Saturday, February 28, 2009
"THE SYNAGOGUE AT NAZARETH". (Scripture reading)
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: .And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
THE SYNAGOGUE AT NAZARETH. (Tilden's Meditation)
JESUS stood up in the synagogue of his native Nazareth, and held the sacred roll containing the prophecy of Isaiah. He unrolled the parchment till he came to the sixty-first chapter of the roll. Here he read, " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." The Spirit had spoken to him; he felt its anointing. Behold, The Great Teacher. The work which Christ came to do for the soul is not the work of an hour or a day. It is the work of a life. Reverently to receive him as the Soul's Teacher, is the beginning of the work. The central word in this new Gospel is Love; for Gospel means glad tidings, and glad tidings without Love were impossible; for Love originated the tidings, and Love made them glad. Healing, sight, and liberty! gracious words these to rich as well as poor; to those at ease as well as those in trouble. Jesus does not come to take the place of God. He comes to take us by the hand and lead us to his Father and our Father."
Friday, February 27, 2009
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: And they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. (Matt iv)
As Jesus walked by the sea he called these young brothers, because he knew their hearts were free and full of ready zeal. So when he said, " Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," they needed no second call. Immediately they left their nets and their father, and followed him; not to listen merely, but to work. Jesus would show these common toilers for their daily bread that God had great blessings in store for them here; that a man might own half the boats on the lake and yet be wretchedly poor, while another who did not own his own fishing-tackle might be rich in the nobleness of a man. Man must be waked from the sleep of the senses, and brought out on the hill-sides of a new life; for the Sun of Righteousness was already flushing the East; the Morning Light was breaking; God was coming with fresh tokens of love to open his eyes, that he might see this new light that was to flood the world. Let us follow, listen, and work."
Thursday, February 26, 2009
John Dominic Crossan wrote one of my favorite theological sentences of John the Baptist, saying that he was sending out from the Jordan, "Ticking time bombs of apocalyptic expectation."
William Phillips Tilden takes a equally passionate (though more traditional) view in today's devotion for Lent"
"THE BAPTISM." (scripture readings)
"AND as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptise you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him.
But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee; and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Jesus being baptised, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.
And John bare record, saying, . . . he that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth -with the Holy Ghost.
Matt. iii. Mark i. Luke HI. John i.
THE BAPTISM (Tilden)
JOHN'S voice was sharp and clear, — Repent; re-turn; face the sunrise; open your eyes; leave off sinning; live in the light of God. Jesus hears the voice. It has been borne on the swift wings of a thousand tongues to Nazareth, sixty miles away. He hastens to the Jordan and steps forward and asks of John for baptism. How can John do it ? John's voice was not for him. But Jesus says persuasively, " Suffer it to be so now;" and they both go down into the water. As they came up Jesus prayed. Of that prayer in such an hour, from such a soul, at the opening of such a ministry, would we knew the words; but it was made to God, not for man. Heaven was opened, and the Dove of the Spirit rested on him, and a voice was heard, " Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." John was a voice. Jesus was a life. John came to preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus came to build up that kingdom in the world. O Blessed Jesus! shall we ever know him ?"
Face the sunrise and live in the light! Blessings
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
William Phillips Tilden talks about these paths and this fire in his Leaflets for Lent (remember that these Lenten meditations were compiled after his death by his daughter and are arranged in two page segments, the first page of which contains scripture readings and the second, a meditation from the words of Brother Tilden)
'THEREFORE also now, saith the Lord, turn ye, even to me with all your heart. . . . Turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; . . . and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you:
" What is this that stirs within
Loving goodness, hating sin?
'Tis the soul, mysterious name.
Him it seeks from whom it came."
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and break every yoke ?
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Joel ii. Isaiah Ivili. Matt. vi.
THE GREAT AWAKENING.
JESUS found the way to God, and waits to show that way to us. He saw the truth of God, and seeks to show it to darkened minds. He lived the life divine, and calls on every child of God to follow. Man is God's child...born out of the bosom of Divine Love, bearing the Father's image and likeness; and though he wanders oft in dark and tangled paths, God loves him still, and ever seeks to win him back from sin and its retribution to goodness and its blessed rewards.
" Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
With all thy quickening powers:
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.
Come, shed abroad a Saviour's love,
And that shall kindle ours."
The fire we need must be kindled on our own altars. May the Heavenly Father, who is our Life, and the Spirit of His dearly beloved Son, and the communion of all holy influences, keep our souls on fire with the purpose of being followers of God as dear children.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways; they take delight in approaching to God." Isaiah Iviii.
"Do we take delight in approaching to God ? Are we not too much absorbed in things that perish in the using ? Have we not some weak points that need strengthening ? Some vulnerable places in the wall of character, where the tempter has made a breach before, and will again, if we are not on our guard ? Do we all live as we believe ? I know one who does not, and who would keep Lent with you, in the hope that it may help him in coming a little nearer to living as he believes, all the year round. So this Lent shall be to us, not a season of darkness but of Light, of getting and giving Light; and instead of sackcloth and ashes, let us put on the Garments of Praise.
"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward."
Monday, February 23, 2009
Our visiting minister (her first time out of her country) told the children a folktale, gave a wonderful talk on the "consoling church" and the joy of the love of God, and, in what was one of my favorite moments, said the Lord's Prayer in Hungarian to which we responded in English. She later presented us with a beautiful flag and some embroidery and then sang two folk songs.
It was a joyous day and I am filled with gratitude for just having witnessed it. Blessings
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Kings are said to have long arms, but every man should have long arms, and should pluck his living, his instruments, his power, and his knowing, from the sun, moon, and stars. Is not then the demand to be rich legitimate? Yet, I have never seen a rich man. I have never seen a man as rich as all men ought to be, or, with an adequate command of nature.
There is a refining influence from the arts of Design on a prepared mind, which is as positive as that of music, and not to be supplied from any other source. But pictures, engravings, statues, and casts, beside their first cost, entail expenses, as of galleries and keepers for the exhibition; and the use which any man can make of them is rare, and their value, too, is much enhanced by the numbers of men who can share their enjoyment. In the Greek cities, it was reckoned profane, that any person should pretend a property in a work of art, which belonged to all who could behold it...If properties of this kind were owned by states, towns, and lyceums, they would draw the bonds of neighborhood closer. A town would exist to an intellectual purpose. In Europe, where the feudal forms secure the permanence of wealth in certain families, those families buy and preserve these things, and lay them open to the public. But in America, where democratic institutions divide every estate into small portions, after a few years, the public should step into the place of these proprietors, and provide this culture and inspiration for the citizens.
All things ascend, and the royal rule of economy is, that it should ascend also, or, whatever we do must always have a higher aim.
The true thrift is always to spend on the higher plane; to invest and invest, with keener avarice, that he may spend in spiritual creation, and not in augmenting animal existence. Nor is the man enriched, in repeating the old experiments of animal sensation, nor unless through new powers and ascending pleasures, he knows himself by the actual experience of higher good, to be already on the way to the highest."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
"False and True Humility"
"The humility of the gospel is often confounded with other qualities. It is often supposed to imply a mean and debasing opinion of ourselves, particularly of our own intellectual and moral capacities and powers. But this it by no means implies. This is a great weakness, and is often extremely injurious to the character.
Nor does a Christian humility require us to debase ourselves below the truth with regard to our characters. The contemplation of virtue and excellence, in whatever degree and wherever it be found, must ever be attended with pleasure to an intelligent and moral being. If the Christian be conscious of it in himself, why should he not view it with complacency and joy ? It is the voice of God which speaks in the whispers of conscience. There is a pure feeling of self-approbation, which as an earthly reward is inseparably connected with virtue. The humility of the gospel does not require this feeling to be stifled and extinguished...
The greatest difficulty in describing the humility of the gospel arises from the necessity of giving such a representation of the nature and sources of it, as may include the humility of him who was holy, harmless, and separate from sin. The views from which the humility of our Saviour arose form part of the sources of that of his disciples.
