Monday, December 7, 2015

The Minister's Daughter

This morning, I grabbed my Grandpa's poetry book and it fell open to this poem which was written in 1880 by the Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Dad when I rejected the notion of a hell of eternal torment and had begun to learn what I was to lose by that choice. I call it a choice for lack of a better term...because you don't really choose what you believe you just believe what you believe... and you either own it, or you live a lie....  He said, "Well, you never heard me preach about hell."   And I said, "but the threat of hell is foundational in the teachings of the is the "given" that is the undercurrent of everything."  

I guess, I admired Dad for expressing what he did to me...but I was a bit disillusioned too...that he would just remain quiet about what he believed...when it makes such a difference in our perception of who God is.  "WHO GOD IS" is very important and profoundly effects our relationship to Him.  It's why Jesus reconcile us to show us who He really is. (think, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.)

I think the false image creates a destructive dissonance and is often the reason that people walk away from "religion."  Atheist humorist George Carlin likes to say,

“Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money!”

People find this funny.  Why?  because it does resonate with what "religion" has taught and it shows up as a rediculous caricature the "god" of "religion." 

Anyhow... I really can't say more... although I have much more to say... Here is the poem... I particularly like the 15th stanza...because a false image of God is, as the poet has expressed...quite idol...
The Minister's Daughter

In the minister's morning sermon
He had told of the primal fall,
And how thenceforth the wrath of God
Rested on each and all.

And how of His will and pleasure,
All souls, save a chosen few,
Were doomed to the quenchless burning,
And held in the way thereto.

Yet never by faith's unreason
A saintlier soul was tried,
And never the harsh old lesson
A tenderer heart belied.

And, after the painful service
On that pleasant Sabbath day,
He walked with his little daughter
Through the apple-bloom of May.

Sweet in the fresh green meadows
Sparrow and blackbird sung;
Above him their tinted petals
The blossoming orchards hung.

Around on the wonderful glory
The minister looked and smiled;
"How good is the Lord who gives us
These gifts from His hand, my child.

"Behold in the bloom of apples
And the violets in the sward
A hint of the old, lost beauty
Of the Garden of the Lord!"

Then up spake the little maiden,
Treading on snow and pink
"O father! these pretty blossoms
Are very wicked, I think.

"Had there been no Garden of Eden
There never had been a fall;
And if never a tree had blossomed
God would have loved us all."

"Hush, child!" the father answered,
"By His decree man fell;
His ways are in clouds and darkness,
But He doeth all things well.

"And whether by His ordaining
To us cometh good or ill,
Joy or pain, or light or shadow,
We must fear and love Him still."

"Oh, I fear Him!" said the daughter,
"And I try to love Him, too;
But I wish He was good and gentle,
Kind and loving as you."

The minister groaned in spirit
As the tremulous lips of pain
And wide, wet eyes uplifted
Questioned his own in vain.

Bowing his head he pondered
The words of the little one;
Had he erred in his life-long teaching?
Had he wrong to his Master done?

To what grim and dreadful idol
Had he lent the holiest name?
Did his own heart, loving and human,
The God of his worship shame?

And lo! from the bloom and greenness,
From the tender skies above,
And the face of his little daughter,
He read a lesson of love.

No more as the cloudy terror
Of Sinai's mount of law,
But as Christ in the Syrian lilies
The vision of God he saw.

And, as when, in the clefts of Horeb,
Of old was His presence known,
The dread Ineffable Glory
Was Infinite Goodness alone.

Thereafter his hearers noted
In his prayers a tenderer strain,
And never the gospel of hatred
Burned on his lips again.

And the scoffing tongue was prayerful,
And the blinded eyes found sight,
And hearts, as flint aforetime,
Grew soft in his warmth and light.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This is a painting  by the wonderful Victoria watercolorist, Leslie Redhead.  I hope that Leslie won't mind if I put this charming picture here. Admittedly...these are wrens and they are not sparrows and they are in a maple tree...not a Victoria Lilac....even so...

