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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

In my lifetime I have been blessed with the opportunity to know or at least to be exposed to various people that have a magic in them that necessitate a portion of my devotion – my heroes.  Among them are people like my father, who taught me the meaning of selflessness, hard work, and patience, my grandfather, who taught me what it truly means to be a servant of God, Sgt Grumbles, who has impacted the way I relate to God, myself, others and to art more than any other single person, and people that I don’t know personally – people like Bob Dylan, John Gardner and Elliott Smith.  Among those people at the top of my list of heroes, Daniel Smith stands out as the most inspiring and influential.

Daniel Smith is truly a unique character.  It’s difficult to be indifferent toward him, that is to say he is a polarizing person.  There’s a quality to his personality and the way he expresses himself that will either turn you on or turn you off, but will never leave you indifferent.  The process and product of his imagination are not something I can easily express in one post.  In 2006 a documentary was released, “Danielson, a Family Movie (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here)” documenting the progress of Daniel Smith’s artistic expression since the  founding of the “Danielson Famile,” a band literally consisting of Daniel and his siblings.  Daniel was an art student at Rutgers and his professors insisted that the visual and performing arts were to be kept in their respective galleries and conservatories.  Daniel wouldn’t have it, and since 1994 he hasn’t had it.  He’s continued to press forward even after fifteen years of mediocre (at best) success.  The sincerity and devotion with which he creates is what captures me most.

I could go on and on about Daniel and the opportunities I’ve had to meet him/see him perform, but I’d rather introduce you to the man.  And if you’ve already been introduced you ought to watch anyway.  This video, which was posted on the Danielson site yesterday, is a great summation of much of what Daniel Smith stands for.  Take a look:

WV Project Series 2009: Danielson from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

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The Tigers are over .500 (for the time being), all is well…or at least all should be well.  The fact that the Motor City Kitties are number one in the [measly] AL Central and that the Red Wings are in the NHL Western Semifinals are simply not enough to pick up the pieces in Detroit, which has an unemployment rate three times higher than the national average.  I read an article from April 1958 in TIME, which mirrors much of the current situation.  When the nation gets a cold Detroit is the sore throat and runny nose.

Would you like a home for less than $8,000?  Maybe you ought to try Detroit.  And with the recession and resulting unemployment inevitably comes poverty.  And if you decide to buy a home in Detroit, I hope that excessive crime doesn’t bother you…

I guess the point of all of these dreadful bits of information regarding Detroit’s amplified state of recession is to ask this question:  What can be done for Detroit?

Perhaps you, the reader, would respond in one of these ways:

  1. Nothing can be done for Detroit, let her rot.
  2. The best thing that can be done for Detroit is to let the recession run its course and the markets will eventually fix themselves…maybe after several thousand more violent crimes.
  3. The federal government needs to help out Detroit.  More handouts and deficits!

Many more responses can be added to this list, but in general they all lack the ability to solve this problem rapidly or without major repercussions in the long run.  My only proposition is to do what is most human, and what is most human has been demonstrated through God’s will, especially as expressed though Christ.

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”  And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”’

Maybe these are some practical resources:

In the meantime, when looking for a sports team that properly reflects the current condition of the City of Detroit, look no further than last season’s record-breaking Lions.

Yes We Can

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My favorite time of the year is here!  Some look forward to the Christmas season, and while I admire the cooler weather, shorter days, and magnificent prospect of the Incarnation, it is the Anastasis—the Resurrection—and everything building up to it that I find most compelling.

As an Ecumenical Christian I am often asked (by others and myself), “What makes an Ecumenical Christian such?”  I am excited to spend the rest of my life exploring this question, and one way that I can do that is by looking at the ways that the Church has historically rehearsed the Gospel, and one way to explore that rehearsal is through adherence to the liturgical year.  Lent is upon us (when it began is dependent on whether or not you adhere to Western or Byzantine Lenten practice), a time in which Christians are challenged to participate in a communal fast.  The whole concept of Lent, as you may know, is rooted in the narrative of St. Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus is baptized by John and is taken into the wilderness to be tempted, fasting for forty days and forty nights (3.13-4.2).

