26 July 2013

Photography Friday (8)

Photography Fridays have suffered a hiatus for long enough. So today we're going to Alaska—on a floater plane, to be exact. I don't remember which part of Alaska we were above, but, not being a huge fan of flying, I do recall being almost completely at peace during this ride. I think it may have something to do with being closer to the ground. Or maybe it was the just the sights.

Per the usual, all of these photos were taken on a Canon AE-1 with E100VS (slide film). Click on an image to get a closer look.

That's a mighty round hilltop, isn't it?

Glacial expanse

Glacial release

Yes, this exists.

Beautiful silt

The wifey shooting B-roll

19 July 2013

That Won’t Do, Pig. That Won’t Do.

When was the last time you went to a private social club? If you think that kind of thing is for the elite members of our society alone, guess again. The Yellow Pages are filled with lists of social clubs in which anyone in the neighborhood can become a member. They meet mainly on Sunday mornings—but don’t be foolish enough to wait for an invitation.

Unfortunately, like most other clubs, this one is designed to keep certain people in and other people out. You will find in it a decidedly internalized and individualized faith, complete with its own set of man-made regulations. You will find in it a group of folks who act as if they are enjoying life to the fullest, no matter where they are or what they are doing. And what do they do? They do exactly what they wish to do. In this Sunday club, then, it comes as no surprise that God Is One Who Exists for Me.

But in reality, this private social club has been called out of the world of clubs, not to be just another club—albeit a little cleaner (if not a lot less fun)—but to be the anti-club, the place where the mantra above is flipped: I Am He/She Who Exists for God. Apart from this, we would have no purpose, being left anchorless in a torrid sea, unable to know our worth as creatures among other creatures wrought and redeemed by a holy God. (I’m paraphrasing R. Clapp here, A Peculiar People, p. 42; see also Eph 4:14).

And this reminds me of what the apostle Paul wrote long ago. One word, among a few others, that sums up Ephesians 4 is this: friendship. I know that sounds trite to modern ears, but that might have more to do with how trite our friendships are in this shallow, isolated age (friendship in the classical period in which the apostle lived could be summed up as "the sharing of two selves," and, once cultivated in childhood, went on to form the basis of politics and the family of economic activity). St. Paul often exhorts the church in Ephesus to simply act like a community of friends. Chapter 4 of his letter is littered with such exhortations: support each other in love and preserve unity (vv. 2–3); use your gifts to knit the body together and strengthen it (vv. 12, 16); “speak truth to one another” (v. 25); don’t sin in your anger against a friend (vv. 26, 29, 31); and work an honest job in order to share with those in need (vv. 28, 32).

In short, practice friendship. For a church without friendship, just like a "beautiful woman who lacks discretion," who turns aside from her dignity, is like “a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (Prov. 11:22).1

1 I'm assuming, perhaps not unlike the trajectory laid out for us by the church fathers, that the primary interpretation of "women" when found in Jewish wisdom literature in this new covenant age often can refer allegorically to the church, original intent notwithstanding.

09 July 2013

Forgive or Die

Forgiveness in the teaching of Jesus is not for the sake of moral purity;
it’s quite simply for the sake of a future.
~Fr. Richard Rohr

The above quote from Rohr is nagging at me. I think it may be profoundly true on a level we're happy to miss.

On the surface, it's a fine piece of rhetoric: by a simple use of antithesis, Rohr challenges a common assumption—that the letting go of one's offenses, as if they had never been committed, in the teachings of Jesus had as its primary objective the cleaning up of one's life (inside and out). Sure, that may be one means to the end, but it's the end—the future—that faces extinction without forgiveness.

This idea isn't original with Rohr, of course. I think most notably of former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu's book No Future Without Forgiveness (Image, 2000). Through his eyewitness account, Tutu focuses on how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he chaired (pressed upon him by President Mandela, et al.) attempted to move beyond the various forms of institutionalized retribution taking place in post-apartheid South Africa. Calling out the unworkable "solution" of bringing perpetrators of apartheid to court, he describes the highs and lows of his commission's approach to justice: the granting of political amnesty to those who make a full confession of their crimes.

While Tutu's account centers on this world, it's deeply informed by the next. It's a working out of the blueprint Israel's god YHWH drew up so long ago. It's the imperfect attempt to follow the model that God in Christ lived out. It's God's way to approach justice that his Spirit continues to empower up to this very day.

While we are no doubt chosen "to be [God's] through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him" (Eph 1:4; see also Col 1:22), it's God's forgiveness that creates the biblical vision of his future—resurrected life on a renewed earth. The bit that gets so hard to grasp is the fact that the creator God bound himself to forgive. Without forgiveness, even his future goes. What else does the story of him walking through the animal halves alone when ratifying his covenant with Abraham mean (Gen 15:12–21)? That if the promise fails, YHWH himself will be like those shredded carcasses. This is why in the new covenant, ratified by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we see that if "we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing" (1 Jn 1:9). How striking that the writer includes that God will "do what is right"! Why is it "right" (or "just") for God to forgive sins when they're confessed? Because that's what he promised to do, precisely because of his promised future.

He binds himself to forgive. Remember that the next time you fall into the same old sinful patterns that betray his covenant.

As Tutu's example shows, this kind of forgiveness for the sake of the future, the kind that God himself enacts and ultimately embodied in Jesus by the power of his Spirit, easily applies to every relationship we experience. From the creator God to his created, to the rebuilding of nations, and (not least) to familial ties, withholding forgiveness murders the future—and it will kill you.

Forgive (and be reconciled) or die.

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