Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Freeing Truth

you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32)


These are words that ring true. They are Jesus' words. True words. Freeing words. Words of truth. Truth that sets you free. Free to live the truth.


In an address given at the 2010 conference of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology, Joseph D. Small, Director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Office of Theology and Worship, shares from a piece entitled "Internal Injuries: Moral Division within the Churches". In the course of his discussion, he asks the following question.


"What would it mean, within our churches, to serve truth consistently, purposefully and articulately, and equally important, to organize this service?"


In answering the question, he posits that living the truth "requires more than the effort of individual pastors and congregations; it requires organizing this service." The question then begs the query of: How might this service become effectively organized? Here, Joe Small refers to the work of Václav Havel whom he describes as "playwright, essayist, dissident, resister, prisoner, and then, improbably, last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic." Drawing from Havel's "The Power of the Powerless," in Václav Havel: Living in Truth, he suggests that:


Organizing this service entails the creation of a different culture within the church. "When those who have decided to live within the truth," says Havel, "begin to create what I have called the independent life of society, this independent life begins, of itself, to become structured in a certain way." What is this structuring like? Havel begins with a term borrowed from nonconformist music and art – "second culture." For him, second culture refers to a broad ranging expression of independent and suppressed culture in the humanities, social sciences, and philosophical thought, as well as the arts. The second culture is a way of being that does not accede to "the way things are." It resists prevailing patterns and expressions by creating new arrangements and articulations. A second culture resists the predominant culture by way of innovation rather than negation.


Two things resonate with my own thinking upon pondering this further in my own recent reflection.

One refers to the parables of Jesus from Scripture about the kingdom of God, particularly that of the leaven. In the gospel of Luke (13:20-21), the Word tells us:


He also asked, "What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough."


To borrow from Havel's usage, the very "second" culture introduced however tiny or slightly into the batch would eventually transform the entirety of the culture in which it resides, rising to newness of life unlike its previously known existence. I believe this is what we as the church in this community is and are called to do and be—living witnesses of the truth that would set us and the world around us free.


The second resonance of thought through personal currency of lamentation emerges as increasing understanding of a growing emphasis on fostering creativity and encouraging generativity. I have observed increasingly a growing sense of call among our leadership to expect great things of God and, in cooperative partnership with one another in the Lord, attempt great things for God. As we may appropriate from the psychology of Erik Erikson, there has been an expressed need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.


One of the things impressed upon me through my own theological experience of seminary education at Princeton is an audacious boldness in taking on the challenges of learning to live the truth in the context of varied ambiguity. That even and especially in the midst of uncertainty and doubt, we are called in leadership to forge ahead into uncharted waters. Despite any naysayers, expressed pessimism, rampant criticism, and no matter come what may, whatever the circumstances, regardless of any situation encountered, leaders are tasked to move forward together in faith, placing their trust in a Sovereign Lord Who engenders hope for the better future yet to be more fully realized and revealed by God. God Who is with us and is for us. And if God is for us, the apostle proclaims, who can be against us!


Next month, your leaders, officers of the church have set a date to meet in a kind of leadership forum by which we might begin to discern together the leading of our Lord for the next season of mission and ministry at First Presbyterian Church in New Castle, Indiana. I exhort all in the gathered community of faith with us to entreat the Lord in prayers for wisdom and insight to bear upon our proceedings that God's kingdom might be advanced further to the glory of God. Pray without ceasing as the apostle Paul says. Keep up to the heavenly realms in the Spirit! Pray Until Something Happens.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Responding to Tragedy

The Faith & Politics Institute's Weekly Reflection

For the week of January 10th, 2011


Towards a theology of hospitality...



"In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are and what direction we want to move in... My favorite poet was Aeschylus.  He once wrote, 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'"

- Robert F. Kennedy, bearing news of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968



Holding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, her family, and her staff members especially close to our hearts in prayer, we pray also for everyone else wounded or worse in Saturday's shootings in Tucson.

May our nation gain wisdom through the awful grace of God.





Past Reflections


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