Monday 17 September 2012

Prayer for a grieving priest

Lord Christ, today I saw a priest of your church weeping because of your people. What was this strange, silent grief? Was it because of some failure in your people? Or some inadequacy in the priest himself? Is there something he needs, but still lacks, for his ministry? Was there something I could give him? A book to read, a bit of theology? Or some encouragement and a friendly word? Or was it your own grief, the grief of your priesthood, that had entered his heart and broken it from the inside? When you wept over the lost sheep of Israel, was it because your priesthood was lacking, or because it was so full? 

Christ our shepherd, Christ our pastor, Christ our priest, have mercy on all priests of your church. Have mercy on all who have responded to your call, even when their task is beyond all human ability. Have mercy on all who have to announce your forgiveness, even when sin's burden weighs heavy in their hearts. Have mercy on all who have to bring your healing, though they can command no miracles and work no wonders. Have mercy on all who have to speak in your name, though your Name is an unsearchable mystery. Have mercy on all who have to approach your table, taking your body in their hands, breaking it, giving it away to whoever wants it, a feast for the life of the world – even when they, your priests, are still so hungry and so poor. 

Have mercy, Lord Christ, on all who feed others while they themselves go hungry; who pray for others even though for them the heavens are silent; who go on speaking your Word their whole lives long when they themselves have heard only the faintest whisper; who proclaim good news and pour out the oil of joy while their own hearts grieve – have mercy, and sustain them by the eternal Word of your joy and by the grace of your heavenly priesthood. Amen.

Friday 7 September 2012

Theology events: Sydney and LA

For everyone in the Sydney area, there's a new website for theology events in Sydney – a great way of keeping up to date on conferences, public lectures, and seminars in this part of the world.

There's also a call for papers for the first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference, on the theme "Christology Ancient and Modern".

I'll be back in LA for a month in November/December this year too, following AAR in Chicago. I'll be speaking at a church in Long Beach on the first Sunday of Advent – and if any other churches in the area would like a sermon or two, or some help with Sunday worship, I'm your man!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Doodlings du jour

by Kim Fabricius

God is wise, God is just, God is merciful, God is omni-this and omni-that.  And, of course, there is the awesome holiness and glory of God.  But it is a great pity that no doctrine of God I know includes among the divine perfections the silliness of God.  There – put that in your Piper and smoke it.

Of course I am aware that there is a deep sorrow in the heart of God, and an irreducibly tragic dimension to human life.  I’m not a fantasist.  So in a Picassoesque portrait of God, by all means daub a tear.  Just don’t forget the polyhedral grin from ear to ear to ear.

It is widely acknowledged that God is a dancer, but not so well known that God prefers break to ballet – and ballet in the style of Miss Piggy.  But God is not Lord of the line dance.  Line dancing is the choreography of hell.

Someone kindly asked me if I ever considered doing stand-up.  Only ex cathedra.

Each of us may get our 15 minutes of fame (Warhol), but nowadays you’re lucky to get 15 seconds of truth – and counting…

Luther said that “faith is under the left nipple”.  So too is politics – if it’s got heart.

Some ministers boast of increasing congregations, others despair of diminishing ones.  Same pastoral pathology.  We should, however, remember that Jesus started on a mountain with a sermon to a multitude, and ended on a hill with a homélie-à-deux, one of whom heckled.

WWJD: not what would Jesus do, but why would Jesus do it – that is the question that might give us some loft on an ethical trajectory.

What’s the difference between the kingdom of God and the church?  The kingdom of God is an asshole-free zone.  Jesus said, “Don’t be an asshole: this is the law and the prophets.”

There are some churches that, for their παρρησία, should have crash helmets in the pews – and others, for their bullshit, Wellington boots.

It is never pleasant to be called anti-Semitic, but when the epithet is hurled at you when discussing the colonising of the West Bank, best not take it personally: the abuse is really just a truculent compliment to the cogency of your argument.

