Archive for February, 2008

Buechner, Brown, Claypool

I came across this piece of news from Christianity Today about the Buechner Institute.

That reminded me of the trio of authors (Frederick Buechner, Robert McAfee Brown and John R. Claypool) I came across them after I read “The Wounder Healer” by Henri Nouwen which was one of the most influential books for me. They are not on many reading list of my peers. However for me, they had left indelible marks in my faith journey and expression.  Their faith expression are confessional, in both sense of the word. They expressed their failures and struggles and proclaimed in eloquence how these experiences not only did not diminish the Christian faith they profess but actually strengthen it. At a time when I had problem coping with a more legalistic brand of proclamation (meaning as a Christian you should do A, B and C and not do D, E, and F else you are not saved). And on top of that not sure how to express how I felt. They gave me content and form for my faith.  They are all culturally relevant and fully realistic in they integration of faith and life. I am just grateful I came across these remarkable people who walked and witnessed to me. Today only Buechner is still around (Brown passed away in 2001 and Claypool in 2005). I am still reading their writings (you can also catch some Claypool preaching as well) and I will recommend them with little reservations.

Lent 2008

Wow, Chinese New Year coincided with the first day of Lent this year (Ash Wednesday). I cannot believe Lent is upon us already. I was still on my Advent thoughts and lo and behold it is Lent already.  I am already hearing people saying they’ll give up this or that for Lent. I have a few thoughts concerning this matter: 

1. Many question this practice as “salvation by work” or a practice without biblical support. Well, the practice has nothing to do with salvation so that should put the first objection to rest. The aim is discipline for self denial meaning, we are living in the “gap” between Christ initial victory and final consummating victory and need to practice for to live properly. In Paul’s words, it is to “train yourself to be godly”(1 Tim 4:7-9) or Eph 4:20-24. Also important is Phil 3:7-11 of “fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”.  

2. In term of practice we should follow the concept of fasting meaning it should be a double action, negative and positive simultaneously. If we just give up something then it is just marginal sadistic with not much to show for. It must be give up for something positive. 

3. It is also interesting to note that we often chose only those things that are marginal. Meaning things that does not have significant implication to us (like soda or snacks). I think partly because we believe we can do it. I think our focus should be on real issues (like greed or lust). We should “stretch” our faith. Even if we fail we are “stretching” otherwise we are just “scratching”.  When we give up things we still not going anywhere until we embrace grace but if we start with embracing the result will include giving up things.     

4. Scot McKnight challenged his blog readers to recite the Jesus Creed (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) every day for the duration of Lent. So why don’t you try it too. Here is the text (Deu 6:4-5): Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And if you like try the Hebrew (transliteration):She-ma Yis-ra-el, Adonai E-lo-hei-nu , Adonai E-had.Ve-a-hav-ta et Adonai E-lo-hei-ha, ve-hol le-vav-ha , u-ve-hol naf-she-ha, u-ve-hol me-o-de-ha You can read it here and listen to it here (about 0:18-0:32) 

5. I found this can be also considered a symbolic action. It is symbolic in the sense the act itself may not has direct effective results but the implication can be significant. This week I went out for a Chinese New Year luncheon with the family. I was tired and not really in a celebratory mood. Then the lion dance came in. At firs the drums were very loud and annoying to the point of causing me a headache. Then the Chinese cultural conscious in me triggered the celebratory idea of sweeping away the old and bring in the new. I was almost instantaneously revived.  I was into the mood and clapped and thrilled. If we consider “giving up” things at Lent as symbolic. Then it is not our success that matters but the willingness to create the space for grace to embrace us that I think will surprise us.