The first source of Christian humility is a deep sense and devout veneration of the perfections of God. Let the mind once be impressed with the divine character; let the heart feel the full conviction of its awful majesty; let the soul once be conscious of the immediate presence of the infinite and eternal God ; and you could not but be humble. There is something in the contemplation of any high degree of purity and sanctity, which awakens in every good mind, a feeling of awe and loveliness ; and how greatly should it be awakened in the contemplation of perfect, unchangeable, inconceivable holiness!
Another source of christian humility arises from just and benevolent views of mankind. This was a great source of the humility of Christ. It was this which made him willing to relinquish his own happiness, and neglect the glory he had with the Father, and humble himself to the form of a servant, and enter our world of sorrow and sin. The same spirit is to influence his followers. We are ever to remember how noble is the nature, how vast the capacity of moral improvement and happiness, with which every human being is endowed. However sunk in misery, bowed down in want, loathsome in disease, or degraded by guilt; we are to remember that all were created capable of endless improvement and of immortal glory. Bear these views with you when you go into the world, and they will produce in the cause of benevolence an oblivion of yourselves. They will free you from self-conceit, excite you to a respect of all human beings; teach you to disregard the little advantages God has given you over them, and to waive many of your own rights, and sacrifice much of your present comfort, to promote their advancement, safety, and peace. The benevolent affections thus go to form part of the humility of a Christian, as they did to form that of his great exemplar and guide.
The natural effect of humility is to make the Christian desire better to know and to perform his duty; and this desire the grace of God enables him to fulfil. The humble in heart he gives to know, and to obey the truth. He enlightens his path, guards his frailty, helps his infirmities, aids him amidst his temptations and trials, and strengthens and animates him in his christian course. " God giveth grace to the humble."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"Devotion is not a distinct and single quality, but a general state of mind and heart...Devotion is often supposed to consist entirely in the performance of secret and retired duties of meditation and prayer ; whereas it is an all pervading spirit, which warms at the heart, directing all its desires, and feelings, and hopes, and whose influence is felt through the whole conduct. It does not require the knees to be always bowed, and the voice to be always ascending ; it waits not for stated periods, and is not confined to the closet or the temple. God will be acceptably worshipped wherever the heart rises to him, whether it be from amidst the activity of business, or in silence and solitude.
Monday, February 16, 2009
"It is this view which I now wish you to consider—that while the gospel insists on the practice of the ordinary moral virtues, it demands, also, the highest cultivation of the heart.
1. We are commanded as expressly in the gospel to acquire and maintain dispositions of humility, devotion, heavenly-mindedness, as we are to practise the most necessary duties of active life. The obligation is equal in respect to both. We are no more at liberty to neglect one branch of commands, than the other...
2. The moral habits of justice, fidelity, and honorable usefulness, are duties relating directly to men only; but there are dispositions and duties enjoined, of which God and his Son are the direct and immediate objects—reverence, fervent gratitude, trust, affection, a sense of accountability, constant reference to the divine will, and all-controlling desires of the divine approbation.
3. No disposition is more strictly condemned than that of conformity to the world; none urged with more frequency and force, than that whose desires and affections rest supremely on heaven. That practical love of Christ which leads to effort, to vigilance, to self-denial, is ever preferred to the most praiseworthy of human affections.
4. Christianity is indeed something more than a code of moral rules for the regulation of the practice, to which appropriate sanctions are annexed. It is even more conversant with dispositions, principles, and habits of mind. It is peculiarly a religion of the affections. Its seat is in the heart. It operates not merely by the simplicity of its practical rules, and the solemnity of its final retributions ; but would elevate and sanctify all the sentiments, desires, and feelings of the human soul, by the influence of its revelations, by the lofty views it discloses of the character and government of God, and the moral relations and final destiny of man...The gospel calls us to act upon higher and purer motives. It is where the practical virtues of ordinary life spring from principles and feelings which Christianity has formed and sanctified, where they are the manifestations of a sound piety burning deeply in the heart, where they are intimately connected with the pure and elevated graces of a devout and humble spirit, that we can consider them as the sure and adequate evidences of christian character."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"Thy Kingdom Come"
I think there is nothing which we so much need as this great and hopeful faith in the present, ruling God. The imperfections of this world, and of ourselves, are not difficult to perceive. The fact that this world is in the making, only, is plain enough to every one.
