Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Promise of Spring

A poem by Kate McIlhagga of the Iona Community

Pale winter sun,
flooding the earth
with your light,
gilding the bare trees
with your touch.
Your eyes
have seen
the glory
of the Lord.

Low white candles of hope
palely gleaming in the dark earth,
your advent heralds
the promise of Spring;
your green hearts
speak of God’s renewing love.

Son of God, show us the way.
Light our path.
Lead us
through this Lenten desert
to Easter with you
beyond the pain
of loss and fear.
Lead us in new ways
of trusting service.


Father of Lights

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17

This little verse does much to instruct our way of viewing the world and life as we know it. Any misery, any death that we experience in this life does not originate in God. It originates in our willful turning, our shady attempts at self-preservation – in short, our sin – which have so permeated earthly existence. The darkness of our rebellion is lurking around every corner. Adam’s shadow falls long in our fields. Do not be mistaken; God has not brought this.

God is the originator of good, grace-full giving, of every perfection placed into our hands. Where the light shines, it is His . . . it is Him. He cannot be other than Goodness; He cannot be other than Light. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. And He continues to share His brightness with us – in the steady sunrise, in shared laughter, in the majesty of the soaring eagle, in the miracle of birth, in the rainbow that drips with liquid life. He pours His faithful Light into us, throwing open the shutters over our souls so that it may even shine out of us.

We do not live in sunlight at every moment. There is a day yet to come when darkness will be extinguished forever. But we are signs and flares in the sky that new creation has begun, that Goodness and Love are the true realities.

With this in mind, we welcome every good thing as a beam of our Father’s nature. And life is full of good and perfect things. Green grass, snowy nights, evening fires, morning glories. They are not mundane. They are not meaningless. They are opportunities to recognize the Author and Perfector of life, to stretch out our arms to a steady heaven in childlike thanksgiving. He is here in our daily rhythms, our rising and lying down, our work and play, our families and friends. Open your eyes to the Father of Lights.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

life is love

At its core, life has to do with love.

The creative love of God, which fashioned us out of dust and gave us breath. The redemptive love of God, which plunged into our icy depths and brought us up from the grave. The transformative love of God, which fashions us into a new image.

Through Christ we are joined to the life of God, and God is love.

Love is our ultimate good. To love God with all that we are, this is the sunnum bonum of our existence. To love those God has placed around us, this is the natural extension of our first love.

Love is the highest virtue, the basis from which all good things flow. It is poured into our hearts from above, a supernatural infusion of the Spirit, the fertile ground for godly fruit. Without love we are nothing.

Love is concrete, embodied. It must take form at our kitchen tables, in our families. We cannot choose those whom we love, nor do we love “everybody” in some vague general feeling of goodwill. We must love the child in our arms, the neighbour next door, the person in the pew in front of us, the coworker who talks behind our backs.

As we love, we are transformed and we become agents of transformation. As we live in love, we live God’s way. God’s way lives among us.


Monday, 15 February 2010

why life?

As a baby bumbles around my belly, I am left to wonder . . .

Why has God given us life? Why has he asked us to be fruitful and multiply? What is the point of our life on earth?

His original intent, now shrouded by a veil of sin, lies in the early chapters of our human history. Created in his image, created to be blessed. Created to bring more life into the world, to fill the world, to subdue and have dominion over it. Created to till and tend the earth, to continue the cultivation of God’s own garden. Created to recognize breath and food and water as his gifts, to receive the earth’s nourishment with thanksgiving. Created to explore and name the world around us. Created as male and female, to be together, to help each other. Created to converse with the Creator, to choose to trust and obey. Created without shame.

God created a good and beautiful world, breathing into us good and beautiful life. And then he endowed us with the ability to create, to share in his image and work. We tend and tame the natural life placed around us. We create more human life. God must love life, the abundant diversity of living and growing things. He passes this love to us, this capacity, this gift. In a sense, our purpose is simply to live, to breathe. And we are to do it together.

But, of course, things have become far more complicated. We may never know the sort of life our primal parents may have lived had the serpent’s temptation been disregarded. What would God’s ideal family and society have looked like in the peace of the eternal garden? We are left to pick up the pieces of a shattered world, a tattered image.

But we have not been left alone. The ultimate question – why life at all? – is and must now be answered in Christ. He came to show us the way. Just as we look at Adam to define our origins and original purpose, as well as the consequences of turning away from our Creator, we look at Christ as the Second Adam to define what our new life and renewed image looks like. In Christ we are not simply going back to Eden. He is not only a remedy; in Him life takes on a new dynamic. The incarnation really has changed everything. Our Edenic mandate is still valid, but it is also elevated. We are moving forward as members of a new creation, a new covenant, a new purpose, all in Christ.

So as I think of becoming a mother, of sharing somehow in God’s creative and nurturing work, I wonder how my life will change. I wonder how my purpose as a human in Christ will be fulfilled in this new role. I wonder what God’s intent for my child, my family, my home is. When life is “reduced” to caring for another tiny image bearer, what will matter most? When I look into the eyes of my new son or daughter, what will I see? How will I see God?


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The God of Zephaniah

Some of God’s words are not pleasant to read. Zephaniah opens with a deluge of His fiery wrath against man and beast alike. In what can seem a heartless tirade, I remind myself to pause and think – why is He so angry? Who is this God?

Chapter One. God is angry because the spiritual leaders have idolatrous hearts, leading the people astray. He is angry because they are confusing the Creator with the created. The people’s loyalties are divided, turning worship into a pack of hypocritical lies and filling the temple with violence and deceit. They have neither sought Yahweh, nor inquired of him. And then, an interesting judgment – they are stagnant in spirit. In their hearts they say, “The LORD will not do good or evil.” He no longer has any bearing on their reality. And so God will judge his people.

Chapter Two. God’s anger is also directed at Judah’s enemies. For all their idolatry, Judah is still his people, and he rises to their defense. He is angry at the arrogance of the nations. They do not know God has allowed them to taunt and terrorize Judah. They sit securely in their cities, exultant in what is to a be short lived victory. In their hearts they say, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” And so God will prove himself terrifying, starving their gods until they recognize just who they are dealing with.

And yet a glimmer of hope shines through the lines of fury, hope for both Judah and the nations. To Judah he promises a remnant, safety in the caves of the coast, a restored fortune. To the nations he holds out a promise for the humble – seek the LORD, seek righteousness, seek humility, and God will provide a hiding place from his anger.

Chapter Three. God’s heart is revealed in His broken, urgent oracle. What does he desire? Heed my voice, accept my instruction, trust in me, draw near to me. Princes, judges, prophets, priests – all propagate idolatry and injustice. But the LORD will bring His justice to light in the morning, exposing shame. Just wait. God will rise up as Judge. He will assemble nations and kingdoms and pass out a cup of burning indignation. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of his zeal.

All the earth? Devoured by fire? What kind of God is this?
But his zeal is the full power of his jealous love. This devouring is not the end.

“For then I will give to the people purified lips,
That all of them may call on the name of the LORD,
To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.”

Both shame and pride will disappear in the flame. In their place, a humble and purified remnant, not left to grovel, but to rejoice without fear. Yahweh your King is in your midst; Yahweh your God is in your midst. His anger turns to a song of joy, sung over his people. The song can be heard not only in Judah and Israel, but in the ears of all those who seek him. In the safety of home, his joyful shouts mellow into a lullaby of quieting love. This is your God.

And so at the end of the book, I am left to wonder - what it is that I say in my heart about God? The words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart cannot please him without his purification. Even the ability to call on his name is a gift, wrought of fiery love. I will trust and draw near to the God of Zephaniah.

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