The severity and imposition of such fasts has changed dramatically throughout Church history.  In 1966 Pope Paul IV issued the Apostolic constitution, Paenitemini, granting more freedom with regard to fasting based upon various economic situations.  Paenitemini also orders that the abstinence that takes place during Lent ought to be substituted with “external acts of penitence” (Paenitemini, Chapter III).  I find Paenitemini to be a very authoritative and valuable assessment of fasts, and so in my exercise of the Lenten fast I have made it my aim to first abstain with the trust that God will provide for my needs both physically and spiritually, and exercising discipline by the power of the Holy Spirit of God to give up some things and take up activities with the goal of very intentionally experiencing life in relationship with God.  I believe that there are great benefits as one experiences life relating to God in the community of the Church, and essentially Lent is a great time to adhere to the Church calendar while practicing spiritual discipline (such as abstinence from food, communicating with God through prayer, spending time in solitude to meditate on the Gospel and God’s character, etc.).

I encourage you to take the time today, Ash Wednesday, to confess your sins before God and experience the great grace of the Gospel, one that invites us to participate in the mission of God—a mission fixed on recreating our hearts and minds as well as the hearts and minds of our neighbors—all for God’s glory.  And maybe spend the next month-and-a-half abstaining from something you enjoy, replacing it with a focused practice to know God more intimately.

O Lord and Master of my life!  Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant.
Yea, Lord and King!  Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages.  Amen.
Lenten prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

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Part of my aim in defining the Church is to define the Gospel, arguably the central tenant of the Christian religion, and from a suggestion in a comment by Ryan B. I will express more of what I believe the Gospel is.

I believe that the best way to learn the Gospel is to explore the Scripture and how the Church has understood the Gospel. I believe that there is a common thread/trajectory running through the Scripture (and I believe this trajectory is also present in what Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha). Therefore, as a precursor to the Gospel, the proclamation of God’s decisive action through Jesus Christ, I believe one must examine the main theological thrust of the Scripture from the first book to the last.

In the first three chapters of Genesis we learn that:
God is preexistent in relation to the universe. God by his own good initiative created the universe (time and space). God created Earth and all of its inhabitants and they were all good. God created humanity and gave humans something unique among all created things: the Image of God. God gave humans a charge, which the humans disobeyed (the Fall). As a result of this disobedience mankind (and the cosmos) is in an unnatural, fallen state (original sin).

This is where the Abrahamic Covenant comes into play, arguably the primary way in which God wants to work to fix the brokenness caused by the Fall, the beginning of the Gospel.

God did not abandon humanity; by his own good will and grace God chose the descendants of Abraham, the Children of Israel, to be a vessel for his glory and blessing to the world. Throughout the Old Testament God continually worked through the oftentimes-disobedient Children of Israel, and this culminated in the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the Christian religion, the climax of God’s covenant with Abraham. Jesus is the Son of God, incarnate through the conception by the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is essential to the Christian religion. In basic terms, the doctrine of the Trinity asserts that the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are eternally existent as one God (in essence) in three persons. Jesus is both fully man and fully God in the divine mystery of the Hypostatic Union. Jesus lived his life demonstrating the presence of the promised kingdom of God. Jesus lived his life fulfilling what mankind and Israel had failed at. Jesus—though he was tempted in all things—lived a sinless life. Jesus was tried, crucified, died, and was buried. Three days later Jesus was resurrected in glory (in a body) as a “first fruit” of the eventual resurrection of the Church. Jesus ascended into heaven and is at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit was thus given to demonstrate the power of God and the presence of his kingdom through the Church. In this, God has extended the invitation to all of the earth (using the language of the Abrahamic Covenant) to participate in his active kingdom, resulting in inevitable action from the Church.

In my estimate, the work of God in history is currently at a plateau. The resolution to the climax of the Son of God’s presence on earth has yet to happen. But this plateau is an exciting time, when God is actively pressing his kingdom forth through his Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time Jesus Christ will return to earth, and in doing so he will resurrect the Church, recreate the heavens and the earth, and fully judge all that is in rebellion against him.

I believe that these are generally the primary tenants of the Gospel, things that Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox can agree on. Looking back on my words above they resemble a bloated Apostles’ Creed, and I suppose that is where a lot of my Ecumenical tendencies find their roots (though I am more partial to the Nicene Creed). I believe that the authority to determine what is the “orthodox Gospel” is found within the Scriptures as well as in Church history, for the Holy Spirit has been and remains active in both elements.

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