Men have always grasped, from the beginning, this great fact; religious men have laid hold upon it as giving a clue full of light and comfort to the darkest mysteries of this human life; and even those who could find no light or hope in it have felt its power, like the iron stroke of a flail beating on their hearts. The truth that the Almighty Maker of our lives and Father of our spirits has placed us here not as He might have done, doubtless, with finished and symmetrical lives, everything happy and smooth about us, everything bright and easy within us, characters complete and rounded, minds and hearts whose even pulse-beat kept temperate time, the voices of neighbors and friends making harmonious music on our way, the business of our calling running with untangled threads, no shadow of disease, no dread of loss, no agony of parting; but, instead, in a world overhung with mystery and filled with discipline, the machinery of life needing constantly to be oiled and tended, and even then getting out of running gear, the human relations of it so complicated, so difficult, hardest to do one's full duty in for those whose conscience in duty is keenest, our own selves the most unquiet kingdom for ourselves to rule, with puzzles of heart and will and brain and conscience, and over all the shadows which men knew of old as the visitings of Fate, and which, though they know them now as the touch of a merciful God, gathering the soul into the hollow of His hand, they still must see in part as what they are on their earthward side, — change and sickness and pain and loss. The only solution is the double truth: that God has not finished but is still making His world; and that He does not work in this alone, but calls for the co-operation of man and nature with Him.
Have a blessed Sabbath.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
My devotions this morning began in my favorite book of the Bible, James (Chapter 4.)
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?"
And this from JEA's
"A WORLDLY TEMPER UNFAVORABLE TO THE CULTIVATION OF PIETY."
"There is another christian disposition utterly irreconcilable with a worldly temper. " If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The formation of pious dispositions, like that of all others, is gradual, and is the result of all continued care, attention, and labor...We need minds, composed, undistracted, and serious.
Is not devotion to the cares or the pleasures of life, fatal to that mental serenity, that devotional seriousness, in which alone the inclination or the capacity exists, of attending to the manifestations of God's character, in such a manner as shall awaken us to a love of him ?...To maintain the love of God, the good impressions which may at any time have been given, must be watched over, deepened, and enlivened, by frequent and long continued reflection.
But this is not all. Attachment to the world has an immediate tendency greatly to impair, if not gradually to destroy, the moral sensibility, so far as devotional feeling is concerned...An unceasing attention to worldly business, by withdrawing our regard from religious truths, by rendering us averse to serious and continued contemplation, and by occupying our minds with the scenes and objects of time and sense, thus impairs the sensibility of our hearts, and renders it difficult, if not at last impossible, to awaken them to lively or permanent feelings of devotion.
In the last place. Love of the world is the source of the most fatal passions, and most trying temptations. To that fountain of bitterness, we may trace most of the envyings and jealousies, hatreds and animosities, which have blasted at once the characters and happiness of individuals, and turned the peace and mutual confidence of society to discord and distrust...Christians—in all this, you see the effects of a love of the world. We, too, betray the cause of our Master, and render all that he hath done for us, vain, when we suffer the world to gain possession of our hearts, and in our pursuit of its business or its pleasures, neglect to form that holiness and spirituality of character, which his teachings, and example, and death, all were designed to urge us to acquire."
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
"CHARGE THEM THAT THEY TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE, NEITHER GIVE HEED TO FABLES AND ENDLESS GENEALOGIES, WHICH MINISTER QUESTIONS, RATHER THAN GODLY EDIFYING, WHICH IS IN FAITH. NOW THE END OF THE COMMANDMENT IS CHARITY[love] Out Of A Pure Heart.— 1 Timothy i. 3 - 5.
In addressing myself to the teachers of our Sunday school, let me premise that I consider it a department of the Church, coming fully within the precinct of Church influences and authority ; it is a sort of seed-bed and nursery of the Church. One of its leading objects is to prepare the children to be mature Christians, true Churchmen and Church- women. I hold that all who enter the Sunday school do, to a certain degree, commit themselves to the Church, and to a Christian life.
