engle’s reflection on faith and art. What does it mean to be a “Christian creative”? I’m finding it hard to put the book down. Here is one, of what I believe will become many quotable excerpts for reflection.
Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the artist either says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary.
How often do you think about your creative expressions in terms of obedience?
From The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight (Zondervan, 2011)
The word sin occurs forty-one times in the Gospels, and it is not accidental that in the opening chapter of the opening gospel we have an opening statement about who Jesus is. Matthew 1:21 says it this way: “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you [Joseph] are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” “Jesus” translates the Hebrew Yeshua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” By naming Mary’s son “Jesus,” Joseph named him “Savior.” From what was he saving people? “From their sins.”
The profundity of this cannot be missed: “YHWH is salvation” has just become “God-in-flesh-salvation” and “Jesus-is-salvation.” Israel–having failed to live up to a covenant calling and wrecked by disobedience, nor mired in subjugation to Rome, blanketed with petty wars and ripping at the seams with religious and political infighting–would be rescued and the kingdom would come, and the this would all occur through Mary’s son. He would rescue Israel by saving Israel from the burden of its sin.
Not only Israel’s sins, but our’s as well. In our waiting for our Has Come and Is Coming King, our hearts are stretched by joy for our Rescuer has come and our burden is lifted. Let not the innocence of the babe in the manger cause us to forget that He is the One who redeems the sin-wrecked–oh, how terribly sin-wrecked–state of our hearts. Joy has come!
From A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, by Miroslav Volf (Brazos Press, 2011)
Hope, in a Christian sense, is love stretching itself into the future…Hope has to do with good things in the future that come to us from “outside,” from God; the future associated hope–Moltmann calls it adventus–is a gift of something new. We hear the word of divine promise, and because God is love we trust in God’s faithfulness. God then brings about a “new thing”: aged Sarah barren of womb, gives birth to a son (Gen. 21:1-2; Rom. 4:18-21); the crucified Jesus Christ is raised from the dead (Acts 2:22-36); a mighty Babylon falls and new Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Rev. 18:1-24; 21:1-5); more generally, the good that seemed impossible becomes not just possible but real.
The expectation of things that comes as a gift from God–that is hope. And is love too, projecting itself into our world and world’s future. For love always gives gifts and is itself a gift; inversely, every genuine gift is an expression of love. At the heart of the hoped-for future, which comes from the God of love, is the flourishing of individuals, communities and our world globe.”
God, intersecting our world in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is our hope. Our Has Come (from God) and Coming Again King has stretched Himself into both the past and present of our history. The Love of God has come to us. He will return for us. This hope causes our hearts to flourish with hope as God’s sons and daughters. Jesus, what a gift!