The most hateful and violent people are also the most fearful and joyless, and therefore the most to be pitied.  That is why our enemies need our prayers of love and forgiveness.

We should have the lack of self-consciousness of a dog, and the acute self-awareness of a cat (cf. Jesus).  But with our contemporary “How do I look?” narcissism on the one hand, and our culture of lies (not to mention our inveterate propensity for self-deceit) on the other – well, it’s hard times for being human.

That we also live in a culture of fear has been well rehearsed and documented (pre-dating 9/11, by the way).  One harbinger of the passing of this particular social pathology will be the reappearance of the hitchhiker.

I often visit what the British now call “care homes”.  Actually they are harbours.  A few boats may be moored, a few others drifting close to shore.  But most are out at sea, and some right on the horizon.  The people on board are waving their arms.  But in greeting, farewell, or panic and desperation?  They are too far away to tell.  One imagines the Lord gently calling to them, “Ahoy.”

Will Self.  What will?  Whose self?  It’s hard to believe that this isn’t a satirical nom de plume of the sharp, iconoclastic British writer – but it isn’t.  And it gets better:  Will Self has kids named Luther and Ivan.  Seriously.

Drugs in sport?  The London Olympics were a paradigm example of sport-as-drugs, a media-injected amphetamine spectacle (cf. Guy DeBord).  The BBC even tried some uncharacteristic crack-pot patriotic cheerleading – though Gary Lineker was a broadcasting barbiturate, wasn’t he?

Jonathan Edwards – no, not the American theologian, the British athlete – won the silver medal in the Triple Jump at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and then the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.  He still holds the world record – 18.43m – set at the World Championships in 1995.  Edwards was a charming, photo-friendly evangelical Christian, and a real psalm and dance was made of his faith at the time in marketing Christianity to young people.  Then Edwards lost his faith.  Now, in the London Olympics, Mo Farah has won double gold in the 10,000 and 5,000 Metres.  Farah is a charming, photo-friendly Muslim.  So…  

Moral: (pace Augustine, ambivalently, on Victorinus) the Celebrity Gospel will get you a gold medal in the Mug’s Games. 

Romney – and now Ryan.  Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Smith!

Tea Party politics are rewriting the science books: Moronic Design in biology; Continental Catastrophism in geology; and in physics, Even-Darker Matter, the Beelzebub Particle, and the Theory of Anti-Gravity (the Trickle-Up Effect).

If you want to see how utterly ridiculous is the theopolitical narrative of American exceptionalism, take a look at the tragi-comic version now playing in Russia, with its own themes of God, soil, and family, and its own cast of characters – messianic ruler, high priests, and court prophets with their hananiads – likewise drawn from the Christian Right.  Not to forget the scapegoat to secure national identity.

Idea for a Nativity Play this Advent: A Hard Time We Had of It, featuring the Three MagOi! from the East (who are arrested and tried for singing a punk Magnificat in the Temple); with King Vladimir (a Rufus T. Firefly of a figure), the Head of Secret Police and High Priest Kirill (famous for his miracle of the “immaculate disappearance of the watch”), and Pontius Syrova (renown for her laconic FOTF judicial rulings), stage extreme right.  The curtain closes as the MagOi! are escorted from the city “by another road” to a crib in Siberia.  Alternatively, a Passion Play suggests itself, with the same dramatis personae, and an opening scene entitled “Riot in the Temple”, followed by an unfolding plot of arrest, show trial, and punishment for crimes against religion, civic and sacral. 

The opulent, the desperate, and the bored are the meat and drink of superstition.  Hence its current obesity issues.

Imagine (if you can) in every café, mall, stadium, airport, the sudden vanishment of all handheld technology.  Imagine (if you dare!) the massive manual shock, feelings of forsakenness, and contorted looks of anguish and utter vacuity.  Only one artist could paint this horrific picture: Hieronymus Bosch.  It is called ipocalypse.

Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must watch with joy and wonder the curveball of Sandy Koufax.  


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