The office of the Sunday-school teacher is a kind of delegated pastorate. He deals with the undergraduates of religion, he takes the spiritual meat which is served to the people generally, and, so to say, cuts it up for the little ones. The great thing to be taught is Christianity; not in the artificial shapes that abound on every hand, but just as we find it in the simple text of Scripture. And when I say Christianity, I mean, of course, among other things, moral duties.
The Gospel is not a simple book to us. It is wrapped like a mummy in countless folds of ignorance and mistake, and its fresh, beautiful life is smothered and well nigh lost. Ages of misinterpretation obscure it. A superstitious light gleams about it. We approach it under the disadvantage of all the wrong education we have received from our childhood to this day. I could sometimes wish that the Sunday-school teacher, as well as others, might for a moment forget that he had ever seen the Gospel of Jesus, so that he might go to it as a new book, a new history, that he might thus experience all the freshness and beauty of its revelations, and with unbiased mind and childlike heart endeavor to appropriate its great truths. It is of the highest importance that we should understand the New Testament, for the reason that to us it is the sole rule of faith and guide of life. We reject the commonly received creeds and formulas of churches about us, and betake ourselves to the simple word of God, in which all-important rules of duty and forms of faith are simply expressed."
To a degree, we are blessed in our modern Unitarian Sunday schools that the teachings of the Bible (and scripture of all faiths) are often new to our students and can be presented in all their "freshness and beauty." Tomorrow, "the question whether you should teach the children doctrines." Blessings
Monday, February 9, 2009
Whose word all worlds obey,
Before whose throne archangels bow,
O hear us while we pray.
Hath set to guard thy sheep
Give us the strength, the power, the grace,
The will, our charge to keep
Inspire our souls with holy zeal
To herald forth thy truth
To cheer and comfort hoary age:
To guide and counsel youth.
To soothe the mourner, be his care
And point him to thy word-
The fearful, doubting, trembling one,
To lead him to his God.
Pastor and people bless, O Lord!
And may they ne’er be riven,
Till, called by death they part in time,
To meet again in Heaven.
Rendering, as we homeward tread,
Gracious service to the living
Tranquil memory to the dead.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
CAST YE UP, CAST YE UP, PREPARE THE WAY, TAKE UP THE STUMBLING-BLOCK OUT OF THE WAY OF MY PEOPLE. —Isaiah vii. 14.
There are many stumbling-blocks in the way of duty. As the true idea of the soul, of Christianity and the Church, begins to unfold, these stumbling- blocks are developed more and more... There are multitudes who will not do any thing for God or the Church, on the ground that they have not been converted. Let us examine what this ground is, how good it is, how substantial.
What is the meaning of the word " conversion" ? It is turning, or turning round. It is, the Latin form of the Saxon expression to turn. It signifies to turn from one state or condition or mode to another. The corresponding Greek word means this, and no more...The allusion, the import, and application of the language in the Bible are exceedingly simple. You are turned from an object, you turn towards it and are converted; as Christ turned (literally, converted himself), and looked towards Peter. You are going a wrong way, you turn and go a right way; you are converted ; as the sinner is converted who is turned from the error of his way. You have neglected your affairs, you now attend to them ; you are converted. You have been indifferent to truth, you become interested in it; you are converted.
Summarily, conversion, according to Bible language, is doing the very thing which you say you must be converted before you can do. Conversion does not lie anywhere between a man and his duty. Whoever faithfully fulfils his duty, having once neglected it, is a converted man. Conversion does not express what a man is, or what happens to him, but what he does. Invariably, I believe, it is referred to by the sacred writers in an active sense.
