Friday, July 29, 2016

"The flowers often bloom at night"

Grace and nature, that old theological saw. How easy it is to disconnect them completely or squish them together. Perhaps the most concise way to state it is they are distinct but not separate, which explains why this same relationship pertains to things like love of God and love of neighbor. Was nature not brought about by grace? Likewise, weren't human beings, women and men, created in the image and, at least initially, in God's likeness? Don't these realities, these facts, if you're so inclined, indicate that we we're made for communion, that all things were made for communion?

Very often Christians divide over this and the division deepens when we caricature one another's understandings of the relationship between nature and grace. On the one extreme there is the idea that, due to the fall, the two orders are so distinct as to be nearly separate, if not completely so. On the other is the idea that they so enmeshed that you can't distinguish one from the other. Grace tends toward re-unification and sin towards separation. It stands to reason that this can color our perception of things. Just as even the most inert-appearing matter (think of a rock) is not static neither is the relationship between nature and grace. Nature is infused with grace.

In his wonderful book, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, Bishop N.T. Wright observed,
It is a matter of glimpsing that in God's new creation, of which Jesus's resurrection is the start, all that was good in the original creation is reaffirmed. All that has corrupted and defaced it--including many things which are woven so tightly in to the fabric of the world as we know it that we can't imagine being without them--will be done away. Learning to live as a Christian is learning to live as a renewed human being, anticipating the eventual new creation in and with a world which is still longing and groaning for that final redemption
Aren't there times when you see things, or seem to see them, in a way that all the dross is burned away and sense the unity of yourself with all that is? Then at other times things seem separate, hopelessly torn apart and, in a word, irreparable. That's how live between the already and the not yet.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly (Rom 5:1-6)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite albums by one of my favorite groups: "Life's Rich Pageant" by REM. Our traditio. While very elliptical, this a song about people disappearing in Guatemala in the 1980s. Rather than try to paraphrase, here's an excellent, very short, post on the song- "The Flowers of Guatemala."

If I had wanted to address the U.S. presidential election in the wake of the propaganda extravaganzas known as party conventions, I would've chosen "Begin the Begin" off the "Pageant."

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