September 17th, 2015
What Calvin said of the knowledge of God, Eugene Peterson said recently of Scripture:
Sometimes, we can't truly understand the Bible until we obey it.
— Eugene Peterson (@PetersonDaily) September 10, 2015
But in developing that thesis last Sunday, we argued that unless obedience begins with beauty, it is doomed for distortion. Only if we are first captivated by the beauty of the One who suffered in love for us, will we ever obey aright.
So obedience begins with beauty.
But, as we opened our time of corporate prayer last Sunday night, obedience ends in beauty, too. “Ends” in that it unfolds in beauty.
You might’ve heard the little news item that the United States is due for a certain visitation this month–from none other than “Papa,” Pope Francis.
The comedian Jim Gaffigan is slated to entertain the Pontiff during his weeklong tour of several American cities. When asked to share what kind of joke he might tell to His Holiness, Gaffigan confessed his anxiety and then said, “that papacy job is a tough one: the last guy quit!”
It’s that “last guy,” Pope Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger), who said this about beauty being the end–the outcome–of obedience (HT: Ken Myers at Mars Hill Audio):
The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides, which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No, Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place in which beauty — and truth — is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell. . . . A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental: they necessarily are reflected in his theology.
The beauty of obedience and God leading us into obedience are what leads us to inaugurate what we hope will be a regular occurrence in CtK. During the point in last Sunday’s sermon when we spoke of how Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch reminds us that God does in fact prompt us to act on His behalf in real-time, we made a promise of a real-life illustration. Tom Headland kindly gave us some time earlier this week to tell us a story of a time when Moments conspired to move him to obedient witness. Here’s that recollection and what he learned as a consequence:
We’d heard Tom tell that story before and believed from the moment we heard it that the whole community should. So we “nominated” him to recount that story for our benefit. What if in the future, as you hear one another’s stories of grace-in-struggle or Providence-in-history or some other moment that sheds a little light into our sojourn, that you nominate someone to tell their story? Our natural proclivity toward too much modesty might keep us from ever sharing stories worth telling. But if we feel the freedom to alert us to someone else’s story that might solve the predicament.
So consider yourself invited to tell us about “God stories worth telling.” We might not put them all on tape; some we might tell during worship or 2nd hour or some other context. But let it be known if God works in our stories then it will serve us all to hear some of that Handiwork in one another’s experiences.
We’re looking at Acts 9:1-31 this Sunday–the story of Paul’s conversion. At one moment the Lord speaks of what Paul, then Saul, will be for Him. Before that time Saul had become a hindrance to His intention. Soon he would become an “instrument” of that intention. The word there for instrument in the passage has the connotation of some vessel or article employed for a purpose. It doesn’t have the nuance of musicality, as we might use the word, but musical instruments can used for both noble and…ignoble purposes. We end this Backstory with a little levity that illustrates the idea of an instrument in need of redemption. (With all due apology to Stanley Kubrick and all the hard-working band directors in the world.)