There is no mystery in conversion, so far as the Gospel is concerned. It is a matter of common sense, of every-day life, of familiar experience... conversion is a returning, mark the word, a returning, a going back to something we have left, a recovery of an old position, a resumption of what we have neglected. Jesus says, " Except ye be converted," — that is, except ye return, turn about, go back, — " and become as little children, ye cannot see the kingdom of God." The child's nature is not corrupt, it is not a vicious condition of being engendered of Adam; it is pure; it is free, I mean, from the stain of sin; and we must return to that simplicity and innocence, that our souls may be saved. This is what Christ teaches. This is what we believe. This is the doctrine of the Church...Conversion, then, in its highest sense, is the returning of the soul to its God, of the child to its Father in heaven, of the wanderer to his home. Repent and be converted; repent and return. By repentance and humiliation, every sinner can and must return to his God...
Nor do we misconceive conversion, we understand it; nor do we pervert its meaning, we elucidate it; or rather, by applying ourselves to the simple word of God, we discover and learn what it is. This explains what I have elsewhere said about Unitarianism being the true interpreter of the Bible. It gets just as near to the mind of Christ as it is possible to do. It goes to the original media of expression; it compares passage with passage; it follows a given word from book to book. Having heard Christ use a phrase once, it stays near him and waits until he uses it again, and then it betakes itself to Paul, to be sure of the sense ; and thus, simply, humbly loving the truth, it is impossible that it should not know the truth.
Let us remember that conversion consists in doing our duty ; that we are being converted just as far and as fast as we do our duty; that there is no conversion, and never can be a genuine conversion, while a man neglects to do his duty."
Friday, February 6, 2009
The next few days will be given over to selections from his sermons on "The Church"
Blessings and have a wonderful day.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be. — John, xii. 26.
1. " If any man serve me, let him follow me." It ^ is one of the singular privileges of the Christian life that it is a following. Called after the name of Christ, it is our share in His steadily advancing victory. To possess our souls in patience, to take our law from God's lips and our portion from God's hand, to enter into our rest here and to look for a better rest beyond, while it is not an easy so it is not an untried thing. Jesus has wrought out all this deliverance. We have always before our eyes an example of all holy living and dying, — not what man might haply do and bear if only God were with him, but what man has done and has borne with that Divine help... And lest any should imagine that this wonder of goodness descended upon our earth as it were complete, — a radiant and angelic vision, with no mark of conflict, — Jesus goes before us to the battle, and is careful to make known in part the mystery of His struggling life; and in more than one of the narratives which in the Divine Providence have come down to us we see Him treading the wine-press alone, and doing battle with the very Prince of this world. He has told us in parables of His temptations in the wilderness. We see indeed that they were incident to a transcendent elevation of aim and a singular purity of purpose, and yet they were real. It could be no mean fight which could detain the Son of God forty days and forty nights
2. "If any man serve me, let him follow me." How simple and single our Christian life becomes when it is clearly and heartily recognized as a following ! — no more the inquiry, "What is Truth ; no more a journey of exploration in the hope to find the true Way; no more a mere problem of Life waiting for the solution which the wise may have to offer. If men and women might only begin with the following to which they are often graciously brought at last! If only aims which are so often shadowy, and endeavors which are only a beating of the air might become the loyalty of the follower who hears and obeys the Master's voice! If only to those who have lost the path of life we would not offer treatises upon journeys and journeying and maps of all the universe, but would simply point to the open road and say, Walk in it!
Strive to be like Him,— that is revealed to you as one of the possibilities of your new life. And to be like Him is to be with Him, and to see Him as He is, and to have a hope for other worlds than this. Go forward — not only in thought as so many do, not only in imagination of things which might be, but in very deed and truth. Take your place in the very front rank. It is true that death is there ; but where death is not there can be no larger, higher, better, nobler life; and they who seek first of all for safety must not hope for salvation."