I have a little bird house, charmingly painted and decorated by a grandchild and wedged into a crook in the branches of the Victoria lilac tree.  It has held a nest of little sparrows once or twice in past years.  I looked for it today, and found that it had been moved.  It must have fallen down and been replaced by the neighbor children. So it was somewhat askew and I took it down to examine the interior by lifting up the hinged roof.  Inside was a nest…in a state of disuse and broken a bit by it’s tumble from the tree.  The nest was made up of grass, moss, bits of fluff and what have you…but woven in amongst the other materials was a surprising amount of hair.  Human hair.  Obviously (to me)….MY OWN  hair…a lot of it. I wondered how a little bird could have gathered so much of my hair to build her nest.  As I have worked around the yard, flicking my hair out of my eyes…taking my hat off and on…I never noticed the loss of a few hairs here and there caught by the wind.  But the birds must have a sharp eye for such materials when they are doing the important work of building their nests.   My mind went to the words of Jesus in Luke 12: 6&7

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, 
and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not therefore: 
ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Sometimes our losses are heartbreaking and sometimes they are of very little concern to us. But great or small…they are never to no purpose.  We have a loving father who is watching out for the sparrows (and the wrens) and at the same time noticing and caring about everything concerning us...right down to the hairs of our head.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christian Leadership or the Easy Yoke?

We live at a time when “Leadership” is the thing which everyone seems to strive after.  Everyone wants to speak for a large group of *others*.  I used to pray that my children would be leaders and not followers.  I meant it in the sense, that they would swim upstream against the crowd rather than just take the path of least resistance and go with the flow.  Not necessarily that they would lead a crowd... but that they would not be led by the crowd.

Leadership is power.  That’s why it’s so highly prized, and why it’s so important that we are careful about the leadership we submit to in our lives, and that we challenge those who sometimes assume leadership over us.  Someone may be our teacher or leader for a season by our choice  but we need to be careful not to hand over our  conscience to any other person.  It is our life…our only life.

Matthew 23:  (Amplified Bible)
8 But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers.
9 And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven.
10 And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ.

I noticed these three verses...each verse in conjunction with the role of one of the three members of the trinity and how WE relate with the triune God according to John 17:21.

  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, 
that they also may be one in us: 
that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Verse 8 tells us not to assume the position of teacher.  I have known a lot of gifted teachers...but I think there may be a difference between a gifting... and office.  That's where I would draw a line.  Our gifts are not to give us a position...but to bless others.  We know from passages such as John 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  and  Hebrews 8: 10-12 (and others) that the Holy Spirit is our teacher…. So the implication is that  since we are not the Holy Spirit…we should not assume His role as teacher for any individual or group.   Our role with respect to the Holy Spirit is to listen and to get wisdom…to HEAR.

Verse 9 tells us not to call any man our Father nor to assume the position or title of  this is why I have such issues with titles conferred on religious leaders.  God is our Father, and no-one should receive the title father, or reverend or any such thing.  Nor should we presume to be a spiritual father to anyone else.  We only have one Father, and our part in the relationship is not to BE Him….but to LOVE Him and to emulate His love and character in order to become like Him and bear His glory into our  world.

Verse 10 speaks to the idea of leadership….pastors, shepherds. Often at times of crisis, gifted leaders arise. This is God's prerogative... But I believe we are wrong to give and to assume these as offices.  In the book of Samuel, the people prefered to have a King rather than the wise Judges which had God had spoken through in the past. but according to 1Samuel 8:7  "And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them."

THE LORD is my shepherd. Jesus is the one to whom we look for leadership and example and direction. He’s really good at this so we do harm to insert ourselves or anyone else in this role.   1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”  Our stance toward the leadership of Jesus is to simply  FOLLOW in simple trusting obedience.

Having said all that, we as individuals can  effectively move at the impulse of Father’s love to speak a word of wisdom into each other’s lives, or to support each other along the journey by pointing each other to  Christ our leader… reminding each other who’s workmanship we are,  and who we are becoming. This is our role in making disciples  and joining in the work of Christ, which is reconciling men to God.

But these are not on going offices (with titles, status and salaries) to be proud of in some religious aristocracy….nor levels of government in some institutional religion.  They are relational, momentary, opportunities to be a part of  Father’s plan of overcoming evil with good.  Not cutting out a niche and building (and monetizing) our own  kingdom, as institutional religion so often does…but bringing the kingdoms of the earth into alignment with the Kingdom and the Glory of God.

Our roles are to listen to the Holy Spirit, to love our Father and to follow Jesus.

This is the easy yoke Jesus talked about....because we share it with Christ who does all the heavy pulling. And if we have this yoke  on…we are ready to move at the impulse of His Love.