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Better the way of positive affirmation-even of sin. Thus Rufus Ellis on "The Way They Call Heresy" (continued from yesterday)
"3. Again, the people called Unitarians are agreed in confining the word " sin" to conscious wrongdoing, and in declaring that such wrong-doing is the worst of calamities here and hereafter, and that there is no salvation worthy of the name which does not promise and go on to accomplish for us a complete deliverance from conscious wrong-doing. " His name shall be called Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins." It is simply in loyalty to this practical conviction that we protest against all dogmas about birth-sin, and a righteousness which is ours by some theological fiction. We see that we have a lower nature as well as a higher nature, and that we inherit evil tendencies from sinful parents; but we say with the Apostle, " Whosoever knoweth to do good and doeth it not," to him, and to him alone, it is more than a misfortune, more than an infirmity, — it is a sin. And we are satisfied that we must put away sin or die; and that it can be put away only as with the help of God in Christ, we subject the lower nature to the higher, and make that lower nature a blessing through obedience. For us our divine religion, with all its wondrous divine means and its holy mysteries, is unto righteousness. Does the Saviour from His cross pronounce our sins forgiven ? — it is that we may go and sin no more. Do we by baptism declare our children children of God ? — it is that they may live divine lives, and be children indeed through the Spirit of holiness. Do we gather about the Lord's Table ? — it is that we may be enabled to grow into His blameless life. All names and forms are secondary and subsidiary to the creation of character.
And so, at the risk sometimes of seeming to make light of names and forms and doctrines, we put the supreme emphasis upon character, and strive to save men in their sins only that we may save them from, their sins. We hold that the supremely good is the supremely sacred; that only what is sinful is profane: and so find in our Christianity the hope of the triumph, however remote, of all good,— that hope which is the inspiration of modern art, science, literature, government."
"The hope of the triumph...of all good" That is a heresy I can embrace. Blessings
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
THE WAY WHICH THEY CALL HERESY.
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers. — Acts, xxiv. 14.
ON more than one occasion I have tried to say a word in behalf of Unitarian Christianity... I have no criticisms to offer upon other people. I do not pretend that ours is the only Christianity. I do not say, as some one claims we ought to say, that the Trinitarian is an idolater. I do not propose to argue even for my own opinions. Argument has no very large place in religion, and has a sound of weakness; while it always suggests another side. And as to what I have to say, I doubt whether I should declare it any less confidently if our present small minority in Christendom were reduced to the two or three who according to Jesus are enough, if only they are met in His name, to make a church.
1. Let me say first, that it is a religious necessity with the people who are called Unitarians, when they pray, to say, "Our Father;" to turn to this Supreme One an undivided mind and heart. They can worship no other being, however exalted. When in any Christian assembly the prayer of minister and congregation is a prayer to Christ, they cannot go along with it. To God, as He is revealed in Christ, — the God whose compassions are infinite, — they ever pray; and such prayer is very sweet and helpful to them. But to Christ they do not pray; for they believe that God is His Father as our Father, His God as our God ; and that they are to pray with Him, not to Him. Where they use, as in this church, a form of prayer, they fashion it in accordance with this conviction, and include no petitions to a Trinity of Persons, or to God the Son as distinguished from God the Father, or to God the Spirit as to a third person in the Godhead. They gladly celebrate the glory and beauty of the Mediator between God and man, — the Man Christ Jesus, — in anthems and hymns and spiritual songs; but in the supreme act of the adoring soul they look with Jesus to God, who is all in all, and unto whom, says Paul, even the Son shall be made subject."
2. Again, the people called Unitarians believe, and cherish the belief, that God our Father, in revealing Himself to us and drawing near to us in Jesus, was careful to preserve the human nature of that Son of man, with its proper personality, and its capacity to be to us in all things a true human example, — His temptations our temptations, His questions our questions, His trust our trust, His righteousness a human righteousness, His way of life a possibility for all men, if only they will accept the grace which is by Him. Opposed to this vital conception of Jesus as indeed our brother, is the very prevailing opinion that He was in no true sense a man; that what humanity there was about Him was only in appearance, simply the disguise of the supreme God, who somehow — contrary to what Saint James tells us — could be tempted of evil, and could not tell when the end of His own world should come. It is essential to the Unitarian to believe that we have in the life of Jesus a transcendent style of human living, which, however hard it may be to realize, is still man's true divine estate, upon which he is instantly and on this earth to enter, — no dream of philosophy, but a fact of Christian history, witnessed unto by those who have told and have themselves illustrated the Story of Jesus. They believe that Jesus, however pervaded, possessed, mastered, glorified by God, was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and has taught us that there is nothing in our humanity which is common or unclean ; that we may all be temples of the living God, and filled with the blessed Divine fullness. How practical this affirmation is I need not remind you. If I could not join in it I should still be looking for a Saviour, — for One to come out of the bosom of God, and dwell in man. Only in this faith can I say,—
" The true Messiah now appears, The types are all withdrawn : So fly the shadows and the stars Before the rising dawn."
Monday, February 2, 2009
'Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he was his own.' — Acts, iv. 32.
CHRISTIANITY as it was taught and illustrated by Jesus, as it shines forth in the completeness of here and there a disciple, as it shall one day reign in our world, calls nothing its own. Where we are ready to say ownership, Jesus our Master says stewardship... love for God and man is the elemental principle of Christian morals and the fruitful germ of Christian society; we may derive from it the due ordering of a Christian life. From first to last, in small and in great, Sundays and weekdays, it is stewardship...No matter with what semblance of proprietorship, I am only one of the Father's children in the Father's House; and if I am a true child, His interests are nearer to my heart than any other needs. His interests are identical with truth and right, with justice and mercy, with purity, brotherly kindness, and charity. 'The law of Thy lips,' said the Psalmist, 'is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.' I must live, says the world; the Christian does not see that necessity. God is his life. What life yields in obedience to divine laws and in the exercise of heavenly charities, that is his portion from God : he asks no more.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN.
After this manner, therefore, pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven. — Matt. vi. 9.
" AFTER this manner!" When Christ bids his followers pray thus, he tells us in substance that the few sentences of the Lord's Prayer are the essence of all prayer. Since prayer addresses God, he teaches us first of all how to think of Him...The first words of this mighty prayer lift us at once to the highest level...
We are heirs of the past to a greater degree than we are aware. From the Middle Ages we inherit the unconscious tendency to measure spiritual feeling by extravagance of expression ; from two centuries of New England parentage, an inborn zest for theological subtleties; and either way, we hold too narrow an idea of what this spiritual affection is. We need to go back to Jesus Christ, and look at it in his light. And when we thus bring the New Testament spirit to bear upon the interpretation of the great commandment, we at once find that in its genuine and true and Scriptural sense, love to God is not a mere sentiment dependent upon the happy possession of a glowing temperament, nor only a fervid expression of devout feeling called into being, quickened by supernatural grace; these are only special manifestations of it in partial forms. But underlying them and manifesting itself in many other ways also quite as true and as worthy, it exists as a great persuasive principle of life, vitalizing the whole being in the soul which religion has entered as a power... Yes! it is a divine, a blessed decree, that in obeying the best impulse of the heart towards what is holy and good and true, we are led into sympathy with Him in whom all perfections are in their fullness.
Mr. Maurice has well said that " much of the practical difficulty of the prayer lies in the first word of it. How can we look round on the people whom we habitually feel to be separated from us by almost impassable barriers, . . . and then teach ourselves to think that in the very highest exercise of our lives they are associated with us; that when we pray we are praying for them and with them; that we cannot speak for ourselves without speaking for them; that if we do not carry their sins to the throne of God's grace, we do not carry our own; that all the good we hope to obtain there belongs to them just as much as to us. ... Yet all this is included in the word 'our;' till we have learned so much we are but spelling at it, we have not learned to pronounce it."
Have we so learned, any one of us, dear friends ? For if we have hard thoughts about any in our hearts; if we find it difficult to hold them graciously and tenderly in our remembrance as we rise to the great thought of God; if we fail to grasp the sublime conception of "the whole family in heaven and earth" which is named of Him, we can hardly pass this portal of our Lord's Prayer into the deeper meaning of the sanctuary within. We do not really pray to Him unless we are willing to kneel, as it were, on the outer step of His temple, beside the publican and the sinner. We can hardly dare to call him Father, unless we will also call them our brethren.
But there is not only a lesson of humility and of charity for us when we begin to say " Our Father," — there is infinite hope and cheer. For if we all come together before him, we may well feel upborne by the praying might of all who are higher than we on the shining ladder that leads to the foot of His throne, — His saints and faithful children, all that great company who are joined in the praises of the Te Deum."
May our Sabbath be a blessed one.